Child Health in America: Toward a Rational Public Policy

Analysis of currently available data on mortality and morbidity indicates that the major organic illnesses of childhood, and their developmental consequences, are susceptible in part to the technical interventions of American medical science. Environmental forces, however, exert a powerful impact on the health of children in the United States, manifested both in the disproportionate toll of most organic diseases on poor and nonwhite populations and in such increasingly important symptoms of familial, social, and behavioral distress as child abuse, accidents, and childhood suicide. Review of the nature, quality, and distribution of child health services demonstrates a systemic inability to reach and treat the children most in need of them. A rational basis for child health policy includes: appropriate concepts of health, disease, and preventive and therapeutic intervention; a capacity to acknowledge, to measure, and to act on the familial and environmental, as well as the medical, sources of illness; an orientation to the developmental and social implications of good and poor child health; and a commitment to enable all children to receive health services. The data and this policy framework lead to these program recommendations: the channeling of resources into a more rational system which guarantees equity and access; a planning and program implementation mechanism which addresses the health needs of diverse local populations and which makes real the advocacy concept; a screening, evaluation, and surveillance methodology; a delivery system which both applies preventive and curative health technology and addresses basic life needs of children; and a coherent program for the training, assignment, and supervision of the several kinds of manpower which such a system would require.

Author(s): Eli H. Newberger; Carolyn Moore Newberger; Julius B. Richmond

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Volume 54, Issue 3 (pages 249–298)
Published in 1976