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A group photo of an extended familyWhat happens to us every day—the choices we make as well as the things that happen beyond our control—affects our health and wellness over time. That's Life Course Theory in simple terms.  A real benefit of taking a Life Course approach to health and wellness is that it focuses on preventing illness through creating healthy lifestyles and environments rather than on treating illness once it has happened.

Life Course Theory goes beyond looking just at the biological causes of illness. It looks at all the things that affect our health and well-being. Social, economic, and environmental factors play key roles in determining our health.  If we cannot buy healthy food in our neighborhood because it is too expensive or there is no grocery store or community garden, we will have a harder time being healthy.  If our community has a lot of pollution, it will affect the quality of our air and water, and our health.  Life Course Theory allows us to address head on health disparities. Why do some groups of people experience more health hardships than others? And what can we do to help all people achieve health and wellness throughout their lives?

Health and wellness starts with the family. Families make health decisions every day based on their knowledge, experience, resources, and capabilities. Important as medical advances and care are, the family and community setting is where most health happens. The family has the potential to be the greatest influence—and predictor—of a child's lifelong health and wellness.

Many health promotion and prevention activities can be addressed by families in their homes to maintain and improve children's health, including:

  • Providing healthful diets
  • Promoting regular physical activity
  • Reducing electronic media use (screen time)

These are roles and activities that parents—not doctors or other clinicians—are best situated to address.

Families need more information, strategies, and support about prevention and health promotion. This includes families with children and youth with special health care needs. All children, including those with special health care needs, benefit from healthy food, good oral health, adequate appropriate physical activity, and a safe home and community. Families of children with these special health care needs may need additional resources to adapt health prevention strategies to address their children's special needs.

Life Course Research Network and Family Voices

Family Voices IMPACT is part of  the Maternal and Child Health Life Course Research Network (MCH LCRN) funded by MCHB and based at the UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families, and Communities.

The purpose of the LCRN is to improve understanding of how health develops over the life span. The network includes researchers, health care professionals, policymakers, and families working together to find creative solutions to the challenges of health promotion.

IMPACT is leading an interdisciplinary team of families and professionals to develop a journal article about the important role of families as partners in life course health development and research.  This journal article, currently in draft form, will be submitted for publication along with a number of other articles commissioned by the Life Course Research Network.