Study finds exposure to racism harms children’s health
PAS Meeting Updates
SAN FRANCISCO – New research to be presented at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies
2017 Meeting illustrates the unhealthy effects racism can have on children, with reported
exposure to discrimination tied to higher rates of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity
Disorder (ADHD), anxiety and depression, as well as decreased general health.
Authors of the study abstract, “The Detrimental Influence of Racial Discrimination
in the United States,” will present their findings on Sunday, May 7, in the Moscone
Covention Center West in San Francisco. For the study, they looked at data from 95,677
participants in the 2011-'12 National Survey on Children’s Health. In addition to
providing physical and mental health data, caregivers of children in the survey were
asked whether the child had experienced being “judged or treated unfairly” because
of his or her race or ethnicity.
After adjusting for socioeconomic status, family structure, primary language and other
factors, the researchers found a significant link between exposure to racism and health.
The average proportion of children reported by parents to be in “excellent health”
decreased by 5.4% among those exposed to perceived discrimination, for example. Exposure
to racism also appeared to boost the odds of ADHD by 3.2%.
The biggest reduction in general health appeared among low-income, minority children,
particularly Hispanic participants, said Ashaunta Anderson, M.D., M.P.H., lead author
of the study abstract and assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of California,
Some children exposed to discrimination who were from high-income households, however,
also experienced negative health effects.
“White children with high income who experienced racial or ethnic discrimination had
larger decreases in general health,” Dr. Anderson said, “while black children experiencing
that combination of factors had increased rates of ADHD.”
The study also found that children who experienced racial discrimination had twice
the odds of anxiety and depression compared to children who did not experience discrimination.
In turn, children with anxiety or depression had roughly half the odd of excellent
general health, and four times the odds of ADHD.
“Our findings suggest that racial discrimination contributes to race-based disparities
in child health, independent of socioeconomic factors,” Dr. Anderson said, adding
that coordinated efforts are needed to support children affected by discrimination
with developmentally appropriate coping strategies and systems of care. In particular,
she said, programs that provide positive parenting practices training and promote
positive peer and role model relationships can help buffer children from the negative
health effects of discrimination.
The Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) Meeting brings together thousands of individuals
united by a common mission: to improve child health and well-being worldwide. This
international gathering includes pediatric researchers, leaders in academic pediatrics,
experts in child health, and practitioners. The PAS Meeting is produced through a
partnership of four organizations leading the advancement of pediatric research and
child advocacy: Academic Pediatric Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American
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