Communities in Action: Pathways to Health Equity
Communities in Action: Pathways to Health Equity is the first in a series of consensus reports to emerge from the National Academy of Medicine’s Culture of Health Program.
Key Messages from the Report
Health equity is crucial. Health equity is fundamental to the idea of living a good life and building a vibrant society because of its practical, economic, and civic implications. Promoting health equity could afford considerable economic, national security, social, and other benefits. Yet recent research demonstrates that worsening social, economic, and environmental factors are affecting the public’s health in serious ways that compromise opportunity for all.
Health inequity is costly. Beyond significant costs in direct medical care expenditures, health inequity has consequences for the U.S. economy, national security, business viability, and public finances, considering the impact of poor health on one’s ability to participate in the workforce, military service, or society. Addressing health inequities is a critical need that requires this issue to be among our nation’s foremost priorities.
This report also highlights promising solutions to help create equal opportunity for health in communities, which is the foundation for health equity.
The Promise of Adolescence: Realizing Opportunity for All Youth
The Promise of Adolescence: Realizing Opportunity for All Youth, the second in a series of consensus reports from the National Academy of Medicine’s Culture of Health Program, is now available as a free PDF download.
Over the past several decades, research has fundamentally changed our understanding of how adolescents—young people ages 10 to 25—develop, grow, and learn. Changes in brain structure and function (such as the strengthening of connections within and between brain regions and the pruning away of unused connections) that occur during adolescence affords young people a remarkable capacity to learn, adapt to changes, and explore their own creativity. Adolescent brains are specially tailored to meet the needs of this stage of life, allowing them to explore new environments and build new relationships with the world and people around them.
But what does our new understanding mean for society? How can we create the kinds of settings and supports that allow adolescents to thrive and make meaningful contributions to the world around them?
A positive pathway into a thriving adulthood is not forged by adolescents alone. Instead, it requires alignment between the strengths of adolescents, like their increased independence, flexible problem solving skills, and openness to new experiences, with resources available in their environments, including access to stable housing and nutritious foods as well as positive social interactions and relationships with peers and adults.
There is an urgent need to reimagine and redesign the systems and settings that adolescents most frequently encounter, including the education, health, justice, and child welfare systems. By embracing a collective responsibility to build systems that account for the new knowledge we have acquired, we can ensure that millions of young people flourish and can impact society for the better.
Vibrant and Healthy Kids: Aligning Science, Practice, and Policy to Advance Health Equity
Vibrant and Healthy Kids: Aligning Science, Practice, and Policy to Advance Health Equity, the third in a series of consensus reports from the National Academy of Medicine’s Culture of Health Program, is now available as a free PDF download.
Early experiences and life circumstances shape prenatal and early childhood development, with powerful impacts on the developing brain and body that shape health outcomes across the life course and can span generations. The preconception, prenatal, and early childhood periods are critical phases of development that help set the odds for lifelong health and well-being.
All children deserve the opportunity to meet their full health potential and lead a fulfilling life. Yet health inequities in the United States prevent many kids from meeting their full potential. Importantly, the odds of positive or negative health are never set in stone. Research shows that prevention and early intervention are effective for children living in circumstances that put them at risk (such as living in poverty or being exposed to chronic adversity). Practice, policy, and systems-level changes informed by science can reduce the odds of adverse exposures, narrow health disparities, and advance health equity.
The report outlines steps needed to move children who are at risk for negative outcomes toward positive health trajectories and reduce health disparities.
Integrating Social Care into the Delivery of Health Care: Moving Upstream to Improve the Nation’s Health, the fourth in a series of consensus reports from the National Academy of Medicine’s Culture of Health Program, is now available as a free PDF download.
How can services that address social needs be integrated into clinical care? What kind of infrastructure will be needed to facilitate that integration? To begin answering such questions, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine assembled an expert committee to examine the potential for integrating social care services into the delivery of health care with the ultimate goal of achieving better and more equitable health outcomes.
The report identifies and assesses current and emerging approaches and recommends ways to expand and optimize social care in the health care setting.