Building a healthier, brighter future: Positive childhood and youth development

As this video from the Center on the Developing Child illustrates, in looking at determinants of health and well being, it is important to consider the enormous influence early childhood and later youth development have on children’s futures. Physical, social, and emotional health and well being, as well as factors related to health and well being such as education and income levels, can often be predicted from childhood exposures. Moreover, brain development research suggests young people are particularly receptive to prevention and youth development interventions and supports, as well as strategies geared towards developing resilience and social competence.

In a 2010 report entitled The Foundations of Lifelong Health Are Built in Early Childhood, the following framework is put forward.

The framework highlights much of what we are striving for here at occupy healthcare – public health, community development, primary healthcare – all with the goal of better health across the lifespan.

And while interventions and supports in very early childhood are critical, continuing this support through adolescence is also imperative. Young people who are surrounded by a variety of opportunities for engagement encounter less risk and ultimately show evidence of higher rates of successful transitions into adulthood.

The positive youth development movement centers around cultivating five essential characteristics, commonly known as the five Cs:

While both early childhood development and positive youth development are extensive fields, with a vast array of research and related programs and policies, this simple introduction establishes the essence of these fields and the link between them and health and well being.

So, what can we do? This week’s action items:

*Support evidence-based positive childhood and youth development programs by volunteering, fundraising and donating, and advocating for policies that help sustain and expand them.

*Be a mentor – January is National Mentoring Month, and what better New Year’s Resolution can we make than to invest in the future by mentoring a child?

(This post is cross-posted at

Vinu Ilakkuvan received her Masters of Science degree in Society, Human Development, and Health from the Harvard School of Public Health in May 2011. She currently works in youth violence prevention in Richmond, Virginia, and blogs about public health at

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in healthcare
  • Phil Lawson

    Policy is an important element in the whole of health and I agree with the points in the video.

    Unfortunately, policy, even the best policies that could potentially do incredible good, can and will be subverted. I was at ground zero for more than a decade witnessing wholesale subversion of policies and laws.

    Policy and laws play a role, a vital role, in addressing the crisis in healthcare, just as money plays a major role. But no amount of good policies and laws, and no amount of money will solve our healthcare crisis.

    Until there is a coherent comprehensible shared and compelling vision of the whole of health, one that includes: policy/laws, politicians, corporate profits, foundations and endowment organizations, educational institutions (k-20), providers (ALL providers not just doctors, or psychiatrist or hospitals but also nurses, pharmacists, advocates, home health, end of life, long-term care …); patients, their families and support system; local communities;, cultural/ethnic issues, social/economic issues, gender issues, environmental issues; one that includes for profit and non-profit healthcare corporations and organizations, medical research and development organizations, pharmaceutical companies, medical device and supply manufacturers; government agencies; national, state and local governmental budgets as well as the debt of all of these; taxes, social service providers, local and national churches, civic organizations and then showing how these – and much more (such as our collective definition of and practice of capitalism and even democracy) – are all essential elements that have already come together shaping our individual and national health (good or bad), little real change will happen.

    Complex? Sure. But without such a coherent comprehensible shared and compelling vision of the whole of health, we, America, will not realize any meaningful sustained national improvement in healthcare for all citizens.