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Investing in Children’s Futures

The Women’s and Children’s Health Policy Center (WCHPC) is becoming a national voice for “investing in children’s futures” by

(a) translating knowledge about the science of children’s health and the consequences of social inequality into child policy and public health practice, and

(b) generating new knowledge through relevant research, particularly focused on strategies for investing in children’s futures.

To date, most work on investing in children’s futures has focused on early childhood development and education. Faculty of the WCHPC are one of the first groups to introduce children’s health into this agenda, emphasizing the significant health burdens in early childhood and the significance of this early period in life in shaping health across the entire life course and the later cost consequences of poor health in early life. This work is organized through a series of partnerships and funded projects. It has already resulted in some significant scholarship and the presentation of research findings widely across the country.

Reviews and Economic Analyses

Just Published!
Early childhood health promotion and its life course health consequences. (2009). Guyer B, Ma S, Grason H, Frick KD, Perry DF, Sharkey A, McIntosh J.  Acad Pediatr.;9(3):142-149.

WCHPC researchers completed systematic reviews of literature on four topics – tobacco exposure, obesity, mental health, and injury – with a focus on the period of birth to school entry, documenting the future health implications, the cost implications, and identifying rigorously implemented and evaluated interventions. The resultant policy brief synthesizing the findings entitled, Early Childhood Health Problems and Prevention Strategies: Costs and Benefits, was produced and disseminated by the Partnership for America’s Economic Success (PAES), a project of the Committee for Economic Development.  

In an overlapping effort, a set of research syntheses that identify the most up-to-date information in the peer reviewed literature on the epidemiology, impacts, interventions and cost consequences of eight selected health issues/conditions were prepared for the Association of MCH Programs (AMCHP). The intent was to provide research information for AMCHP members’ use in their development of state-specific materials for educating elected officials and other policy makers. In addition to the four topics mentioned above, syntheses were developed specific to asthma, folic acid supplementation, perinatal depression, child injury.  Several short researched and referenced narratives that can be drawn from by states in preparing state/local-specific Opinion Editorials also were written for use by state public health programs serving women and children.

WCHPC findings also were presented at a number of national meetings of business leaders, as well as public health audiences. These intersecting projects were funded by the Zanvyl and Isabelle Krieger Fund and the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, and the Partnership for America’s Economic Success. WCHPC faculty and staff contributors are Bernard Guyer, Holly Grason, Kevin Frick, Jennifer McIntosh, and Alyssa Wigton Sharkey.

Policy Analyses Promoting Focus on Children’s Health

WCHPC is collaborating with the National Forum on Early Childhood Program Evaluation at the Harvard Center on the Developing Child – a multi-disciplinary collaboration of leading scholars in neuroscience, early childhood development, pediatrics, and economics. The primary role of the Center in this collaboration is to introduce health issues into an agenda focused primarily on development and education. Contributions to date include writing a paper on reconceptualizing the children’s health system, entitled Early Childhood Health and Development: A Model for Investing in Lifelong Well-Being and participating in the evaluation of child health promotion interventions. This latter activity involves building a meta-analytic data base on child health programs.

An expert panel is helping the team to frame child health, identify the health needs of children in early life, critique the current system of health care delivery, and identify criteria and characteristics for a system that will meet the needs of children and families. 

This project involves WCHPC faculty Kevin Frick, Holly Grason, Bernard Guyer, Sai Ma, Cynthia Minkovitz, Deborah Perry and Anne Riley. Kamila Mistry, Craig Martinez, and Carrie Mills are student collaborators on this project.

Jack Shonkoff

Listen to Jack Shonkoff speaking on
“The Science of Healthy Development: Closing the Gap Between What We Know and What We Do.”

Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D., is the Julius B. Richmond FAMRI Professor of Child Health and Development at the Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Graduate School of Education, and founding director of the university-wide Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.

Click here for lecture slides
Click here for audio

This presentation was given on April 2, 2008 for the Paul Harper Lecture. This annual lecture was established to honor Dr. Paul A. Harper, who, among his many accomplishments, launched the Division of Maternal and Child Health at Johns Hopkins in 1947.



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