Washington, D.C., November 3, 2015— A new report, A Healthy Early Childhood Action Plan: Policies for a Lifetime of Well-being, released today by the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH), highlights more than 40 policy target areas that are key to achieving national goals of reducing toxic stress and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and improving the lives of millions of children.
Living with prolonged stress and/or adverse experiences can significantly increase a child’s risk for a range of physical, mental and behavioral problems – increasing the likelihood for hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cognitive and developmental disorders, depression, anxiety and a range of other concerns.
Currently, around one-quarter of children ages 5 and younger live in poverty and more than half of all children experience at least one ACE. According to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-quarter of children experience physical abuse (28.3 percent) and substance abuse in the household (26.9 percent) while sexual abuse (24.7 percent for girls and 16 percent for boys) and parent divorce or separation (23.3 percent) are also prevalent.
“More and more studies show investing in early childhood pays off in a lifetime of better health and well-being,” said Jeffrey Levi, PhD, executive director of TFAH. “There are dozens of policy levers we can and should be pushing to ensure all children have high-quality preventive healthcare; safe, stable, nurturing relationships, homes and communities; good nutrition and enough physical activity; and positive early learning experiences.”
The report calls for increased public health engagement in early childhood areas, with a series of recommendations including to:
Build beyond the traditional healthcare system by integrating health and other social supports, including accountable health communities for children, by: