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Completing a National Birth Cohort in the United States

Anne W. Riley, PhD1; Greg J. Duncan, PhD2
[+] Author Affiliations
1Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland
2School of Education, University of California–Irvine
JAMA Pediatr. 2016;170(9):829-830. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2016.1760.
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This Viewpoint discusses the development of a nationally representative longitudinal birth cohort study in the United States that would examine the social, physical, chemical, and nutritional influences that interact to shape health and development across the life course.

Not only is life expectancy in the United States shorter than in other high-income nations, but the US population also ranks comparatively worse across 9 key health areas: (1) infant mortality and low birth weight; (2) injuries and homicides; (3) adolescent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections; (4) human immunodeficiency virus and AIDS; (5) drug-related deaths; (6) obesity and diabetes; (7) heart disease; (8) chronic lung disease; and (9) disability.1 Unfortunately, policy makers and the health community lack a complete explanation for the US health disadvantage. Researchers know that persistent racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and geographic disparities in health are part of the explanation, but they do not fully understand them or know how best to address them.2 Especially in a country as increasingly diverse as the United States and during a time when the social environment is rapidly changing as a result of digital technologies, it is crucial to fully understand how factors, such as geographic location and family, social, economic, physical, nutritional, and community environments, produce disparate health outcomes.

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