Early Childhood Health, Mental Health & Nutrition - The Issues - BUILD Initiative
Strong Foundations For Our Youngest Children

Health, Mental Health & Nutrition

The first five years of life are characterized by rapid physical and mental growth and development. They are critical in setting the path for a child’s future. And for that future to be bright, young children are dependent upon others to provide healthy environments.

The BUILD Initiative strives to help children reach the required benchmarks.From birth to age five, children require significant preventive and developmental health services. For healthy development, children need access to comprehensive, preventive primary health care.

Children also require early identification and response to health-threatening conditions. Just as important are attention to social, emotional, behavioral, and physical development, and practices that fuel healthy development.

The Critical Five Cs

The BUILD Initiative supports state and community leaders in strengthening the five “Cs” of a strong early childhood health system:

  • coverage
  • clinical care
  • coordination
  • consultation
  • community health

A strong health system for young children must address children’s biological, medical and physical concerns. It must also serve as a first responder to the many social factors and determinants contributing to a child’s healthy development. This includes linking young children and their families to the rest of the early childhood system.

Drivers for a Strong Health System Response

BUILD has delved more deeply into four areas of early childhood healthy development which serve as drivers for strengthening the health system’s response to young children:

  1. Primary health care/medical home: Policies and practices to ensure the child health practitioner meets the overall needs of the young child for healthy growth and development.
  2. Social determinants of health, health equity and community health: Actions the health system can take to respond to nonmedical concerns of young children that impact their health.
  3. Early childhood healthy mental development (social and emotional as well as behavioral health): Actions the health system can take to promote healthy mental development, including preventing adverse childhood experiences and avoiding toxic stress.
  4. Healthy lifestyles, nutrition and exercise: Clinical and community practices that establish a foundation for lifelong healthy lifestyles.