Legacy for Children is the name of a public health program designed to provide the earliest possible method of prevention and intervention for children who may be at risk for later developmental, social, academic, physical, and mental problems. Because of the high number of children still living in poverty in the United States, federal and health organizations have recognized that it is imperative to address the negative outcomes associated with poverty and poor socioeconomic status at the earliest stages.
It has been well established that children living in poverty at more likely to develop physical health problems like heart disease and obesity than those with more economic advantages. These negative outcomes continue throughout adulthood and result in lower incomes, more reliance on social programs like food stamps and lower levels of education and adjustment.
In an effort to minimize the impact of low socioeconomic status on children, Legacy for Children was created as a way to provide education, outreach, and positive parenting practices to mothers living in poorer communities. The goals of Legacy include improving children’s behavioral, social, and cognitive outcomes.
Jennifer W. Kaminski of the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Georgia recently analyzed data from Legacy and some of its enrollees. Kaminski studied mother-and-child pairs at six different times from the when the child was 6 months old through their fifth birthday. Participants were recruited from Miami and Los Angeles for the study.
The results revealed that in Miami, the children in Legacy had fewer reported behavioral problems at 2 years old and were at lower risk for social and emotional issues at 4 months when compared to Miami children not enrolled in Legacy. The children in Los Angeles also benefited with lower levels of hyperactivity. In all, there were 16% fewer children in Los Angeles meeting the criteria for ADHD at age 5 as a result of Legacy, and 16% and 9% fewer with behavioral and socio-emotional problems respectively in Miami.
Kaminski believes that these results demonstrate the effectiveness of early intervention for at risk children and how this type of program can have far reaching positive results. She added, “By preventing the incidence or reducing the severity of early behavior problems, Legacy might have longer reaching impact on later health outcomes and societal costs.”
Kaminski, Jennifer W., PhD, et al. (2013). Behavioral and socioemotional outcomes through age 5 years of the legacy for children public health approach to improving developmental outcomes among children born into poverty. American Journal of Public Health 103.6 (2013): 1058-66. ProQuest. Web.
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