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Journal Article Lists Top-10 Threats to Children’s Health

Child Abuse & Neglect
Children of Immigrants
Housing & Homelessness
Poverty & Family Economics

Washington – An article appearing in today’s edition of JAMA Pediatrics identifies the 10 most urgent health and health care priorities for children and explores actionable federal responses to mitigate each problem. The analysis was authored by Glenn Flores, MD, Professor of Pediatrics and Clinical Sciences at UT Southwestern and co-author of the study, and First Focus President Bruce Lesley.

“It shouldn’t be this hard for kids to grow and thrive in the world’s richest, most powerful nation,” said Lesley. “But children face obstacles at every turn – from a child poverty rate double that of seniors to a broken immigration system that says kids don’t count.”

“We’re at a critical juncture in the future health and health care of our children,” said Dr. Flores “The ways in which we prioritize these issues, or not, can have life-altering effects on current and future generations of Americans.”

The authors evaluated priorities based on prevalence, impact on children’s health, and the potential for federal policy to make a difference. They also cite specific policy reforms that would mitigate each priority problem. In order, those priorities and selected policy recommendations are:



Selected policy recommendations

1. Poverty
  • Set a national target date for the elimination of child poverty
  • Extend improvements to the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit


2. Hunger
  • Fully fund the National School Lunch Program and implement the program’s nutritional standards


3. Uninsurance
  • Act this year to avoid cuts to funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program


4. Child abuse and neglect
  • Invest in research to improve screening and prevention
  • Assess the potential of domestic abuse interventions to reduce the incidence of child abuse


5. Obesity
  • Pass the bipartisan FIT Kids Act


6. Gun violence
  • Ensure that criminal background checks are required for all gun sales
  • Ban assault weapons


7. Mental health
  • Increase Medicaid reimbursement rates for mental health providers
  • Reverse funding cuts to federal mental health initiatives


8. Racial and ethnic disparities
  • Publicly report disparities data from the local level to the national level
  • Improve the diversity of the health care workforce


9. Immigration
  • Ensure that immigration enforcement actions do not unnecessarily separate children from their parents
  • Reform the immigration system to ensure that immigrant children have a path to citizenship
  • Ensure that immigration status does not result in the denial of needed health care to children


10. Lack of investment in child-specific health research
  • Reverse federal budget “sequestration” cuts to child-specific medical research
  • Increase the share of NIH funding focused on pediatric research from its current level of 12 percent to 24 percent – the share of the Nation’s population consisting of children


“We know what the most urgent threats are for kids, and there are concrete ideas to make progress,” said Lesley. “What we need is the political will to do it.”

Dr. Flores served as past Chair of the Research Committee of the Academic Pediatric Association, is a former member of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, and has served as an advisor to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study was funded with support from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

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First Focus is a bipartisan advocacy organization dedicated to making children and families the priority in federal policy and budget decisions. For more information, visit