Newly released: Recommendations from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Commission to Build a Healthier America. Time to Act: Investing in the Health of Our Children and Communities calls for action on early childhood, healthy communities, and bridging health and health care. Read the report and explore the charts, infographics, and videos at RWJF.org

Early Life Experience

Social and economic conditions – factors associated with income, education, and neighborhood poverty, for example  – affect health at every stage of life. The effects of socioeconomic adversity on young children, however, are probably the most dramatic. Socioeconomic disadvantage in childhood has been linked repeatedly with worse health not only in childhood but later in adulthood as well.  Child poverty often leads to lower educational attainment and therefore to lower income in adulthood, with strong health effects (See Income). Socioeconomic adversity in early childhood can lead to physical changes in brain development limiting children’s chances to succeed and be healthy; high-quality early child care can markedly improve the mental and behavioral development of children, especially those in less favorable socioeconomic circumstances.

Resources

  • Issue Brief: Education Matters for Health

    This Commission issue brief, Education Matters for Health, discusses the large body of evidence linking education and health and examines why, across America and generations, people with more education live longer and experience better health outcomes.

    PDF

  • Fact Sheet: Improving the Health of All Americans by Focusing on the Early Years of Life

    Deficits in brain, cognitive and behavioral development early in life are strongly linked to important health outcomes later in life, including cardiovascular disease and stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, smoking, drug use and depression.

    PDF

  • Fact Sheet: Improving the Health of All Americans through Better Nutrition

    Poor nutrition is threatening America’s health. Today’s children may be the first in American history to live sicker and die younger than their parents’ generation. Experts warn that excess weight could reduce average life expectancy by five years or more in the next few decades.

    PDF

  • Beyond Health Care: New Directions to a Healthier America

    This Commission report, Beyond Health Care: New Directions to a Healthier America, describes the Commission's work and provides recommendations for moving forward to ensure all Americans have an opportunity to lead healthier lives.

    See the Report

More Resources

Perspectives

  • Stories

    Andrea Silva

    At Centura Health at Home in Denver, Andrea Silva resolved a struggle that many new mothers face – returning to work while continuing to provide nutritious breast milk for her baby. Meet Andrea Silva

     

    Abang Ojullu

    Abang Ojullu remembers all too vividly the day she put her eldest daughter on a small ambulance jet bound for Sioux Falls. The child’s asthma attack was too severe for doctors in rural Worthington, Minn. to treat. Meet Abang Ojullu

     

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  • Leadership Blog

    A Closing Word from Risa Lavizzo-Mourey on the Commission to Build a Healthier America

    by Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, President and CEO, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
    December 17, 2009

    After a year and a half, two major reports and national events, three regional field hearings, nine issue briefs, two chart books, and more than 50 meetings with leaders from government and the private sector, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Commission to Build a Healthier America has come to a close. Read More

    From Congress to the Cafeteria: Healthy Food is a Priority

    by David R. Williams, Ph.D., Staff Director
    November 03, 2009

    The Commission recognized the importance of nutritious food for improving the health of Americans when it released its recommendations in April. It saw communities without any access to grocery stores and fresh produce, school meals for children containing chicken nuggets, pizza and fries, and a country disconnected from the food system it relies on for its nutritional wellbeing. But recently, the tide has begun to turn. Read More

    Guest Post: “What does ‘good health’ mean to girls?”

    by Laurie A. Westley, Senior Vice President, Girl Scouts of the USA
    November 05, 2009

    America’s health starts with healthy children, but what does “good health” mean to kids? At Girls Scouts of the USA, we’re working to bring an important perspective to the table: we know what works for girls. Read More

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News and Events

  • USA Today: A healthier Head Start focuses more on preventing obesity

    December 08, 2009

    Many preschool children in Head Start programs are being offered fruits and vegetables and low-fat or non-fat milk daily as directors are increasingly concerned about childhood obesity. The children also have a chance to play each day. Read More

  • Washington Post: America's economic pain brings hunger pangs

    November 23, 2009

    The nation's economic crisis has catapulted the number of Americans who lack enough food to the highest level since the government has been keeping track, according to a new federal report, which shows that nearly 50 million people -- including almost one child in four -- struggled last year to get enough to eat. Read More

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