Poverty as a Childhood Disease: A View from Wisconsin

Recently, Perri Klass, M.D. wrote an article on the New York Times blog titled “Poverty as a Childhood Disease”. Dr. Klass shared that at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies, there was a new call for pediatricians to address childhood poverty as a national problem, rather than wrestling with its consequences case-by-case in the exam room. To further Dr. Klass’s discussion, WECA board member Dipesh Navsaria, MPH, MSLIS, MD wrote the following blog post.

“Poverty is neurotoxic.”  Yes, those words should make you sit up and take notice.  I’ve been saying them for about a year now.  It’s a conclusion I’ve come to after seeing the dramatic studies which show substantial deficits in learning among children who have experienced adversity early on in their lives — and with few or no strong, supportive relationships to buffer the effects of that adversity.  I am proud to be part of both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Academic Pediatric Association, who are calling attention to the concept of poverty as a childhood disease.

Dipesh Navsaria, MD

WECA Board Member, Dipesh Navsaria, M.D.explains the importance of early childhood education on brain development.

I’ve seen this as a problem throughout many areas of Wisconsin.  I’ve noticed it in Native American populations when I’ve worked with them.  I saw it in the hospital as a physician-in-training.  And in my clinical practice at Access Community Health Center in South Madison, I evaluate many children for “school issues” or “behavior problems”.  They are rarely straightforward cases. When I “go digging” in their histories, I find that early exposure to adversity has left a legacy we don’t want children to have: lifelong impairment in learning, thinking, and emotional skills.  Even worse, if we examine the data, we find that traditional medical illnesses also may have significant roots in these issues. Continue reading

Cap Times Article by Arne Duncan: Give all 4-year-olds a chance

Recently, The Cap Times published an article by U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, on the need to give all young children an equal chance to begin kindergarten ready to learn.

Secretary Duncan writes that, “President Barack Obama put forward a plan last week to make access to high-quality early learning a reality for every 4-year-old in America by making full-day preschool available to families with incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty line.”

Duncan notes that parents and education professionals across the country agree that more needs to be done to ensure that children from disadvantaged families begin kindergarten just as ready as children from better-off families.

But members of Congress have asked Secretary Duncan questions, doubting the impact of early childhood education. “How do we know early learning works?” Congress members ask, and “What about its lasting impact?”

The Secretary uses the article to share research on the impact of quality child care in states ranging from Oklahoma to Georgia and New Jersey.

He also writes about the need to invest in early learning to compete globally. “The countries we compete with economically are well ahead of us in preschool opportunity. We rank 28th in the proportion of 4-year-olds enrolled in early learning in surveys by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and 25th in public funding for early learning.”

Click here to read the full article.

Share your opinion: What do you think needs to be done to make sure all children receive quality early learning opportunities? Comment below…