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October 1995

Housing Subsidies and Pediatric Undernutrition

Author Affiliations

From the Section of Community Pediatrics, Division of General Pediatrics (Dr Meyers) and the Division of Behavioral and Developmental Pediatrics (Dr Frank), Boston (Mass) City Hospital; the Schools of Medicine (Drs Meyers and Frank) and Public Health (Dr Cupples and Ms Levenson), Boston University; the Harvard School of Public Health (Dr Peterson); and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (Dr Casey); Boston. Dr Casey is now with New England Research Institutes, Watertown, Mass.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1995;149(10):1079-1084. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1995.02170230033004

Objective:  To test the hypothesis that receipt of housing subsidies by poor families is associated with improved nutritional status of their children.

Design:  Cross-sectional study.

Setting:  Pediatric emergency department of an urban municipal hospital.

Patients:  Convenience sample of 203 children younger than 3 years and their families who were being seen during one of twenty-seven 24-hour periods.

Main Outcome Measures:  Anthropometric indicators (z scores of weight for age, weight-for-height, and height-for-age), and the proportion of children with low growth indicator (weight-for-height below the 10th percentile or height-for-age below the fifth percentile, or both, of the reference population).

Results:  Multivariate analysis controlling for demographics and program participation showed that receipt of housing assistance contributed significantly to z scores for weight-for-age (P=.03) and weight-for-height (P=.04). The risk of a child's having low growth indicators was 21.6% for children whose families were on the waiting list for housing assistance compared with 3.3% for those whose families received subsidies (adjusted odds ratio=8.2, 95% confidence interval=2.2 to 30.4, P=.002)

Conclusion:  Receiving a housing subsidy is associated with increased growth in children from low-income families, an effect that is consistent with a protective effect of housing subsidies against childhood undernutrition.(Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1995;149:1079-1084)

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