Helping children from cradle to career
By Alex Branch
Children born into poverty need support systems that extend from the prenatal stage into young adulthood in order to live the most successful lives possible, Michael McAfee, EdD, MPA, said.
But too often those support systems – including health programs – impact children during only certain developmental stages and then fade away, said the vice president for programs at PolicyLink, a national research and action institute advancing economic and social equity.
“If you have a program that focuses on children during early childhood, but not during their middle school years, the benefits get lost in the transition,” Dr. McAfee said. “And too often that is how these systems work. We advocate a ‘cradle-to-career’ system that provides all children a pathway to success.”
Dr. McAfee will share his expertise on building these systems on Thursday as the keynote speaker at UNT Health Science Center’s 11th annual Texas Conference on Health Disparities. This year the focus is on “Healthy Communities, Healthy Families: Broadening our Perspective from Preconception to Adulthood.”
The two-day conference will convene community leaders, professionals, researchers, faculty, clinicians and students to focus on clinical, basic science and community-based strategies to eliminate maternal and child health disparities.
Cradle-to-career systems may include everything from sound educational policies to sensible policing, but good health always plays a critical role. Quality preconception and prenatal care, reductions of toxic stress caused by unsafe living environments, access to pediatricians and primary care physicians, adequate nutrition and public health protections are crucial to development.
“Health impacts every aspect of a child’s life,” Dr. McAfee said. “I’m excited to come to the Health Science Center and trade ideas with health professionals about how these systems best work.”
Amy Raines-Milenkov, DrPH, Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, said the conference is an opportunity to broaden how the community thinks about and addresses the health and well-being of its children and families.
“We can’t afford to work in silos without consideration of the many determinants of well-being across the life course,” said Dr. Raines-Milenkov, who is chairing the conference. “Everyone has a role to play to create a flourishing, thriving community.”
Texas Conference on Health Disparities
UNT Health Science Center
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