By: Shannon Jones Access guest blog The earliest years of a child’s life are a critical time when brain development creates the foundation for future intellectual, emotional, social, and physical development. By the age a 5, a child’s brain is already 90 percent developed. It is no surprise, then, that infants and toddlers who are born healthy, grow and develop in healthy environments, and have access to quality health care services have better physical, emotional, and mental health throughout their lives.
Unfortunately, not all infants and toddlers get a strong start in life. We see this play out in Ohio in many ways: Too many babies are born prematurely or are not reaching their first birthday. Many other young children experience trauma and adversity – such as a parent with substance use disorder or a household struggling with frequent economic hardship – which can affect a child’s mental health, physical health, and health behaviors well into adulthood. Meanwhile, many Ohio kids are entering kindergarten woefully behind, potentially leading to a lifetime of problems – first in school, then on the job and in life.
The undeniable and sobering truth is that some children are much more likely to start behind than others. While these children include those living in poverty, poverty alone does not tell the whole story. Race and rural geography also play a determinative role in these gaps. More often than not, gaps that emerge early continue to grow over time and lead to expensive problems throughout an individual’s life.