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OR Doctors' New Hunger-Fighting Toolbox

April 5, 2010

PORTLAND, Ore. - While most pediatricians can determine if something is wrong with a child during a typical visit, hunger is one condition that can sometimes be hard to talk about and tough to detect. So pediatrician Dana Hargunani helped develop a new toolkit to help doctors identify when childhood hunger might be an issue with a patient. She says one of the key tools is a process to help doctors determine if a child might come from a food-insecure household.

"Basically, it shows them what types of questions they can ask. If they identify a family who 'screens positive' for being at risk for food insecurity, then it takes them down a stepwise pathway to what they need to do to help that family."

Dr. Hargunani, with the Oregon Health and Science University, says not all doctors have been trained to think of hunger as a health problem, even though it can lead to all sorts of complications.

"Children can have anemia or clearly more hospitalizations or more illnesses. They also have poor outcomes in school compared to their peers."

A recent Gallup poll found more than a quarter of households with children in Oregon suffer from some kind of food hardship.

The Childhood Hunger Coalition recently distributed more than 3,000 "Childhood Hunger" toolkits, which include posters, brochures and other information, to pediatric and family practice providers across Oregon. The toolkit was developed in response to a survey of doctors and nurses that found the vast majority think hunger is a serious problem that should be addressed in the clinical setting.

More information is available at www.oregonfoodbank.org.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - OR