Skills beget skills. Cognitive and social skills needed to successfully manage personal and child health and healthcare are those needed for success in life across cultures. They are skills that empower people to be what they want to be, to make choices and transform those choices into desired actions and outcomes.
These life skills develop most easily in early childhood given a stable supportive family environment. Disparity in brain development in children growing in disadvantaged vs enriched environments becomes apparent in the first year. Quality of family life matters more than the number of parents, their income or education. But poverty and accumulated disadvantage prevent parents from doing their best to sustain the stimulating home environments that support optimal development, especially when they themselves lack skills, resources and role models. Early intervention --- early childhood education, parenting training, family support and home visitation programs--- can produce positive and lasting effects on children in disadvantaged families.
Nobel Laureate and economics professor James Heckman, makes the business case for shifting public policy to support programs that offer parents information, choices and assistance. Promoting health literacy means providing direct supplemental assistance that specifically and intentionally enables parents to develop and hone the range of life skills used to participate in healthcare and manage personal and family health at home.
Must read: Heckman, James J. (2013) Giving Kids a Fair Chance (A Strategy That Works) MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. ISBN 978-0-262-01913-2
In addition to Heckman’s monograph, the book includes illuminating commentary by 10 experts from multiple disciplines.