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Chandra, Halfon, Cannon, Gardner, Forrest: How are the kids doing? The wellbeing of children and the nations potential

 

The pandemic has forced concerns about children’s health to the front and center: Is enough attention being paid to their well-being, including education and mental health? Have reopening plans taken children’s needs into consideration and have their potential losses been adequately measured? Could better preparation be put in place to help prepare children for the next pandemic? The COVID-19 pandemic is just another example of a stress that is forming today’s youngest cohort of children and challenging how well children are supported to manage overlapping disasters and maintain relationships. They are “Gen C,” a generation growing up amid extraordinary challenges that could shape their health, development, and well-being for years to come.

Discussions of a “human infrastructure” bill to invest more in children and families could represent a shift in the social contract, with significant health implications. New investments and expansions in paid family leave, preschool, and a child allowance suggest a recognition that early childhood is critical for healthy development. Investing in children can promote national well-being in the long term. And at a time when the nation is recognizing how unprepared its data systems are to track pandemic impacts, greater attention and scrutiny about what is measured and how it informs real action may be even more resonant. This may provide an opportunity to revisit national indicators of progress and improve measures of developmental potential.

There are two options: Continuing to use gross domestic product (GDP) to guide economic policy or expanding that to include a measure of the future potential of US society. GDP does not reveal anything about social inequities or the next generation’s creativity, innovation, and agility—all essential issues revealed during the pandemic. This blog post briefly describes the importance of pivoting to human potential and why a developmental approach matters.

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