Author: Stephen Bezruchka
Departments of Global Health and Health Services at the School of Public Health, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA
ABSTRACT: The first thousand days following conception is a critical period during which a large fraction of adult health is programmed. Societies can structure their support during this period in ways that enhance or damage not only the health and well-being of children, but also the health of the adults they become. Inequality is a major influence on early child health. Nations may focus on trying to effect changes in individual health-related behaviors, but public policies promoting more economic equality are more effective in producing health. A national focus on economic growth may produce overstressed parents who have inadequate time and energy for parenting. How a country chooses to allocate its national budget for health and welfare services exposes its priorities. Some of the nations that put the most federal money per person on the first year of life have some of the best overall health; others that focus spending on the later years may have limited health improvements. Economic policies, however, can be overcome in some cases by social and cultural norms, which can override both supportive and unhelpful measures. The path to health looks at its source determinants and supports early life conditions that promote the well-being of children, which in turn will further their health as adults.