Children are born healthy, stay healthy, and are surrounded by healthy adults.  These policies address the basic physical, mental health and emotional needs of young children and the adults who care for them, because success depends on the health of both. 

Policy choices

  • Timely and ongoing prenatal, pediatric, and oral health care
  • Access to affordable health insurance for children and families 
  • Partnerships to coordinate the identification and delivery of health care services with early learning programs
  • Community-based programs targeting sources of toxic stress such as violence, crime, substance abuse, and mental illness, combined with supports for parents and caregivers who need them
  • Maximize participation of families, providers, schools and communities in federal nutrition and assistance programs


Facts about Children's Health

  • Poor health in utero leads to poor pregnancy outcomes[i] that further increases risk for poor health in early childhood. Young children with poor health are, in turn, at higher risk for serious conditions in adulthood such as obesity and cardiovascular disease[ii]—many of which have serious economic and societal consequences.
  • Prolonged and elevated stress due to adverse experiences early in life such as violence or abuse causes changes in neural circuitry and chemical composition in the brain, which make children less resilient over time.[iii] This reduced adaptability undercuts the developmental benefits of positive experiences and puts children at risk for physical and mental illness later in life.[iv]
  • Children with poor nutrition and chronic illness are more likely to miss school, and therefore miss out on important social and academic opportunities.[v] This is especially true for uninsured children, who are less likely to receive preventive care, needed services, and screenings that allow for the early identification and effective management of health concerns.[vi]
  • Uninsured children living in poverty disproportionately suffer from lack of access to health care, particularly because poor children are less likely to be in excellent physical and oral health.[vii]
[i] O’Scholl, T. & Johnson, W.G. (2000). Folic acid: influence on the outcome of pregnancy. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 71: 1295S-1303S.
[ii] Barker, D. J. (2004). The developmental origins of adult disease. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 23, 588S-595S. as cited in Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (2010). The Foundations of Lifelong Health Are Built in Early Childhood.
[ii] Painter, B.C., de Rooij, S.R., Bossuyt, P.M., Simmers, T.A., Osmond, C., Barker, D.J., Bleker, O.P., & Roseboom, T.J. (2006). Early onset of coronary artery disease after prenatal exposure to the Dutch famine. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 84: 322-327.
[ii] Leunissen, R.W.J., Kerkhof, G.F., Stijnen, T., & Hokken-Koelega, A. (2009). Timing and tempo of first-year rapid growth in relation to cardiovascular and metabolic risk profile in early adulthood. Journal of American Medical Association, 301(21): 2234-2242.
[ii] Barker, D.J.P. (2006). Adult consequences of fetal growth restriction. Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology, 49(2): 270-283.
[iii] Johnson, S.B., Riley, A.W., Granger, D.A., & Riis, J. (2012). The science of early life toxic stress for pediatric practice and advocacy. Pediatrics, 131(2): 319-327.
[iv] Shonkoff, J.P., et al. (2012). The lifelong effects of Early Childhood Adversity and toxic stress. Pediatrics, 129: 232-246.
[iv] Danese, A., Moffitt, T.E., Harrington, H., Milne, B.J., Polanczyk, G., Pariante, C.M., Poulton, R., & Caspi, A. (2009). Adverse childhood experiences and adult risk factors for age-related disease: Depression, inflammation, and clustering of metabolic risk markers. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 163(12): 1135-1143.
[iv] Families USA, Why health insurance matters for children. (Washington, DC: Campaign for Children’s Health Care, 2006). Available online at
[v] Families USA, Why health insurance matters for children. (Washington, DC: Campaign for Children’s Health Care, 2006). Available online at
[v] CDC (27 Feb 2013). The Case for Coordinated School Health. (retrieved: healthyyouth/cshp/case.htm)
[vi] Eisert, S. & Gabow, P. (2002). Effect of child health insurance plan enrollment on the utilization of health care services by children using a public safety net system. Pediatrics, 110: 940-945.
[vi] Devoe, J.E., Tillotson, C.J., Wallace, L.S., Lesko, S.E., & Angier, H. (2012). The effects of health insurance and a usual source of care on a child’s receipt of health care. Journal of Pediatric Health Care, 26(5):e25-35.
[vi] Newacheck, P.W., Stoddard, J.J., Hughes, D.C., & Pearl, M. (1998). Health insurance and access to primary care for children. The New England Journal of Medicine, 338(8): 513-519.
[vii] National Survey of Children's Health. NSCH 2011/12. Data query from the Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative, Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health website. Retrieved [04/06/13] from