Clinical Health Care Practice and Community Building: Addressing Racial Disparities in Healthy Child Development
AUTHORS: Charles H. Bruner, Ph.D. and Edward L. Schor, M.D. Paper presented at the Roundtable workshop on Investing in Children’s Health: A Community Approach to Addressing Health Disparities, Atlanta, Georgia (January 24, 2008)
INTRODUCTION: Pronounced disparities exist by race and ethnicity in child and adolescent health, across a range of health conditions and access to health services. Addressing these child health disparities is particularly important, as childhood and adolescence establish health trajectories that extend throughout a person’s lifespan.These disparities in child health conditions by race and ethnicity also co-occur with other disparities in child outcomes – from educational achievement to child welfare and justice system involvement. This high degree of co-occurrence warrants attention to identifying some common etiology for these disparities.
Clearly, good child health involves:
- Timely and appropriate (and therefore culturally sensitive) medical care for illness and injury, and screening to detect and treat congenital abnormalities and chronic as well as acute health conditions
- Good hygiene, nutrition, and exercise
- Stable and nurturing families who provide constant and consistent supervision
- Safe environments that do not contain toxic elements
- Social institutions that reinforce healthy lifestyles and behaviors and provide opportunities for growth and development
- Social and psychological supports that foster resiliency and positive identity.
Healthy child development that results in educational and social success similarly involves the same set of points, particularly when social institutions are defined to include schools and their educational components. These points provide the basis for that common etiology to achieving both good child health and healthy child development.