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Special needs children at risk of food insecurity

Posted:  Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Children with Special Health Care Needs (SHCN) have unique requirements. Such children may need extra medical care and customised diets. Consequently, SCHN children from low income families often experience financial burden that contributes to food insecurity. A new study by the Children's Health Watch at Boston Medical Center (BMC), published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics; highlighted the need for re-evaluating criteria for nutritional assistance.

A survey was conducted at primary and emergency care settings at five urban medical centres in US between the years 2013-2015. Around 6,724 children aged 4 years were included. The information on participation in public assistance programs, healthcare needs, and food insecurity were collected from their caregivers. Families receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and participation in public assistance programs such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) were also noted.

The SSI programs aim to lower the financial burden on families having children with severe SHCN. The study findings indicated that 3.7% of the SHCN children received SSI. However, 14.8% of the children screened positive for SHCN, but they did not receive SSI. It was observed that SSI programs lowered child food insecurity, but not household food insecurity, compared to households with children who did not receive SSI.

Ruth Rose-Jacobs, ScD, Research Scientist from the department of Paediatrics at BMC and Associate Professor of Paediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine said, "While SNAP and WIC have been shown to benefit all children in low-income households, the current calculations for receipt of the combined benefits of SSI, SNAP and WIC may not be adequate to prevent food insecurity in these households with children with SHCN."

It is a challenge for low income families to meet the nutritional as well as health care demands of the SHCN children. Improved coordination and communication between SSI, SNAP, WIC and other programs may lead to increased access to critical resources for low-income families with SHCN children.

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