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Early Childhood Health

During early childhood, we develop the foundations that affect our future social-emotional health, learning, and success. Our brains are growing at a rapid pace. This creates a remarkable window of opportunity to influence our future health and well-being.

Unfortunately, services and supports are not equitably available to everyone. This increases racial, ethnic, geographic, and economic disparities in early childhood health.

Currently, only about half of U.S. preschoolers are on-track with their development and ready for school.i, ii And more than one in four of children (28%) who experience abuse or neglect are under 3 years old.iii

Supporting children, parents, and caregivers during early childhood helps avoid future challenges and costs. It improves all children’s and communities’ chances to thrive.

Our approach to early childhood

We focus on building family well-being by working with the needs of children and their caregivers at the same time. This is a two-generational approach. These interventions help reduce stress and build skills. In turn, that reduces the potential for exposure to negative experiences such as neglect, abuse, and intimate partner violence.

Our investments

With our committed partners, our programs apply the science of early development to policies and practices that:

  • Promote early development, nurturing relationships, and family well-being starting before birth
  • Address poverty, racism, caregiver and family stress, and community conditions
  • Prevent adverse early childhood experiences, exposures, and conditions
  • Value the potential of every child and the strength of caregivers and communities

Initiatives and programs

Research

Clinical training

Gathering data and tracking progress

We gather program data and national data to track progress. We evaluate the impact of our investments.

Our National Survey of Children’s Health serves as the data source for a quarter of our NOMs (7 of 25) and over half of our NPMs (9 of 15). It also serves as a key data source for MCH research that informs how we can best improve health and well-being during early childhood years.


i Ghandour R. M., et al. (2021). Healthy and Ready to Learn: Prevalence and correlates of school readiness among United States preschoolers. Academic Pediatrics, 21(5), p. 818-829. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.acap.2021.02.019

ii Paschall, K., Anderson Moore, K., Pina, G., & Anderson S. (2020, April). Comparing the National Outcome Measure of Healthy and Ready to Learn with Other Well-Being and School Readiness Measures. Available from: https://www.childtrends.org/project/national-outcome-measure-healthy-ready-to-learn.

iii U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau. (2021). Child Maltreatment 2019. Available from https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/research-data-technology/statistics-research/child-maltreatment.

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