Plenary Addresses Importance of 2020 U.S. Census and Challenge of the Young Child Undercount

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An estimated 5 percent of all children under the age of five were missed in the 2010 U.S. Census. A plenary during the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) 2019 Meeting in Baltimore addressed the impact this significant undercount had, how the Census relates to health care resources and the role pediatricians, clinics, hospitals and communities can play to help make sure all children are counted in the 2020 Census.

“Young children under the age of five are among the groups who are most likely to be undercounted by the Census which can greatly impact the resources that are available to educate, feed, house and care for them,” said Judy Aschner, MD, Chairperson of the Federation of Pediatric Organizations (FOPO); Professor and the Marvin I. Gottlieb, M.D., Ph.D. Chair, Department of Pediatrics Hackensack Meridian Health; Physician-in-Chief, Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Aschner continued, “This plenary is not only to educate the pediatric community about the impact that the Census has on our children, but a launch pad for actionable steps and initiatives pediatricians can take to inform our communities.”

The Decennial Census not only determines how over $675 billion in federal funds are allocated, but it is used to draw district lines and to give voice to those who live in the U.S. If individuals are not counted, they, their families and their communities have a lot to lose. The plenary educated the audience on the importance of the Census and why it is critical to count everyone, in particular, young children. It set the stage for an in-depth discussion on the topic and action items for the pediatric health care community.

There are numerous programs that determine specifically where the $675 billion of funding is distributed, including Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the foster care system, school lunch programs and Title I funding to schools in low income communities and IDEA special education funding for children with disabilities.

Additionally, the data and findings derived from the decennial Census has more than just monetary implications. The Census data is used by businesses, governments and civic organizations to inform decision-making as well as by investigators for epidemiologic, health services, environmental, and population-based research.

Dr. Aschner concluded, “As trusted voices in the communities we serve, the Census Bureau needs the help of all pediatricians to help educate parents on the importance of completing the census survey and including all family members, including young children.”

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