A recent report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation shed light on something nurses see every day - there's a large gap in the well-being of minority children in the United States.
The report, Race for Results, highlights the struggles and challenges families face when they lack the support, funds, housing, and educational opportunities in their day-to-day lives. The report analyzed 12 points including things like percentage of babies born at a normal birth weight to poverty levels, high school graduation rates, and who the children live with.
Nurses, who treat these children across the country know how even prenatal malnutrition can set off a cascade of setbacks from infancy on. But nurses are also on the forefront, helping disadvantaged families find the resources they need, informing them about nutrition and education, and offering a a steady and caring hand.
The report compared experiences and opportunities of African American, American Indian, Asian and Pacific Islander, Latino, and White children to see where disparities occurred. The report also underscored a sense of urgency to challenge and change these disparities. In 2018, the report states, the majority of children in the country will be nonwhite and by 2050, no one racial or ethnic group will be a majority. If disparities and barriers in health, education, and opportunity aren't addressed now, future generations of children will continue to lag behind.
“While it is widely understood that children’s life chances differ by race and ethnicity,” the report states, “we believe that more consistent and comprehensive data on these differences, coupled with the rationale and strategies for action by all sectors, will help lead to evidence-based solutions that can improve the odds of success for children of color.”
So what can nurses do? With nurses represented in all different sectors, they can advocate for change in their workplaces and neighborhoods. Programs to helps minority families, whether through food, jobs, childcare resources, neighborhood safety, education, or emotional support, will all help close the gap and bring more opportunities for children. Nurses can begin to address policy issues, calling attention to their communities that need help and offering suggestions to what kind of assistance is most pressing.
Advocating for equal early childhood access to good medical care, nutritious foods, high-quality childcare and preschool can set a solid foundation for families of all races and ethnicities across the country. By giving children the resources they need to be healthy and form strong family and community ties, they will be better poised to close the gaps that are detailed in the report.
Nurses can also push for change and alert local, state, and national government officials to the disparities they see in their own practices and suggest changes that can begin to fix those problems.
Taking the first step now can make a huge difference later for children.