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Chapters making sure all kids count in 2020 census :

January 7, 2020

While census forms won’t start arriving in mailboxes until March, several AAP chapters have been working hard to promote participation in the 2020 census.

In 2010, the U.S. census missed almost 1 million children under age 5. Those most likely to be undercounted were children in immigrant families and children who are Hispanic, African American, Native American or other minorities.

Many census officials and advocates worry that without special efforts to encourage families with young children to complete the census, the undercount could rise.

Census data are used to apportion funding for many programs, including Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and early childhood programs. An undercount of children means that billions of dollars each year will not go to fund children’s programs in local communities where it is most needed.

“Our state and our patients stand to lose desperately needed funds for programs that keep kids healthy and strong, such as SNAP, Medicaid, foster care funding and housing assistance. The kids that are being missed are the very kids who might benefit most from these programs,” said Deanna M. Behrens, M.D., FAAP. Dr. Behrens and Jennifer Kusma, M.D., FAAP, are leading the Illinois Chapter’s (ICAAP) multipronged effort to ensure all kids are counted.

“We plan to educate pediatricians statewide to equip them to educate their patients. We will have short information sheets that will be available in English and Spanish for offices,” Dr. Behrens said.

In addition, ICAAP is planning a campaign to encourage pediatricians throughout the state to write op-eds to newspapers and will provide talking points, census data and technical assistance. The chapter also will reach out to English and Spanish television and radio stations to provide information to listeners in target populations.

Alabama Chapter Executive Director Linda Lee serves on her state’s health committee for the census. Through that connection, the Alabama Chapter partnered with VOICES for Alabama’s Children to develop and distribute posters to every chapter member. An accompanying letter describes the impact of the 2010 undercount and asks members to put the posters up in their clinics and hospitals.

“Parents need to hear from trusted providers about the importance of participating in the census and counting all of their children,” said Alabama Chapter President A. Wesley Stubblefield, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP.

In Texas, Lauren K. Gambill, M.D., FAAP, is spearheading efforts to promote the census through the Texas Educators in Advocacy and Community Health (TEACH) Network, a collaborative of pediatric residency programs. TEACH supports the chapter’s advocacy efforts and gives residents in the state’s 13 residency programs practical experience through an advocacy alert system.

TEACH selected the census as a priority and developed a short video it is sharing on social media, It also plans to develop a brief teaching guide and cases to help faculty and residents understand who should be counted.

When asked why she got involved, Dr. Gambill said, “I didn’t realize the scale. It directly impacts so many of our patients. To set the funding for programs for 10 years … is such an impactful way to have some long, far-reaching consequences.”

Pediatricians who want to promote participation in the census can put up posters and distribute fact sheets to make families aware of the importance of the census and its impact on children’s services in their communities. “There are a lot of free resources out there — handouts, posters. There is no need to create them,” Dr. Gambill said.

In addition, they can set up a tablet or desktop computer in their waiting room to allow families to complete the census form online.

Dr. Gambill also encourages pediatricians to find out what is happening in their state.

In the coming months, the AAP will be releasing more information, including a webinar, on how pediatricians can help.

The Academy is working with the Federation of Pediatric Organizations and other groups to develop these resources.

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