All children deserve the chance to meet their full health potential and lead fulfilling lives. Yet health inequities in the U.S. prevent many kids from meeting their full potential. This new report from the National Academies of Medicine outlines the steps needed to move all children toward positive health paths, thereby reducing health gaps.
Early experiences and life circumstances shape prenatal and early childhood development, with powerful impacts on the developing brain and body that shape health outcomes across the life course and can span generations. The preconception, prenatal and early childhood periods are critical phases of development that help set the odds for lifelong health and well-being.
All children deserve the opportunity to meet their full health potential and lead fulfilling lives. Yet health inequities in the United States prevent many kids from meeting their full potential. Importantly, the odds of positive or negative health are never set in stone. Research shows that prevention and early intervention are effective for children living in circumstances that put them at risk (such as living in poverty or being exposed to chronic adversity). Practice, policy, and systems-level changes informed by science can reduce the odds of adverse exposures, narrow health disparities and advance health equity.
Vibrant and Healthy Kids: Aligning Science, Practice and Policy to Advance Health Equity outlines steps needed to move children who are at risk for negative outcomes toward positive health trajectories and reduce health disparities.
The expert committee’s recommendations include:
Intervene early. In most cases, early intervention programs are easier to implement, more effective and less costly.
Support caregivers. This includes both primary caregivers and caregivers in systems who frequently interact with children and their families.
Reform health care system services to promote healthy development. Redesign the content of preconception, prenatal, postpartum and pediatric care while ensuring ongoing access, quality and coordination.
Create supportive and stable early living conditions: (1) Reduce child poverty and address economic and food security, (2) Provide stable and safe housing and (3) Eliminate exposure to environmental toxicants.
Maximize the potential of early care and education to promote health outcomes.
Implement initiatives across systems to support children, families, other caregivers and communities. Ensure trauma-informed systems, build a diverse and supported workforce and align strategies that work across sectors.
Integrate and coordinate resources across the education, social services and health care systems, and make them available to translate science to action.
The full report, as well as additional resources, can be accessed here.