Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health

Healthy Development

The first weeks, months, and years of every child’s life lay the foundation for success in school. Factors such as poverty, poor nutrition, lack of preventive health care, substance abuse, maternal depression, and family violence put young children at risk. Children who experience several of these risk factors are often far behind their more advantaged peers from the start.

States can help by establishing policies that promote medical leave, ensure that families have access to insurance for health and mental health, and provide work supports to parents. At the community level, cities and counties are developing comprehensive programs that meet the needs of parents with infants and toddlers, some targeting higher-risk babies like those in foster care.

Low-income children are disproportionately at risk for risk factors that threaten healthy development. It is in the public interest to promote policies, services, and supports that can help change a negative development course to a positive one.

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