The Perils of Poverty: The Health Crisis Facing Our Low-Income Girls…And the Power of Sports to Help


The health of California’s girls – and particularly those living in low-income communities and communities of color – is in a state of crisis. The socio-economic conditions of their neighbor- hoods make them especially vulnerable to falling prey to a host of poor health outcomes including obesity, low-academic achievement, depression, substance abuse, violence, incarceration and pregnancy.

More than any other subgroup in our society, these young women may have no other choice but to spend their after-school hours hanging out in front of the corner store or sitting in front of a television screen eating unhealthy snacks. Indeed, the data tell a story that is upsetting to contemplate but too urgent to ignore. We must do something about this crisis because the costs in the loss of human potential and the impact on our health care, educational and other social institutions is staggering. These costs will only continue to rise unless we act now. Providing high-quality organized sports programs to girls living in poverty offers one relatively low cost remedy with proven results.

Participation by girls in these programs can increase a girl’s chances of growing up to be a suc- cessful, healthy adult, reduce her likelihood of obesity and depression, and decrease her chances of illegal drug use or unprotected sex. Yet girls in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color have the fewest opportunities to access and benefit from the life-changing power of sports.