Find out what the crack epidemic has taught researchers about the health and well being of families in North Philadelphia

Photo by Maggie Smith

By the late 1980s, Philadelphia was submerged into a crack-cocaine epidemic that was not only claiming the lives of adults, but also exposing babies to the dangerous drug in-utero. In 1989, Hallam Hurt, then the chair of neonatology at Albert Einstein Medical Center in North Philadelphia, set out to study the impact of this highly addictive drug on newborns, specifically what kind of long-term effects the drug caused and how it compared to the effects of poverty on children from the same neighborhoods.

At the height of the study, an increase in babies born to crack-addicted mothers directly correlated to a significant number of the newborns presenting with the same addiction. The children would also go on to suffer physical abnormalities and problems with cognitive and physical development within the same population of families that SCFC serves today.

Despite the impact that the drug epidemic had on a generation of mothers and their children (including lower IQ and turmoil at home), the 25-year study revealed something even more surprising: that the impact of poverty can be just as damaging to the lives of many Philadelphia families as the crack epidemic once was. Researchers discovered that both drug use and common triggers of poverty are significantly similar when it comes to the overall health (emotional, behavioral and physical health) of children in North Philadelphia, from which the core of SCFC clients reside.

“At age 4, for instance, the average IQ of the cocaine-exposed children was 79.0 and the average IQ for the non-exposed children was 81.9,” reports. “Both numbers are well below the average of 90 to 109 for U.S. children in the same age group. When it came to school readiness at age 6, about 25 percent of children in each group scored in the abnormal range on tests for math and letter and word recognition.”

To find out more about the parallels between drug addiction, poverty and health, click here to read the full story.