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Impact of Policy on Children
October 5, 2020

Children’s Health Is Too Often Ignored in Elections—Here Is Evidence to Help Change That

Author Affiliations
  • 1Center for Healthcare Research in Pediatrics, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, Department of Population Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 2Division of General Pediatrics, Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 3Associate Editor, JAMA Pediatrics
  • 4Indiana University School of Medicine, Center for Pediatric and Adolescent Comparative Effectiveness Research, Indianapolis, Indiana
  • 5Web and Social Media Editor, JAMA Pediatrics
JAMA Pediatr. Published online October 5, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2020.3970

When elections focus on health policy, children are too often ignored. This is as true during the present election cycle as any other. Because children do not vote, are disproportionately poor and disenfranchised, and usually incur lower health care costs than older adults, their health issues are given less attention in public policy debates. Very few Democratic Congressional campaign websites discuss pediatric health policies; even fewer Republican ones do.1

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    1 Comment for this article
    A Notable Oversight
    Mary Spence, PhD | Livingston Psychological Services
    I definitely support the importance of children's health policies. I have to note a great oversight about how substance abuse policies affect children. In the young developing brain of the adolescent, when risk taking is at its peak in most individual trajectories, substance use is normative. However, it can also lead to significant mental health issues and is in fact one of the most common mental health disorders there is in adolescence. Children and adolescents who undergo medical procedures deal with a wide variety of socio-political challenges, and those with family hardships and dysfunctions begin opioid use which most often leads to addiction. Opioid-related deaths of adolescents have risen in recent years. Adolescents often encounter legal sanctions before they can find an effective substance abuse program. We must address this critical issue for adolescents whose path to adulthood is sadly affected by the ineffective public policies around substance use and lack of coordinated treatment efforts within the medical, mental health, education, and legal systems of our country.