The good news is that we’ve basically eliminated infectious disease as a cause of childhood death in the US and Canada. The bad news is that we have an epidemic of new childhood diseases that, while not infectious, have roots in socio-economic conditions and kids’ environment. Our fundraising has to address these new needs, because if we can break some of these links between conditions and health now, we can stop them forever.
Alan Bernstein, OC, PhD, FRSC and President/CEO of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research in Toronto gave the Woodmark Summit attendees a well-researched, cross-disciplinary kick in the pants to start off the three-day conference, hosted by the Montreál Children’s Hospital this week.
My second healthcare fundraising conference in as many weeks was packed with mostly young gift officers and annual fund professionals — an average of 10 people per hospital. Sessions ran from 7:00 am until 9pm.
Dr. Bernstein discussed the correlation between a child’s socio-economic environment and long-term health. For example, the incidence of obesity is dropping among children whose parents have a bachelor’s degree or higher education, but it is growing more rapidly than ever in families where the parents have a high school diploma at most. Obesity leads to diabetes and cardio-vascular problems which have enormous financial and social costs.
Children are at increasing risk for behavioral and mental health issues. ADHD, Autism, depression, and other mental health issues are on the rise among all segments of the youth population. In addition, children from lower socio-economic families have higher incidence of adult health issues, like arthritis and hypertension, later in life.
Dr. Bernstein is not calling for massive governmental wealth redistribution (and certainly, neither am I). What he did say, however, was that we as healthcare fundraising professionals need to refocus our efforts on programs that will provide screening and treatment for young children. We need to work not only with healthcare providers, but also with social service agencies and especially with educational institutions who have great influence on families and children.
Each child we can reach now can not only become a healthier adult, but in turn can help raise a new generation of healthier kids.