Journal Issue: Opportunity in America Volume 16 Number 2 Fall 2006
Although poor health is only one of many factors that can limit a child's ability to achieve economic success as an adult, the evidence discussed in this article indicates that it may be an important one. Children in poor health are more likely than those in good health to leave school early and to achieve lower socioeconomic status as adults. Moreover, the disadvantages that come with poor health may be more pronounced for lower-income children. The link between childhood health and adult success is yet another reason to develop policies and programs that improve health for all children.
Although the benefits of improving children's health are clear, how best to do so is less certain. Previous policies have focused on increasing health insurance coverage for lower-income pregnant women and children. Although health insurance coverage may be essential for children's health, evidence on recent expansions of Medicaid indicates that it is not sufficient. The available evidence makes a strong case for the next wave of policies to focus on improving the quality of prenatal health care and service delivery and strengthening the ability of parents to manage their children's health problems.