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Getting Kids to the Starting Line: Nicholas Kristof on the Need for Childhood Health Screening


Johnny was 18 months old before anyone realized he was deaf. Luckily, the condition was largely reversible – but the damage to his language development might not be. Now a boisterous 3-year-old, Johnny still struggles to form words.

Johnny lives with his mom in rural West Virginia, and money is tight. If they’d had access to early childhood screening, his story might look very different.

In a compelling column, Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times tells Johnny’s story and makes the case for health screening for every child in America. He turns to our president and co-founder, Dr. Irwin Redlener, for some additional perspective.

“Poor kids are already at a disadvantage,” Dr. Redlener confirms. “Add chronic, untreated ear infections and you have extreme risk of insufficient language development.”

Last year Children’s Health Fund launched the Every Child a Chance campaign to address just this issue: preventable health problems that hold kids back. When a child is up all night, coughing and wheezing with asthma, she can’t concentrate on school the next day. When a child has undiagnosed vision problems, he can’t see what the teacher is writing on the board.

Kids growing in poverty shouldn’t have the additional challenge of poor health. As Kristof says, all children deserve the chance to “achieve lift-off.” We owe them nothing less. Childhood screening for common health problems is a key step toward meeting that goal

Read Kristof’s column here.