Commentary |

Health Disparities Across the Lifespan:  Where Are the Children?

Tina L. Cheng, MD, MPH; Renee R. Jenkins, MD
JAMA. 2009;301(23):2491-2492. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.848.
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A 2003 publication by the Institute of Medicine raised awareness regarding persistent disparities in health care in the United States.1 However, of the 103 studies reviewed in the report, only 5 focused on disparities for children. Based on the expectation of a significantly more diverse child population by 2020,2 and the large number of children living in poverty, greater attention is needed on vulnerable children and their potential for a healthy and productive adulthood. Much research has documented persistent or increasing child health disparities by population, disease, risk factors, and geography, but there is a paucity of research on successful interventions. Life-course research demonstrates the power of early childhood health and experiences influencing adult health such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and mental health.3 To eliminate health disparities, greater attention is needed for research and intervention within a life-course perspective,3,4 with collaboration horizontally across the age span for obstetrics, pediatrics, and adult medicine, and vertically across multiple disciplines and perspectives.

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