We believe that ensuring affordable access to brain/mental health and physical health care for all children is vital to productive and prosperous society.
Health in the initial years of a child’s development, beginning with the health of the mother even before she becomes pregnant, sets the stage for a lifetime of health and well-being. When the developing biological systems are strengthened by positive early experiences, healthy children are more likely to grow into healthy adults. Health is more than the absence of disease, it’s a human resource that helps children and adults adapt to the challenges of everyday life, resist infection, cope with adversity, feel a sense of personal well-being and interact with their environment in way that promotes successful growth and development. Children who are healthier and who have greater educational opportunity are more likely to be economically secure and contribute to their communities (through volunteering and other forms of civic engagement, for example) as adults.
Adverse events or experiences that occur early in childhood can have livelong consequences on both physical and mental well-being. Developmental and biological disruptions during the prenatal period and earliest years of the child’s life may result in weakened immune system, vulnerabilities to later health impairments and altered brain architecture. Every system that touches the lives of children – as well as mothers before and during pregnancy – provides the opportunity to apply this scientific knowledge of the origins of health, learning and behavior across multiple sectors. The science suggests that a more effective approach to health promotion would be to invest more resources in the reduction of significant adversity during the prenatal and early childhood periods over the disproportionate campaigns to encourage more exercise and better eating habits in adults.
Effective health promotion and disease prevention throughout a child’s life depends on access to high-quality, affordable medical care. Evidence shows that, particularly for low-income children, having health insurance is associated with a broad array of positive outcomes. And, more than 1/3 of all children in the U.S. under the age of 19 are covered by Medicaid.