Are We More Invested in Our Pets’ Health and Care Than Our Children’s?

A critical look at our priorities in the U.S.
Amelia Protiva
4 min read

Is it possible we are becoming more attentive to our pets' health and well-being and skipping over our human children inadvertently?

According to PEW Research, nearly half of U.S. pet owners consider their pets as integral to their families as their human counterparts. This is directly reflected in the booming pet care tech industry, which is replete with innovative health-monitoring devices and care apps.

In stark contrast, the market for children's care technology has remained relatively stagnant, revealing a troubling disparity in the allocation of resources toward our kids' well-being. As parents, no doubt we view our children as the pinnacle of our acheivements, so why is there a massive gap in tech for improving their health and care?

While the smart device market is flooded with technologies to monitor and enhance our pets’ well-being, parents often grapple with less accessible care systems and fewer technologies tailored to understanding and nurturing our children's health and well-being.

One notable factor may be the regulatory environment—certifications and approvals for pet health devices generally face fewer roadblocks and can be brought to market more swiftly and with less scrutiny than similar devices intended for children. This faster path to market could be influencing the disparity in innovative health and care solutions available.

Though when we shift our focus to pediatric health research funding, the insufficiency feels stark. Despite the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) annual research budget of approximately $45 billion, only $5.7 billion (12.6% is allocated to pediatric research. This lack of equal funding is particularly concerning given that, according to the CDC, 40% of school-aged children and adolescents have at least one chronic illness requiring ongoing medical attention or limiting their daily activities. Additionally, children account for 59.9% of the disease burden, as highlighted by a study published in the National Library of Medicine.

Chronic conditions, ranging from asthma to obesity to diabetes, affect between 10 to 20 million children and adolescents, as noted by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Considering there are about 72 million Americans under 18 years old, this translates to approximately 13% to 27% of children currently living with chronic illnesses–which can last from three months to a lifetime. These statistics underscore the urgent need for more targeted research, preventative care, and resources to address the complexities and impacts of pediatric health conditions.

Outside of healthcare, international perspectives on children's rights underscore further discrepancies. As of today, the United States is the only country that has yet to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This global agreement aims to protect children's rights in health, education, and welfare, indicating a significant commitment gap in the U.S. when it comes to institutional support for children's health compared to global standards.

This juxtaposition of insufficient healthcare funding for children and the lack of unequivocal commitment to children's rights underscores broader societal priorities and perceptions regarding the well-being of our next generation, compared to animal rights and care, where we are seeing a rising number of concerted efforts and resources allocated.

For some, disparities in attention and technologies between pet and child care could be partly explained by the perception that pet care is less complex. A pet's happiness and health, often marked by a wagging tail or contented purr, may seem simpler to manage when compared to the multifaceted challenges, personalities, and needs of children as they grow. Though an interesting report of Google Search history was shared on Psychology Today in 2022 which demonstrated more people searching how to tell if their pet was happy than querying how to tell if their child was happy, possibly indicating a gap in awareness of or in addressing our children's emotional needs.

To be clear, enhancing our focus on children’s health and care does not mean diminishing the love and care we provide to our pets. Rather, it simply demands a balanced approach where advancing pediatric health and care innovations is seen as equally vital and worthy of our investment. Companies like Littlebird are playing a pivotal role in this, pushing forward the boundaries of what we know about children’s health and development and how we can protect and build upon it, ensuring that their health baselines and care metrics are as tracked and optimized as those we have and use for our much-loved furry friends.

It’s about time we came together to value and support initiatives that focus on children’s well-being with the same vigor and attention we apply to pet care.

Increasing funding for pediatric research, improving access to comprehensive healthcare for children, and supporting educational efforts that increase awareness of children’s developmental needs are not just moral imperatives but essential steps forward for our collective future. By committing to these changes, we can ensure a healthier, safer future for all members of our families, both human and animal, and build a society that prioritizes the well-being of our most vulnerable.

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