Racism has devastating effects on children’s health, pediatricians warn

William Wan a national reporter covering health, science, and news for The Washington Post wrote that the nation’s largest group of pediatricians warned this week that racism can have devastating long-term effects on children’s health.

policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics is the first it has issued to its members on the dangers of racism. Doctors involved in the report said the current political and cultural atmosphere makes the work more urgent.

“If you look at what’s in the news today, in social media, on Twitter, there are so many kids are exposed to,” said Jackie Douge, a pediatrician with the Howard County Health Department who co-wrote the statement. “As much as you want to keep it in the background, it’s not in the background. It’s having direct health effects on kids.”

Their report comes at a time when racism is dominating headlines, driven by racist tweets from President Trump, which have inspired chants at his rallies, and also by the rise of white nationalism.

Other pediatricians welcomed the report, which drew on 180 key studies and includes specific recommendations, and said the danger to their patients has become acute.

“There was a time not too long ago under another president when I think we as a society were talking about living in a ­post-racial age. That’s changed pretty dramatically,” said Nia J. Heard-Garris, a pediatrician at Northwestern University. “It’s a new age of racism.”

A study published last year in JAMA Pediatrics found an increase in teenagers’ stress and worry about discrimination between 2016 and 2017. The researchers surveyed 2,572 high school students in Los Angeles during the 2016 presidential campaign and again during the first several months of 2017, after Trump’s election. Teenagers who were more stressed were more likely to drink, smoke, or experiment with drugs.

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