For many years, Health Care for All Massachusetts (HCFA) has focused on and prioritized children’s health coverage. In 1995, HCFA started the Children’s Health Access Coalition with the goal of making sure that all kids in Massachusetts had insurance. Today, that goal has been largely achieved, with more than 99 percent of all young people ages 0 to 19 covered.
However, health insurance is just one piece of the much larger puzzle of children’s health and wellbeing. To ensure the wellbeing of all kids, we need to make sure that children have all the essentials, including stable housing and access to healthy food, in addition to being enrolled in coverage.
In Massachusetts, almost 5,000 families with children and pregnant women accessed the state’s Emergency Assistance shelter program so far this year. On any given day last year, almost 10,000 high school aged children in public schools experienced homelessness. Additionally, 17 percent of children in Massachusetts struggle with hunger. Without secure housing or adequate nutritious meals, children are more likely to suffer from poor health. Furthermore, children at risk of homelessness or food insecurity are more likely to be members of low-income families and to lack access to essential services, like health care.
Armed with this understanding, HCFA has started a new initiative this fall to collectively address what we call the “three H’s”, the issues of health, homelessness and hunger, among children in Massachusetts. In early October, advocates representing nearly 40 organizations committed to improving the lives of Massachusetts’ children came together at the new initiative’s first convening. The energy that day was staggering. By the end of the meeting, group members committed to working together to draft omnibus legislation and build a unified budget slate that would help address the three H’s and help to ensure the wellbeing of Massachusetts children. We hope that this is just the beginning of breaking down silos between groups that work on different children’s issues and of comprehensively addressing children’s needs.
The next several months promise to be busy ones, with lots of work to be done to move the group forward, but there is hope that the effort will make a real impact on the lives of many children in Massachusetts. The coalition members are currently examining policy issues in each category of work, and drafting language that could be included in an omnibus piece of legislation to for the next legislative session.
To learn more or to join the conversation about addressing health, homelessness and hunger among children in Massachusetts, please contact Matt Noyes at email@example.com. To learn more about children’s health care, please visit www.hcfama.org and neach.communitycatalyst.org.