Primary Outcome

Physical health

Prenatal

“Is the baby OK?” is the first question new parents ask. And that is measured 1-minute and 5-minutes after the birth of child by hospitals everywhere using something called APGAR—measuring pulse, reflexes, muscle tone, and heart-rate. A high APGAR is good predictor of health.

There are other signals of early health. Young infants should be able to suck, breathe at a regular rate and not appear to struggle to breathe, should have healthy color (no bluish color on inside of mouth, tongue, or around lips), and should have a vigorous cry. Babies should gain, not lose, weight. Babies usually gain ounces in the first month and then add pounds every month after that. Doctors and nurses will weigh babies and track how much weight they gain, and compare that to what they should be gaining to make sure your baby is on track. Doctors and nurses will also measure how long your baby is, and how big his or her head is—babies get longer and their heads grow as they grow. Babies should be able to sleep for short bouts that get longer as the child gets older. They should be able to be comforted by feeding, changing, rocking, and being held physically close to parents.

Many people do not realize that motor development is an important signal of health. The absence of constant wheezing and difficulty breathing and poor sleep are good signals of health. Too much weight gain during the first six months is a predictor of future obesity, however.

The PNRC suggests policies, programs, practices, and evidence-based kernels for your neighborhood to help every baby move successfully from these early phases of life.

Early Childhood

Healthier children are more likely to succeed. There are many aspects of physical health. Two of the most important are body weight and asthma. Other children may reject children who are overweight and these overweight children will have lower self-esteem. Also, children who are overweight are more likely to become ill, develop diabetes or other childhood health complications, and have a greater risk of heart disease and other diseases later in life. Even more, overweight children might be less likely to join active games and activities with their peers. This deprives them of opportunities to be active and to learn important language and social skills.

Asthma is the most common chronic childhood illness; affecting about five million children in the U.S., 80% of children with asthma develop symptoms before they are five-years-old. Racial disparities are seen in asthma hospitalizations and mortality: compared with white children, black children were more than three times as likely to be hospitalized and four times as likely to die from asthma.1 Other factors influencing the likelihood of childhood asthma include: one or more parents smoking, high levels of particulate matter in the air. Frequently ill children miss school and may have difficulty getting along with other kids. Asthma places children at risk for difficulties in later learning and socio-emotional development and further restricts childrens’ activities, leaving them at risk for other health problems. Children with asthma are more likely to acquire other diseases, to miss more days of school, and to have behavior problems, such as nervousness and trouble focusing on tasks. These problems can interfere with learning.

Exposure to cigarette smoke. Recent research shows that children’s behavior is affected by exposure to cigarette smoke in the home.1

Childhood

Being in good physical health during childhood means being physically fit, living in a safe environment, and being free from persistent health problems. Healthy, strong children are more likely to have excellent school attendance records and to participate more in social activities with other children. Children who are in good physical health are also less likely to have psychological and behavioral problems during childhood or later in life. Childhood is an important time for developing a healthy lifestyle, which includes being physically active and maintaining good nutritional habits, two key factors in preventing childhood obesity. Children who develop healthy lifestyles during childhood are more likely to continue living in healthy ways as adolescents and adults. Living in a safe environment during childhood means not having to worry about high crime rates; child abuse; and pervasive drug, alcohol, and tobacco use. Physical health problems, such as asthma, diabetes, and other persistent illnesses, can be prevented during childhood by maintaining healthy lifestyles and environments and by access to quality health care and appropriate childhood immunizations.

Early Adolescence

Adolescence should be a time of great physical health and strength, yet alarming numbers of our young people face poor health with asthma and type 2 diabetes on the rise. Low-income and ethnic minority youth are at increased risk for both asthma and type 2 diabetes.1,2 Asthma attacks are caused by toxins in the environment (pollution, high ozone levels, secondhand smoke, dust mites, molds, cockroaches, pet dander) and can be prevented.1 The major risk for developing type 2 diabetes is obesity,2 with poor diet and limited exercise related to the increase in obesity among youth. We know how to prevent asthma and type 2 diabetes by reducing the major risks for these terrible diseases that threaten the health of our young people.

Adolescence

Adolescence should be a time of great physical health and strength, yet alarming numbers of our young people face poor health with asthma and Type 2 diabetes on the rise.1,2 Low-income and ethnic minority youth are at increased risk for both asthma and Type 2 diabetes.1,2 Asthma attacks are caused by toxins in the environment (pollution, high ozone levels, secondhand smoke, dust mites, molds, cockroaches, pet dander) and can be prevented.1 The major risk for developing type 2 diabetes is obesity,2 with poor diet and limited exercise related to the increase in obesity among youth. We know how to prevent asthma and Type 2 diabetes by reducing the major risks for these terrible diseases that threaten the health of our young people.

Related Interventions

Programs

Policies

Kernels

References


  1. Environmental Protection Agency (2009). EPA Asthma Fact Sheet. Last access February 16, 2010 at www.epa.gov/asthma/pdfs/asthma_fact_sheet_en.pdf.  

  2. National Institutes of Health (2008). Research results for the public: Type 2 Diabetes. Last accessed February 16, 2010 at www.nih.gov/about/researchresultsforthepublic/Type2Diabetes.pdf.