In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Child Public Health

  • Introduction

Childhood Studies Child Public Health
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 February 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791231-0193


Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity (World Health Organization 1948, cited under Macro System Overview). Public health promotes and protects the health of children, families, and the communities where they live, learn, work, and play. As a discipline, its focus is at all three levels of prevention—primary, secondary, and tertiary. Overall, public health is concerned with protecting the health of entire populations. Public health professionals have a focus on preventing problems from happening or recurring through implementing educational programs, recommending policies to protect health and prevent disease, administering services, and conducting research. Child public health is a major area of focus in public health, and directing the resources and services to improve the health of children is crucial to having healthy populations as adults. There are many determining factors that affect child health, which can be studied through the integrated concepts of macro, meso, and micro systems of care. In planning the services and interventions under child public health, the systems of care (macro, meso, and micro) help to find the root cause by understanding social challenges, including family and community, environmental conditions, and legal rights. The decision was made to provide a framework for this review that gives the reader an overview of documents (articles, reports, book chapters) reflective of this holistic approach to the discussion of child public health. Acknowledgements: The authors would like to thank Valamar Reagon, Jazmin Williamson, and Dr. Helen Bland for their assistance in the research and development of this article.

Macro System Overview

Public health is the large system (macro system) within which child health micro systems (individual and direct) are contained. Children’s public health involves the interaction of multilevel systems of programs and delivery. There is a growing recognition since the early 21st century that both structural and direct components of health services are influenced by social and economic determinants, which in turn influence outcomes. These influences are linked in general (macro level) and type (e.g., mental health, oral health), focus (e.g., HIV, delinquency), and place. Ryan, et al. 2013 (cited under Macro System Overview: Structural and Institutional Impact); Hall, et al. 2012; Agenor 2012; and others speak to a core public health concern of population receipt and participation in services, while Shayo, et al. 2013 (cited under Health Service Delivery); Mohammadpour-Ahranjani, et al. 2014 (cited under Macro System Overview: Nutrition); Kattan, et al. 2014 (cited under Place Matters); and Scott, et al. 2011 (cited under Place Matters/Mental Health) address structural and place (location) influences on access and utilization of services. Recognitions that multilevel systems and programs are not addressing critical preventive and intervention services and need to have a long-term focus are discussed in Kojan and Lonne 2012 (overall systems; cited under Macro System Overview: Structural and Institutional Impact); Mustanski, et al. 2014 (institutional discrimination; cited under Macro System Overview: Structural and Institutional Impact); Holden, et al. 2000 (cited under Macro System Overview: Nutrition); Zhou, et al. 2012 (life-course); Cashmore, et al. 2011; and Squillace 2013 (all cited under Macro System Overview: Oral Health); Santaliestra-Pasías, et al. 2013 and Rauber, et al. 2013 (nutrition, obesity; both cited under Macro System Overview: Nutrition) and others; LeFrancois 2013 (LGBTQ; cited under Mental Health/Structural and Institutional Impact); and Pachter, et al. 2010 (cited under Place Matters). Wise 2012 and Odgers, et al. 2012 (both cited under Technology) discuss the integration and use of assessment and technology to inform service delivery. It is critical to take into account the larger literature, beginning with the historical grounding of World Health Organization 1948, through the theoretical efforts of many (Bronfenbrenner 1979; Elder 2007; and Richardson, et al. 2013). Levels of application for academics and practitioners have and continue to define and guide the work of many (Willson, et al. 2007; Kail and Cavanaugh 2010; What is Public Health?). These considerations are covered in the subsections.

  • Bronfenbrenner, U. The Ecology of Human Development: Experiments by Nature and Design. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979.

    The book provides a descriptive approach to studying ecology and its effect on human development. The author provides new perspectives in the development of human ecology and defines the theoretical concept elements describing the meso system, macro system, and ecosystem. With examples and detailed illustrations, the author tends to address the elements of the structure in human development as well as an analysis of the settings, including children’s intuitions, daycare, and preschool in contexts of human development.

  • Centers for Disease Control Foundation. What is Public Health?

    Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines public health as “the science of protecting and improving the health of families and communities through promotion of healthy lifestyles, research for disease and injury prevention and detection and control of infectious diseases” with promoting healthcare equity, quality and accessibility as a substantial parts contributing to the structure. Unlike clinical practitioners, public health prevents health issues from happening through implementing polices, educational programs and research.

  • Elder, G. H., Jr. “Life Course Perspective.” In Le–M. Vol. 6 of The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology. Edited by G. Ritzer, 2634–2639. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2007.

    The life course from The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology discusses how the perception of social life changed after World War II. It discusses the paradigm shift of life course with social transition and how it influenced life course with respect to multiple social determinants. Additionally, it discusses the principles and emergence of life course theory.

  • Kail, Robert V., and John C. Cavanaugh. “The Study of Human Development.” In Human Development: A Life-Span View. 5th ed. Edited by Robert V. Kail and John C. Cavanaugh, 3–40. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2010.

    The authors extensively discuss human development and emphasize the description of adult development and aging. The illustrations are made by using the modified chronological approach as one of the approaches to understanding human development. Traces the development from late life and explains, in chapters, the issue relating to infancy, early childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, middle adulthood, and late life. Concludes in four parts; the book discusses biological foundation of life and development during the early stage.

  • Richardson, L. J., J. M. Hussey, and K. L. Strutz. “A Life Course Perspective on Maternal and Child Health.” In Maternal and Child Health Programs, Problems, and Policy in Public Health. 3d ed. Edited by J. B. Kotch, 65–85. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2013.

    The chapter provides an introductory overview of the life course perspective areas of maternal and child health (MCH). Also, the authors advocate for applying life course perspective to MCH in research, policy, and practice and for linking it to social and behavioral factors, further explaining how these factors affect health. Moreover, the authors also explain the ways to expand the range of questions for gathering more information in order to have a strong evidence base for life course–oriented policies and practice.

  • Willson, A. E., K. M. Shuey, and G. H. Elder Jr. “Cumulative Advantage Processes as Mechanisms of Inequality in Life Course Health.” American Journal of Sociology 112 (2007): 1886–1924.

    DOI: 10.1086/512712

    The authors dissent with the evidence that inequality in economic resources follows a process of cumulative advantage. The study examines, over time, the relationship between health and socioeconomic status by analyzing longitudinal data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. The results from the study suggest that mechanisms of inequality studies done thus far show that the cumulative advantage process seems to be confined by age because of the varying mortality within the low socioeconomic status.

  • World Health Organization, 1948.

    Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization as adopted by the International Health Conference, New York, 19–22 June 1946; signed on 22 July 1946 by the representatives of sixty-one states (Official Records of the World Health Organization, no. 2, p. 100) and entered into force on 7 April 1948. The definition has not been amended since 1948. See Basic Documents, Forty-fifth edition, Supplement, October 2006.

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