The Changing Nature Of Childrens Health Development New Challenges Require Major Policy Solutions
Author: Neal Halfon, Paul H. Wise, Christopher B. Forrest
The epidemiology and social context of American childhood are rapidly changing. Adverse social, economic, and child-rearing conditions are loading children down with preventable illness, physical and behavioral disability, and dysfunction. This new epidemiology of childhood is swamping the capacity of the nation’s health care system, schools, juvenile justice facilities, and child protective services to respond to the needs of those they serve. This low-performing system not only jeopardizes the health of children, it also jeopardizes the health of the adults they will become. In this article we review the science of life-course health development, a new field that provides a powerful explanatory framework for understanding how poor health and social adversity during childhood can affect lifelong health. We then present five ambitious policy recommendations to integrate educational, health, social, and economic initiatives designed to enhance health. Our bold but pragmatic goal is that by 2025, US children will have the highest levels of health among industrialized nations, instead of where US children currently rank—among the worst.