Early Interventions Help Urban Kids

Those who got support had better mental, physical health as adults, study found

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THURSDAY, July 7, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Early health and education intervention programs for urban children help them have better mental and physical health as adults, according to a study by researchers at Children's Hospital Boston and Boston College.

The 25-year follow-up study compared 120 young adults who took part in a child health and development program in Brookline, Mass., in the 1970s to young adults who were in the same school system but didn't take part in the program.

The Brookline Early Education Program (BEEP) provided health, educational and social services to parents to have their children healthy and ready to learn when they started kindergarten. The program included home visits, parent groups, toy and book libraries, pre-kindergarten programs, and health and development monitoring.

Families enrolled in BEEP three months before their child was born, and stayed in the program until the child reached kindergarten age.

Previous studies have found that early intervention programs help improve children's academic performance. This study is one of the first to examine the long-term effects of early intervention programs on adult physical and mental health.

"There were significant impacts in the lower income, high-risk groups," study author Dr. Judith Palfrey, chief of the division of general pediatrics at Children's Hospital Boston, said in a prepared statement.

"We were excited to find a protective factor for health and mental health. While there had been demonstrable program effects at second grade for both urban and suburban participants, we did not detect a significant long-term effect for the suburban participants compared to other young people from Brookline. We were thrilled that the program seemed to wipe out the health disparities that are found between urban and suburban youth under most current circumstances," Palfrey said.

The study appears in the July issue of Pediatrics.

More information

The Ambulatory Pediatric Association offers advice on preparing your child for kindergarten.

SOURCE: Children's Hospital Boston, news release, July 5, 2005

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