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Homeless children more likely to have poor health, says study

Children need to be fed well in order to have positive health outcomes. © Shutterstock

If a new study is to be believed, babies who experienced both pre- and post-natal homelessness and those who experienced homelessness for longer than six months were at a highest risk of negative health outcomes.

Written by Aishwarya Iyer |Published : September 4, 2018 6:24 PM IST

It is no news that kids born to 'homeless' mothers will eventually be bereft of nutrition and hence, poor health. According to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics, babies born to homeless women are more likely to have poor health and development outcomes.

The findings showed that babies who experienced both pre- and post-natal homelessness and those who experienced homelessness for longer than six months were at a highest risk of negative health outcomes. "These findings back up what we already knew about how the stress of homelessness affects children's heath," said Megan Sandel, paediatrician at Children's HealthWatch, from the Boston Medical Centre (BMC) in the US. "But this helps us determine which children are at greatest risk, and makes the argument that policymakers and providers need to intervene to change the trajectory of a child's development," Sandel added.

The study further added that the earlier and the longer a child experiences homelessness may have a larger cumulative toll of poor health and development outcomes. It illustrates the urgent need to intervene and rapidly house children and families experiencing homelessness to minimise the negative health outcomes, the researchers said.

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For the study, the team interviewed 20,000 low-income caregivers of children aged under four years, who visited outpatient paediatric clinics in five cities across the US between 2009 and 2015. More than 3 per cent of the caregivers reported experiencing pre-natal homelessness, 3.7 per cent reported post-natal homelessness, and 3.5 per cent reported both.

"Interventions that prevent homelessness for families and pregnant women can be extremely effective, and with data on the housing status of our patients, we can better advocate for more resources to drive innovations in addressing housing instability," the researchers noted.

(with inputs from IANS)

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