Research Shows Quality Early Childhood Programs Help Prevent Adult Chronic Disease

Wen Huang | News Office
Photo Credit: 
Lloyd DeGrane; The Heckman Equation; Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (UNC)

High-quality early childhood development programs with health care and nutritional components can help prevent or delay the onset of adult chronic disease, according to a new study by Nobel laureate economist James Heckman and researchers at the University of Chicago, University College London and the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina.


Based on more than three decades of data from the landmark Abecedarian early childhood program in North Carolina, the study shows that children who participated in the intervention combining early education with early health screenings and nutrition had much lower levels of hypertension, metabolic syndrome and obesity in their mid-30s than a control group that did not participate in early learning program. The results are published in the March 28 issue of the journal Science.


“Prior to this research, we had indications that quality early childhood development programs helped produce better health later in life,” said Heckman. “Abecedarian shows that investing in early learning programs that offer health components can boost education, health and economic outcomes. It also offers a different way to fight costly adult chronic diseases: Investing early in the development of children to build the knowledge and self-regulation necessary to prevent chronic disease and help them lead healthy, productive lives.”


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