On Friday if Congress and the president do not act, what is known as the budget sequestration-- automatic cuts to a wide range of government programs– will kick in.

This spells public health disaster.

The first to feel the massive cuts to public health programs will be mothers and young children. The youngest are like canaries in a coal mine – the most sensitive to any change in the political winds, and thus the best human indicators of how well our policies are working. Cuts are scheduled to hit Head Start, childcare subsidies, special education, and mental health services, to name just a few.

If sequestration is allowed to go forward on March 1, WIC will be slashed by 5.1%. Sound small? It is the equivalent of dropping 600,000 mothers and young children from the program.

Ironically, March 1, the dark day that the sequester could take effect, is also the day that a documentary about hunger in America premiers in theaters, on Netflix and On Demand.

Which version of Friday would you prefer: helplessly pondering the sequester-initiated start of a deterioration in America's brain trust – or helping to protect it for generations to come?

Mariana Chilton, Ph.D, MPH, is an associate professor at Drexel University School of Public Health and director of Drexel's Center for Hunger-Free Communities.

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