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Larkin at Exchange
726 Exchange Street
Suite 518
Buffalo, NY 14210-1485
ph: (716) 852-3030
fx: (716) 852-3131
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Syracuse, NY 13202
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Young Children Impacted by Poverty
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Approximately 19 percent of families in western and central New York with children under age 5 report a household income below the poverty level.1

Our Vision for Young Children Impacted by Poverty living in Western and Central New York

All children impacted by poverty are physically, socially and emotionally healthy as they enter kindergarten. 

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Young children impacted by poverty are our priority because they are one of the most vulnerable groups of people in the regions we serve. The concentration and culture of poverty impacts individual families, children and community institutions that serve them, such as schools and recreation programs. The Health Foundation for Western and Central New York is focused on children birth to five because of their particularly high vulnerability and because of the importance of the early learning experiences and significant developmental milestones to be achieved during these years.

Children this young living in poverty have families and communities who are often unable to provide many protective benefits against the high risk factors they face. They are often unable to catch up, having lost so many opportunities in their formative years. These missed opportunities to protect and promote their health and well-being during this time period has an exponential effect on their development that is difficult to reverse or overcome in later years.


Some of the health care challenges we are facing in our work to improve health care for young children impacted by poverty in western and central New York include:
  • Preventive care: It has been estimated that while approximately 12–16 percent of children experience developmental problems, only one-third of those children, usually those with the most obvious conditions, are identified in pediatric practices prior to school entry.2
  • Chronic disease: The rate of chronic diseases among children in poverty is rising at an alarming rate. Many people do not realize dental disease is the most common chronic childhood disease. In New York, approximately four of every ten third graders living in low income families had untreated cavities between 2002 and 2004 as compared to only two of every ten living in high income families during the same period.3
  • Supporting parents: Low-income parents often have difficulty accessing primary care delivered in an office or clinic setting during regular working hours. Many work at low-wage jobs where time off means lost wages and possible job loss. Those without cars must secure rides or use time-consuming public transportation to get to appointments.
  • Supporting communities: Many low-income communities lack formal health care systems or organizations designed to meet their needs, other than hospital emergency rooms. 
Current Projects

Bringing Care to Places Children Already Go

CHOMPERS! Bringing Dental Care To Kids applies two proven strategies through the early childcare programs and health care providers that already serve children ages birth to five in poverty and their families in western and central New York: Cavity-Free Kids and Portable Dental Care.

Increasing Screening and Improving Coordination of Care

Because the first five years of children's lives play such a critical role in shaping their behavior, social and emotional development, the Health Foundation and The Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation partnered to create PEDALS: Positive Emotional Development and Learning Skills to provide early child care educators in Erie and Niagara counties with training on how to use evidence-based emotional and social curricula and assessments in their classrooms.

Improving Maternal and Child Health

The Improving Maternal and Child Health Initiative focuses on improving the health and well-being of children up to age one and women of child-bearing age living in poverty in western and central New York, with a strong emphasis in areas with a high risk of poor maternal and child health outcomes - "hot spot" neighborhoods.


Some examples of the results we are beginning to see with these projects include:
  • Improving coordination of care: Through initiatives like Help Me Grow, families in western New York are connected to community resources and child development information to give their children the best start start in life. 
  • Providing health care professionals with valuable tools: We are able to increase and facilitate developmental screenings by providing health care professionals, child care providers and educators with screening tools such as the Ages and Stages Questionnaire and social emotional curricula.
  • Providing communities with valuable tools: We are preparing to disseminate tools informed by best practices, like the Cavity Free Kids curriculum to early childcare providers and their partners through the development and launch of the CHOMPERS! initiative.
  • Increasing resources: All the projects we fund provide health care professionals, communities and families with authoritative and appropriate health care information through presentations, trainings, events, web sites and professional development opportunities.


1 U.S. Census Bureau, 2006-2008 American Community Survey, Buffalo-Niagara-Cattaraugus Combined Statistical Area and Syracuse-Auburn CSA
 Quality of Preventive health Care for Young Children: Strategies for Improvement (May 4, 2005)

3 Oral Health Status of Third Grade Children, New York State Department of Health

4 School-Based Health Centers: Expanding the Knowledge and Vision

Photo credit: Photo of two young boys courtesy of Tony Lojacono Photography.
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