University of Maryland medical school research finds health disparities hurt early childhood development

Health disparities hurt early childhood development

Nearly 43 percent of children living in low to middle income communities around the world will not reach their potential because of conditions that affect their development such as poverty, exposure to violence, and lack of access to nutritional food, according to new research by the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

The affect is particularly tragic for children under age three and can span generations, according to the research led by Maureen Black, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. The results were published today in the medical journal Lancet. They are the latest in a series of reports on child development. The University of Maryland Children's Hospital was also part of the study.

The health disparities faced by some children can disrupt early brain development and lead to lifelong academic and behavioral problems and heart disease and other chronic health conditions, the study found.

Research results in the series published in 2007 and 2011 found that poverty and adverse childhood experiences have long-term effects on brain development and cognition.

Nurturing care can help combat health disparities and set children up for a better life, the researchers found. They defined nurturing care as "responsive care-giving in a stable environment that is free from threats, sensitive to children's health and nutrition, with ample opportunities for early learning."

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