Skills beget skills. Cognitive and social skills needed to successfully manage
personal and child health and healthcare are those needed for success in
life across cultures. They are skills that empower people to be what
they want to be, to make choices and transform those choices into desired
actions and outcomes.
These life skills develop most easily in early childhood given a stable
supportive family environment. Disparity in brain development in children
growing in disadvantaged vs enriched environments becomes apparent in
the first year. Quality of family life matters more than the number of
parents, their income or education. But poverty and accumulated disadvantage
prevent parents from doing their best to sustain the stimulating home
environments that support optimal development, especially when they
themselves lack skills, resources and role models. Early intervention ---
early childhood education, parenting training, family support and home
visitation programs--- can produce positive and lasting effects on children
in disadvantaged families.
Nobel Laureate and economics professor James Heckman, makes the business
case for shifting public policy to support programs that offer parents information,
choices and assistance. Promoting health literacy means providing direct
supplemental assistance that specifically and intentionally enables parents to
develop and hone the range of life skills used to participate in healthcare and
manage personal and family health at home.
Must read: Heckman, James J. (2013) Giving Kids a Fair Chance (A Strategy
That Works) MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. ISBN 978-0-262-01913-2
In addition to Heckman’s monograph, the book includes illuminating commentary
by 10 experts from multiple disciplines.