Heat or Eat: The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and Nutritional and Health Risks Among Children Less Than 3 Years of Age
Even within a low-income renter sample, Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program benefits seem to reach families at the highest social and medical risk with more food insecurity and higher rates of low birth-weight children. Nevertheless, after adjustment for differences in background risk, living in a household receiving the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program is associated with less anthropometric evidence of undernutrition, no evidence of increased overweight, and lower odds of acute hospitalization from an emergency department visit among young children in low-income renter households compared with children in comparable households not receiving the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program in many states shuts down early each winter when their funding is exhausted. From a clinical perspective, pediatric health providers caring for children from impoverished families should consider encouraging families of these children to apply for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program early in the season before funding is depleted. From a public policy perspective, although this cross-sectional study design can only demonstrate associations and not causation, these findings suggest that, particularly as fuel costs and children's poverty rates increase, expanding the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program funding and meeting the national Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program performance goal of increasing the percentage of recipient households with young children might potentially benefit such children's growth and health.