Early Childhood Experiences and Health

Social and economic factors such as income, education and neighborhood resources, affect health at every stage of life, but the effects on young children are particularly dramatic. The earliest years of our lives are crucial in many ways; these years set us on paths leading toward--or away from--good health.

This issue brief examines how social and economic conditions shape children's health and the strong evidence that social disadvantages experienced in childhood can limit children's opportunities for health throughout life. Several of the nation's most well-known and well-evaluated early childhood development programs are also profiled, along with an assessment of the program components that provide the most promising solutions.

This is one in a series of 12 issue briefs on the social determinants of health. The series began as a product of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Commission to Build a Healthier America and continues as a part of the Foundation's Vulnerable Populations Portfolio.

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