Socioeconomic conditions are known to have profound and long-term effects on health at all stages of life, from pregnancy through childhood and adulthood. In addition to the positive or negative effects of one’s present socioeconomic condition, studies have shown an association between early-life socioeconomic conditions and adult health-related behaviors, morbidity, and mortality. Sensitive and critical periods of development, such as the prenatal period and early childhood, present significant opportunities to influence lifelong health. Yet simply intervening in the health care system is insufficient to influence health outcomes early in life.
On January 24, 2008, the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) Roundtable on Health Disparities and the IOM/National Research Council's Board on Children, Youth, and Families co-hosted a public workshop to discuss the important foundations of adult health that are laid prenatally and in early childhood. As those who study the health care system and those who study social determinants of health do not have many opportunities to interact with one another, the workshop, “Investing in Children’s Health: A Community Approach to Addressing Health Disparities,” was designed to continue to advance the dialogue about health disparities by facilitating discussion among stakeholders in the community, academia, health care, business, policy, and philanthropy.