Food insecurity (FI) affects millions of people in the United States and is associated with medical problems, as well as poorer physical and emotional-behavioral adjustment. Failure to thrive is a condition where children fail to gain an appropriate amount of weight, and it can cause long-term effects on cognitive and psychomotor development. While the extent to which FI may contribute to FTT is unclear, FI may contribute both directly through inadequate caloric or nutrient intake and indirectly through increased family stress, parental depression and a chaotic family environment. We present an overview of how FI and FTT may interact, followed by a case study from our multidisciplinary clinic for children with FTT. The importance of screening for FI as well as FTT is discussed. We describe ways for individuals, organizations, and agencies to help reduce the effects of FI in both individuals and their communities.

Key Take Away Points

1. Food insecurity (FI) and failure-to-thrive (FTT) are prevalent in children and families today.

2. FI and FTT both have significant effects on developing children and their families.

3. Providers should screen and provide resources for children and families with FI and FTT.

4. There are many ways a provider can help children and families with FI.

5. Providers should provide specific recommendations for children/families with FTT.

Author Biography

Hans Kersten graduated from Temple University School of Medicine and completed his residency at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children. He is an attending and hospitalist physician at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, the Medical Director of the multi-disciplinary Grow Clinic and an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Drexel University College of Medicine. He has completed the Primary Care Faculty Development Fellowship at Michigan State University, the APA Educational Scholars Program, the Pediatric Program Director’s and Educator’s Workshop on EBM at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the Workshop on Teaching EBM at the Center for Evidence-Based Medicine (CEBM) in Oxford, England. He is currently a tutor at the CEBM. He has completed research on FTT, lead poisoning and competency-based curricular development.

David Bennett, Ph.D., is Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Drexel University College of Medicine and psychologist in the Grow Clinic at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children. His research focuses on the emotional, behavioral, and cognitive adjustment of children from at-risk populations, including children with histories of prenatal substance exposure, child maltreatment, failure to thrive, and chronic physical problems.



Responses to this Article:

Dana Hargunani, Towards a Prosperous Future for our Children and Nation (February 2012)