Parents’ health and children’s health are closely intertwined—healthier parents have healthier children, and vice versa. Genetics accounts for some of this relationship, but much of it can be traced to environment and behavior, and the environmental and behavioral risk factors for poor health disproportionately affect families living in poverty. Unhealthy children are likely to become unhealthy adults, and poor health drags down both their educational attainment and their income.

Because of the close connection between parents’ and children’s health, write Sherry Glied and Don Oellerich, we have every reason to believe that programs to improve parents’ health will improve their children’s health as well. Yet few programs aim to work this way, except for a narrow category of programs that target pregnant women, newborns, and very young children. Glied and Oellerich assess these programs, discuss why there are so few of them, and suggest ways to expand them. Their chief conclusion is that structural barriers in the U.S. health-care system stand in the way of such programs. Some of these barriers have to do with health insurance, access to care, and benefits, but the biggest one is the fact that physicians typically specialize in treating either children or adults, rather than families as a whole. The Affordable Care Act has begun to break down some of these barriers, the authors write, but much remains to be done.


Additional Information

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pp. 79-97
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Will Be Archived 2022
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