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Editorial |

Socioeconomic Influences on Child Health:  Building New Ladders of Social Opportunity

Neal Halfon, MD, MPH1
[+] Author Affiliations
1Center for Healthier Children, Families, and Communities; Department of Pediatrics, David Geffen School of Medicine; Department of Health Policy & Management, Fielding School of Public Health; Department of Public Policy, Luskin School of Public Affairs, University of California, Los Angeles
JAMA. 2014;311(9):915-917. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.608.
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Health is a universal aspiration and basic human need. An increasing body of research shows that life success and long-term well-being are results of the conditions in which children live, grow, learn, and play, and that a basic scaffolding of health, education, and family support is needed to achieve optimal lifelong well-being.1,2 However, providing this ladder of support for low-income minority children in increasingly income-segregated US communities can be elusive.3 Growing up in a family that is struggling economically in a neighborhood that is plagued with failed schools, crime, disorder, and violence creates cumulative health risks and functional deficits that contribute to higher rates of many health conditions, including asthma, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and obesity. Without a coherent and functional system of high-quality services such as child care, early education, family support, health care, and mental health services, risks go unaddressed, preventable health problems develop, and disabling conditions compound over time, becoming more pronounced as sick and impaired teens become chronically ill and disabled adults.

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