I recently visited with an AMCHP member and we had an excellent conversation about preconception health, the life course perspective, and investments that her state health department is making across the life course. “Oh,” she said, “we aren’t even putting much into adult health anymore – right now it is all about getting to young kids. We’re giving up on the adults – they’re gone. We want to put more into prevention for kids, that’s where we have a chance.” While somewhat facetious (no state is ever going to stop programs for adults) I knew what she meant: child health is where we truly can have the most impact when it comes to primary prevention and health outcomes. While most of our health dollars go toward treating diseases in the end stages of life, those of us working in public health know that investing early in the health of children pays dividends later by preventing future chronic diseases and their complications.
In our celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the Title V MCH Services Block Grant, the Maternal and Child Health Bureau reproduced a poster that was originally printed in 1919. The poster’s slogan, “The health of the child is the power of the nation,” rings true today more than 80 years later. Far too often, however, we forget this simple fact. So much rides on what we do for kids and yet in this environment of fiscal responsibility and deficit reduction support for children’s programs, including child health, is often first on the chopping block. Such cuts may be penny-wise, but they are certainly pound-foolish.
This issue of AMCHP Pulse highlights the many programs that AMCHP members and our partners have supported to address urgent child health needs. As we celebrate their successes, let’s also recommit ourselves to expanding our support for maternal and child health programs even in this time of cuts, reductions and furloughs. Healthy women are more likely to have healthy babies, healthy families are more likely to raise healthy children, and, if we truly believe in the work of public health, healthy children really are “the power of the nation.”