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The Life Course perspective approaches health as an integrated continuum rather than as disconnected and unrelated stages. It posits that there is a "complex interplay" of social and environmental factors mixed with biological, behavioral, and phychologocial issues that help to define health outcomes across the course of a person's life. In this perspective, each life stage exerts influence on the next stage; social, economic, and physical environments also have influence throughout the life course. All these factors impact individual and community health.

Social determinants of health are factors such as income, education, occupation, employment, housing, child care, family structure, and neighborhood characteristics, which are thought to have powerful effects on health and yet are beyond the reach of medical care.

MCH Library Resources

Bibliography of Materials on Life Course and Social Determinants from MCHLine. Publications addressing these topics from an MCH perspective.

MCH Alert Database Search. A weekly e-newsletter that provides timely reference to research findings, policy developments, recently released publications, new programs, and initiatives affecting the MCH community.

MCH Library Resource Guides as Tools for Life Course Theory. Guides for exploring and understanding MCH subject areas.

Maternal Distress in the Perinatal Period and Child Outcomes knowledge path.

Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Knowledge Path. In-depth guide to this important aspect of the impact of social determinants on life course.

For More Information:

External Electronic and Print Resources

MCH Life Course Toolbox. Online resource to share information, innovative strategies, and tools to integrate the Life Course perspective into MCH at the local, state, and national levels. Developed by CityMatCH, Contra Costa Health Services, and the California Endowment with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Halfon N, Kandyce L, et al. Lifecourse Health Development: Past, Present and Future. Published online August 22, 2013. MCH Journal.

Russ SA, Larson K, et al. A Lifecourse Approach to Health Development: Implications for the Maternal and Child Health Research Agenda. Published online August 17, 2013. MCH Journal.

Fine A, Kotelchuck M. Rethinking MCH: The Life Course Model as an Organizing Framework. 2010. U.S. Maternal and Child Health Bureau.

Maternal and Child Health Life Course Research Network (MCH LCRN). The goal of the MCH LCRN is improve an understanding of how health develops over the life course by providing researchers, practitioners, policymakers and consumers with a transdisciplinary, translational and transformative mechanism for interacting, sharing information and tools, and engaging in collaborative and innovative projects. The site contains research articles, announcements, webinars, expert interviews, a newsletter and a user guide.

AMCHP State Life Course Resource Center. Tools and resources targeted specifically to the state level, including best practices and resources.

Life Course Approach Resource Guide. Developed by the MCH Training Program, this resource guide was developed to assist MCH Training Programs in partnering with MCHB to integrate the life course approach to their collective efforts.

Healthy People 2020: Social Determinants of Health. Overview, contributing socioeconomic and physical factors, emerging strategies.

CDC: Social Determinants of Health. Resources, publications, FAQs, links to related sites.

World Health Organization. Tools, training resources, final report by Commission on Social Determinants of Health.

Data Systems and Social Determinants of Health. 2011. Public Health Reports v. 126, suppl. 3. This special issue addresses the need to do more in using data systems to address social determinants of health and provides examples of innovative uses and analyses of data for state, local, and national governments and organizations.

Contra Costa Health Services Life Course Initiative. The initiative's mission is to reduce disparities in birth outcomes and change the health of the next generation in Contra Costa County by achieving health equity, optimizing reproductive potential, and shifting the paradigm of the planning, delivery, and evaluation of maternal, child, and adolescent health services. It utilizes a 12-Point Plan to Close the Black-White Gap in Birth Outcomes as its road map and includes a Selected MCH Life Course Bibliography.

For the Public's Health: The Role of Measurement in Action and Accountability. 2010. Institute of Medicine's report states that social and environmental factors are the most powerful shapers of life expectancy and health-related quality of life, yet the United States lacks a cohesive national strategy and appropriate measurement tools to track and respond to these critical influences.

External Multimedia Resources

Integrating the Life Course Model in MCH Training Programs. Webinar; September 15, 2010. This archived Web cast provides an overview of the Life Course framework and MCHB's strategic vision. A panel of MCH Training Program directors share their insights on how they have incorporated the Life Course model into their curricula. Featuring Milt Kotelchuck, Ruth Stein, Karen Edwards, and Betsy Haughton; moderated by Laura Kavanagh.

Social Determinants of MCH: Data, Policy Implications, and Opportunities. Webinar; October 28, 2010. Featuring Paula Braveman and Wilhelmine Miller. Archived by the MCH Information Resource Center.

Authors: John Richards, M.A., Olivia K. Pickett, M.S., M.L.S., MCH Library
October 2011; Updated October 2013