Skip to content
Skip to main content

About this free course

Download this course

Share this free course

Physical and mental health for young children
Physical and mental health for young children

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

4 Exploring the effects of poverty on babies’ and children’s health

In the two videos you heard Helen and Claire describing the impact that living in poverty in two different contexts, that is an inner-city area and a rural area, can have on children’s health. The following case study looks at how other factors which are frequently associated with poverty can affect the health of children.

Activity 4 Case study: Simone, Aleesha and Jerome

Timing: 15 minutes

As stated in Session 1, children’s health is a complex issue. There are many factors that influence health, and each factor is like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle. And it’s only when the pieces are put together that a clearer picture emerges.

A photograph of a child playing with a jigsaw puzzle
Figure 7 Putting the pieces of the jigsaw together to get a clear picture

Bearing in mind that the case study of Simone, Aleesha and Jerome is meant to show pieces of a jigsaw and when put together, they will produce a picture. Please read the following case study, considering each piece of information and making some notes about:

  1. The factors that are having a negative impact on the children’s health.
  2. What can you identify as having a positive impact on the children’s health?
  3. What choices does Simone have about ways to improve her children’s health?

Aleesha is 18 months and Jerome is 5. Aleesha and Jerome’s mum, Simone is a young single parent and the family live in a dilapidated block of flats in an inner-city housing estate. Simone’s mum lives around the corner with Simone’s brother and sisters, they all support each other. Although the housing the family live in is run down, the area has had some investment, and there is a green area with play equipment. There is also a Children’s Centre that Simone takes Aleesha to, and there is a good primary school for Jerome.

Aleesha has almost a constant cold, runny nose and a troublesome cough at night, Simone has asthma, and it runs in her family, so she is concerned that Aleesha is showing signs of asthma. Jerome has recently been diagnosed with autism. Simone has a cleaning job at a fast-food restaurant, she relies on her sister to look after the children while she goes to work. Although the job isn’t well paid and is an informal arrangement, a major benefit of having the job is that the owner allows Simone to take some food home and he doesn’t charge her. The owner occasionally allows her to take fizzy drinks or a milkshake This food and the small amount of income helps to supplement her benefits.

Simone realises that her family situation is precarious, if she lost her job, she would no longer have the food that ensures the family know where their next meal is coming from and don’t go hungry. She is also aware that the food is not healthy, and she wishes she could spend more money on fresh food to prepare hot nutritious meals. However, the cooker is unreliable, and despite asking the landlord to fix it, nothing has been done. In addition, Jerome is becoming obsessive about food and will only eat pizza and chips. Any attempt to encourage him to eat other food provokes a major tantrum. So, Simone gives in to Jerome and gives him the food that he will eat and enjoy. However, the situation is worrying Simone because she is having to get clothes for an 8 year old rather than for a 5 year old.

To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).


You may have decided that the family have quite a lot of factors that are, or could have, a negative impact on the children’s health. And there are also many positives. Let’s consider some of them.

The family live near to their extended family, who give a lot of support to the family. This support means that Simone can get out of the house and even though the work is physically demanding, she meets people and enjoys her job.

The Children’s Centre provides services that will be able to offer support to Simone with the children’s health issues. Attending the Children’s Centre and taking Aleesha to ‘stay and play’ sessions while Jerome is at school gives Simone time to interact and bond with her daughter, as well as the opportunity to meet other parents.

The family live in poor housing and this may be provoking some of Aleesha’s asthma-like symptoms. The lack of reliable cooking facilities means that Simone can’t always cook hot food. The family have become overly reliant on the food that Simone brings back from work, and whilst this is not healthy food, at least they know when they will be having their next meal. The highly calorific food and Jerome’s refusal to eat anything else is causing him to gain weight.

Simone, Aleesha and Jerome live as many families do, and this case study illustrates that there are many factors that can impact on children’s health and sometimes it’s not easy to make changes that can make a difference. Simone has insight into her children’s health conditions, and she is concerned, especially about Jerome’s behaviour and his weight. Jerome’s eating habits are probably connected with having autism. And the combination of eating a high calorie diet, increasing weight and special educational needs are likely to impact his health in childhood and into adulthood.

Simone is also concerned about Aleesha and what may be emerging asthma, and she wishes they could move away from the damp flat which has mould in the bathroom. However, to some extent, she feels that she has limited options of what she can do to improve their living situation and lifestyle.

Simone’s situation highlights the need for understanding all of the parts of the jigsaw when considering how families address their children’s health. It is also intended to demonstrate the need for sensitivity towards families.

You may have found other pieces of the jigsaw puzzle!