Project updates, commentaries, events and news about health across the nation from the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps team.

Focusing on Early Childhood Programs to Improve Community Health

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

In 2009, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Commission to Build a Healthier America released 10 recommendations to improve health outside of health care. One of those initial recommendations was “ensure that all children have high-quality early developmental support (child care, education, and other services).” The 2013 reconvening of the Commission will expand upon that original recommendation by providing further guidance on how to improve health in early childhood.

In a Commission brief entitled Improving the Health of All Americans by Focusing on Early Childhood it states that “social and economic disadvantages in early childhood can limit children’s opportunities for health throughout life.” Furthermore, research shows that early exposure to toxic stress caused by traumatic events such as neglect, abuse, homelessness, or long-term effects of poverty, can lead to serious health consequences extending into adulthood. The paper asserts that high quality early childhood development programs can yield a lifetime of benefits for children by providing stability, stimulation, and bolstering parents’ ability to meet their children’s developmental needs at home.

What Works for Health offers several early education programs and policies for communities to explore.  A number of Roadmaps to Heath Community Grantees have also focused their efforts on early childhood development and are employing a variety of strategies to improve the health and quality of life of their youngest residents.

Learn more about community grantees’ work in early childhood programs: