A February policy brief by the non-partisan Children’s HealthWatch, titled Energy Insecurity is a Major Threat to Child Health, found that children in energy insecure homes are at high risk for food insecurity and poor health, and are prone to more hospitalizations and increased developmental setbacks.
As measured by Children’s HealthWatch, energy insecurity occurs when a household has experienced a threatened utility shut-off or refusal to deliver heating fuel, an actual utility shut-off or refused delivery of heating fuel, the use of a cooking stove as a source of heat, or an unheated or uncooled day because of inability to pay utility bills.
From a sample of low income families with children across five cities, the policy brief found that 24% were energy insecure, as compared to 22% who were food insecure and 35% who were housing insecure. The research found a high correlation between energy insecurity and the other problems. The research also indicated that the negative impacts on children’s health were compounded when two or more insecurities were present.
The research looked at a variety of health indicators and found households that were energy insecure were more likely to have their health rated fair or poor and they were more likely to have been hospitalized since birth and be at risk of developmental delays.
Moreover, even controlling for health care and food program participation, the study finds that households that receive Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds were less likely to have growth problems, had healthier weights, and were less likely to visit the emergency room.
The study was based on children in cities served by five institutions: Boston Medical Center, the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, and St. Christopher’s Hospital in Philadelphia.
Access the policy brief at: www.childrenshealthwatch.org/ upload/resource/energy_brief_feb10.pdf
This brief is part of a series of briefs on child-welfare policy (Memo 10/2/09). Additional briefs and related information can be found at: www.childrenshealthwatch.org/page.php?id=198