As a nation, we spend billions each year on health. But do our spending priorities reflect the latest public health evidence of what really works to create health? Are there a handful of approaches that could get us a better return on investment?
Last year, the Commission to Build a Healthier America, a national, nonpartisan group of public and private sector leaders convened by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation scoured the evidence and issued a report titled, Time to Act: Investing in the Health of Our Children and Communities.
At the heart of the report are two key recommendations:
“Make investing in America’s youngest children a high priority. This will require a significant shift in spending priorities and major new initiatives to ensure that families and communities build a strong foundation in the early years for a lifetime of good health.”
Second, we need to fundamentally change the way we revitalize neighborhoods, “fully integrating health into community development.”
Investing early to impact health
We do, of course invest in our children, but not comprehensively. Science is now telling us is that we have an even greater opportunity than previously thought to impact health if we start early . . . very early and continue to invest at critical times as a young person develops.
What’s also new is the recognition that if we limit our focus only to kids while ignoring the community conditions in which they live, we aren’t likely to maximize our potential to have a thriving, productive citizenry that will make King County the envy of the nation.
Applying science to action locally
These two recommendations – to invest early in children and to invest in their communities – are the heart of what King County Executive Constantine announced on April 27. The initiative invests in a child’s early years, carries forward throughout a child’s journey to adulthood, and creates healthy communities that reinforce their progress.
Perhaps King County will be the first in the nation to take this comprehensive model and put it into practice.
To learn more about the initiative, visit the Best Starts for Kids website.