Here’s an article that ties together many of the themes we have been discussing (and some we are about to discuss) — from fetal brain development and early childhood origins of disease to economic choice and behavior. Can a policy intervention as simple as transferring cash from wealthy areas to poor areas improve long term outcomes? PHS 795 student Alexandra Bryant writes:
Dr. Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank, says that childhood stunting is not only an issue of decreased height, but it also leads to diminished mental capacity in children. He calls health professionals around the world to start paying more attention to this issue and innovative ways to combat this problem. Dr. Kim continues to say that the diminished mental capacity further leads to negative consequences in social capital for the entire nation those children live in.
In Peru, policial and social instabilities in the 1990s are believed to have contributed to 1 in every 3 children suffering from effects of chronic malnutrition. I applaud Dr. Kim for his retrospective look at SES and political factors that contributed to damaging health outcomes. There was a turn from 2007-2015; however, Peru cut stunting by half – from 29% to 14% through the use of conditional cash transfers. This brought my attention back to Dr. Robert’s lecture and her brief example about moving families out of poor neighborhoods, or providing money to families to improve their health. Peru did it right: the conditions were pre- and post-natal care, child vaccinations, supplements (folic acid, iron, Vit A) and older children had to be in school at least 85% of the time. The Juntos project invested in human capital in a major way, and incentivized health behavior improvements to an extremely successful end. I implore communities in the US to look into programs such as these that provide resources and establish accountability in efforts to increase wealth, and therefore, health.