Recent Poll Underlies the Significance of a Healthy Start in Life


Recent Poll Underlies the Significance of a Healthy Start in Life

Health and well-being are core components of the two-generation approach to help low-income families reach educational success and economic security. There are many social determinants of health that impact the economic state of families, and once recognized, can be addressed through policies, practice, and research.

Harvard University, in partnership with NPR and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, recently conducted a poll to garner ideas of how Americans think about their health and the aspects of their lives that shape health and well-being.

The poll confirmed that low-income Americans are especially aware of the ways that different aspects of personal and family life can affect health and the ability to live a healthy lifestyle. These and other findings from the research relates directly to the work Ascend Network Partners are doing and recent developments around adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and the Affordable Care Act.

A majority of overall respondents (54 percent) believed that being abused or neglected in childhood is an important factor that can cause health problems later in life. The National Crittenton Foundation (TNCF) shared in a recent Ascend webinar that 53 percent of the young women served by the Crittenton Family of Agencies across 18 states had high exposure to adverse childhood experiences. This factor alone put them at exponentially higher risks of suffering from chronic diseases, teen pregnancy, addiction and suicide. As a result, TNCF is creating an ACE toolkit to address these issues and is raising awareness among policymakers at the federal level.

The two-generation approach is built on the reality that health and economic security are strongly intertwined, and the poll shows that many Americans believe this as well. Forty-nine percent of respondents believe that improving the economy and the availability of jobs would improve people’s health “a great deal.”

The poll results also shed light on the confidence and control that economic security can bring when it comes to maintaining personal and family health. Respondents who were better off financially and had more education were more likely to believe that they had control over their health.

Meanwhile, low-income respondents were more likely to acknowledge the negative health effects of environmental and social factors both in childhood and adulthood. These included abuse or neglect, pollution, lack of access to quality healthcare or housing, and unemployment or underemployment. Ascend’s policy agenda, Top Ten for 2Gen, seeks to address many of these issues for both children and adults together through support for workforce policy changes at the state and local level, economic security outcomes in home visiting programs, and cross-system collaboration to address the needs of families holistically. The recent Ascend report, The Affordable Care Act: Affording Two-Generation Approaches to Health, also outlines ways to leverage new opportunities in the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion to produce better health outcomes for low-income children and families.

You can access the poll and detailed results here: http://media.npr.org/documents/2015/feb/What_Shapes_Health_Report.pdf

What Shapes Health forum recordingWatch the presentation of the report release that investigates what factors shape health and what can improve health: https://theforum.sph.harvard.edu/events/what-shapes-health/