Many youth in Mississippi fail to reach their full health and developmental potential and not all children and adolescents are equally affected by poor health and disease. Certain groups are at greater risk for disease, bear a greater proportion of illness, and are more likely to become unhealthy adults. The differences in health outcomes that occur by sex, race and ethnicity, education, income, disability or geographic location are known as health disparities. For example, low-income children have higher rates of mortality and disability, are more likely to be in fair or poor health and to have multiple poor health conditions, and are less likely to have access to health promoting environments where they live, learn, and play. Furthermore, when low-income children have health problems, they tend to suffer more severely than their higher-income counterparts.
Pediatric obesity, type II diabetes and asthma are three chronic conditions in which disparities among Mississippi's youth are particularly evident. Our current understanding of the social determinants of child health (SDCH) and the state of child health disparities have advanced the field to branch out from its traditional focus on access to health care services toward initiatives that are based on models of population health. The underlying causes of these child health disparities in Mississippi can be tied to the complex interplay of multiple SDCH that are often not adequately addressed by current standards of public policy or pediatric practice. The SDCH include the circumstances and conditions in which people are born, grow and develop, live, learn, and play, as well as the systems in place to prevent, detect, and treat illness and disease.
All children deserve the opportunity to be healthy and thrive, thus making child health disparities an important issue of equity for Mississippi. Integrating the principles of child health equity (i.e. equity-based clinical care, child advocacy, and child- and family-centered public policy) into pediatric research, practice and policy to target the SDCH will help to address the root causes of child health disparities in Mississippi and to equitably improve health outcomes for all youth.