Child and Maternal Health

HSPH Professor Jack Shonkoff is drawing attention to the importance of early childhood years to future health and economic productivity. Photo Credit: Kent Dayton

Inspired by the idea that true preventive medicine begins with the child, in 1922 the School introduced the first teaching program in the nation devoted to promoting health in the well child. A decade later, the landmark Longitudinal Growth Study tracked more than 300 individuals from prenatal stages into adulthood. The first comprehensive study of normal childhood growth and development, it provided the basis for reference growth charts, enabling doctors and parents to easily spot malnutrition.

By the 1940s, the School was charting the future of maternal and child health, with research into newborn care, the connections between maternal and fetal health, complications of pregnancy, neonatal deaths, breast- vs. formula-feeding, care of the unmarried mother, problems of adoption, and other issues. Today, epidemiologists at the School are carrying on the tradition, connecting birth outcomes to later disease risk in adulthood in the U.S. and abroad.

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