fighting poverty by improving health

The cycle of poverty is an interconnected mix of factors that imprisons entire communities for generations. While it’s difficult to unwind every element of poverty, one thing stands out — health conditions and access to health care play a huge factor in a community’s poverty rate. Children in impoverished communities live without access to basic health necessities such as clean water and sanitation, ushering in preventable diseases or worse. Health issues often cause children to fall behind in school, and a lack of education leads the way for drug use, early pregnancy and gang affiliation.

Your gift, or sponsorship, helps children in our communities by providing health programs that focus on two important things: 1) developing healthy habits and 2) connecting children with services, like our own health and dental clinics, when they need help.

Programs tailored to fit the need

Around the world, every community has distinct needs and suffers from its own set of obstacles. In Mexico, the saturated job market makes it difficult for uneducated adults to find stable employment. While in Zambia, one of the poorest places on Earth, poverty is so widespread that unemployment is a generational problem with lasting deficits. Our team assesses the conditions in every country we serve to create specific programs to help children overcome the challenges of their community and end poverty for good.

Let’s talk about giving

If you’re interested in making a major gift to Children International programs, please contact our Global Philanthropy team at 816-943-3834 or

How will your support help?

Children enrolled in our sponsorship program have access to the right mix of resources, based on location, age and life circumstances. What is sponsorship? Find out more

    Education around healthy behaviors

    We help children and youth establish and reinforce healthy behaviors through the following areas of focus:

    Oral health

    Reducing sugar intake and increasing tooth brushing to twice daily.

    Why: These behaviors can protect children from dental disease, the most common global health condition — and one that affects up to 90% of school children.

    Handwashing and safe water

    Increasing handwashing and implementing household water treatment and safe storage.

    Why: Handwashing helps prevent the transmission of diarrhea and pneumonia — two of the leading global causes of death in children. Safe water treatment and storage reduces the risk of malnutrition, diarrhea, malaria and other water-borne infectious diseases.

    Emotional Well-Being

    Practicing self-replenishment, emotion identification and self-calming skills.

    Why: These skills help children manage stress and maintain mental health.

    Adolescent health

    Reproductive health education, reducing alcohol, tobacco and drug use.

    Why: Reproductive health helps reduce early pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Reducing adolescent substance abuse reduces risky behaviors and later health problems and increases life expectancies.

    Nutrition rehabilitation

    Our program supports moderately to severely undernourished children. We also work to reduce risks of chronic disease from obesity in children and educate caregivers on nutrition practices.

    Why: Malnutrition is responsible for almost half of all deaths for children under 5 and keeps millions of others from reaching their full potential.

    Accessing health services

    When we are unable to partner with others to provide available, affordable health care, we operate our own health and dental clinics at Children International community centers, ensuring all our sponsored children and youth have access to the health services they need.

    Medical services

    We provide access to medical care through direct primary care, referrals and payment for outside services, health care education and emergency financial support.

    Why: These services help level the playing field for underserved communities that lack health care coverage.

    Dental services

    We provide access to dental services, including screenings, direct care, dental education and financial assistance.

    Why: These programs help combat the number one global health condition: tooth decay.

    Specialty programs

    We run smaller projects that target issues such as obesity, tuberculosis and other illnesses.

    Why: These programs provide health services to address specific diseases that limit our children’s ability to thrive.

    Did you know?

    Each year, 2 million children die from preventable diseases like diarrhea and pneumonia because families can’t afford treatment.

    More of the story

    Each year, doctors and dentists provide hundreds of thousands of free medical and dental exams to children and youth. Our nutrition rehabilitation program and anti-parasite and TB campaigns improve the health of thousands more.


    Why focus on health?

    Wash your hands, brush your teeth, eat right, see the doctor if you feel sick — these seem like routines we take for granted every day. But for children in poverty, teaching and reinforcing these healthy behaviors is a life and death matter. Each year, 2 million children die from preventable diseases that could be solved by simple practices like hand washing and safe sanitation.

    Health issues are often the main factor plunging families into poverty. Living in poverty can mean inadequate health and dental care, chronic malnutrition, poor hygiene and unsafe sanitation conditions, a lack of education about reproductive health and mental health, and preventable diseases going untreated. As children struggle with illness, they fall behind in school, drop out and many times turn to a life of drugs or gangs, leading to a life imprisoned by poverty. By investing in a child’s health, you’re helping them envision a future they never thought possible. Our programs teach children healthy behaviors and provide life-changing access to health care programs, medicines and early education about hygiene, nutrition and more. 

    Our health programs support the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030. No. 3 is: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages. Learn more about SDG #3 here.

    What gets measured?

    (In other words, how do you know it's working?)

    When trying to achieve healthy behaviors, here is what we measure

    Increased knowledge: You don’t know what you don’t know! We track what children and their caretakers know before our programs and what they know afterward. This helps us measure what they’ve learned about behaviors that impact their health.

    Improved attitude: You can know the facts but not believe they are relevant to your life. We measure how children and their caretakers feel about the healthy behaviors we’re encouraging before and after our programs. Do they believe those behaviors are important?

    Increased self-efficacy: Knowledge and attitude mean nothing without follow through. Sometimes things in children’s and caretakers’ environments hinder their ability to make healthy changes. Sometimes they just need confidence to carry on. We measure whether they believe they can stick with these healthy behaviors.

    When it comes to the use of health services, we look at these results

    Improved availability: Ensuring children can get to nearby providers when they are open and at times that work for our families.

    Improved affordability: Removing financial roadblocks for families so children can get the care they need. 

    Increased accessibility: Educating families to help them understand when to see a health care provider and how to find the services they need.

    Fast Fact: After completing our Nutrition Rehabilitation program, 50% of caregivers reported they felt more confident in keeping their child at a healthy weight. Learn more about malnutrition.
    Results in Action

    Oral Health

    At the end of our Oral Health Program, 100% of children and youth own a toothbrush and toothpaste and 98% can demonstrate correct brushing technique, and 96% say they now brush twice a day — that’s something to smile about.


    In 2018, 33,926 children and youth completed our Handwashing & Safe Water Promotion program. Before the program, just 38% knew when they should wash their hands. After completing the program, 89% of our children and youth demonstrated correct handwashing (with soap and water) and reported washing before eating and after playing outside, using the toilet and handling the garbage.

    Adolescent Health

    Our Adolescent Health Program led to a big reduction in the amount of youth who self-reported substance use, including a 49% decrease in the number of adolescents abusing drugs. Reducing adolescent substance abuse leads to further positive life choices, reduces risky behaviors and increases life expectancies. We saw a 66% increase in the number of youth who are comfortable discussing and purchasing contraceptives after taking our program.


    After participating in our nutrition programs, 35% of participants decreased their BMI, and there was a 20% increase in parents who reported healthy home-environment behaviors.


    In 2018, 95% of children and youth in our program received the dental services they needed and 83% utilized services provided by our program.

    Did you know?

    Each year, 2 million children die from preventable diseases like diarrhea and pneumonia because families can't afford treatment. Check out more facts about poverty and health issues here.

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