Laying the Foundation for a Healthy Life

A healthy beginning sets the stage for health and well-being for a person’s entire life. These indicators represent important dimensions of children’s health and well-being from infancy through the teenage years. As a society, we can work together to ensure all our children have the opportunity to thrive and reach their full potential.

Goal Highlights


Mother holding baby boyIncreasing Breastfeeding Duration

The multiple health benefits of exclusive breastfeeding for both the infant and mother are well established. Exclusive breastfeeding includes only breast milk, without any additional food or drink, not even water.

Breast milk is a complete food source and provides all the energy and nutrients that an infant needs for the first months of life. Breast milk provides infant’s protection from various infections, reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and decreases the likelihood of developing obesity and chronic conditions such as diabetes, allergies, and asthma later in life.

The physical connection of breastfeeding provides psychological benefits to both baby and mother, and also provides multiple health advantages to mothers, reducing the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

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Healthy Beginnings Indicators

California’s infant mortality rate is lower than the nation’s and has reached a record low.

Infant mortality is an important indicator of the overall health and well-being of the population. The infant mortality rate is regarded as a highly sensitive measure of population health because there is an association between the causes of infant mortality and other factors that influence the status of whole populations such as economic development, general living conditions, social well-being, rates of illness, quality and access to medical care, public health practices, and quality of the environment.

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Safe Births. Healthy Mothers and Babies.

Cesarean (C-section) deliveries can be life-saving procedures when medically necessary, but they carry a higher risk of negative outcomes for mothers and babies. Complication rates for women also increase with each C-section delivery. Current trends in maternity care show that many pregnant women undergo procedures such as C-sections, repeat C-sections, and labor inductions that may not be medically necessary

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Vaccines: defense against infectious diseases

One of public health’s greatest accomplishments is the development of vaccines. These immunizations help keep children from getting certain dangerous vaccine-preventable diseases. California continues to work to improve the number of children vaccinated with up-to-date coverage for the ages of 19-35 months.

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Reducing child trauma protects health throughout life

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are traumatic events that occur before the age of 18, and includes the number of survey participants experiencing at least one type of adverse childhood experience. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s ACEs study of more than 17,000 participants found that certain experiences are major risks for the leading causes of illness and death as well as poor quality of life in the United States. Some of the worst health and social problems in our nation can arise as a negative effect of ACEs.

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Preventing child maltreatment is a public health goal

Child Maltreatment shows the number of incidents of nonfatal child maltreatment (including physical, psychological, neglect, etc.) per 1,000 children. Neglect, physical abuse, custodial interference and sexual abuse are types of child maltreatment that can lead to poor physical and mental health well into adulthood.

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Early learning sets the foundation for success

Studies have proven that reading skill is linked to health outcomes. Education is associated with longer life expectancy, as well as improved health quality of life and health promoting behaviors.

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Asthma is the most common childhood health condition

Nearly 1.5 million children in California that have asthma, and the condition makes it difficult for this group to exercise, play, and attend school.

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Are California kids getting enough physical activity?

Childhood fitness is measured by the percentage of physically fit children, who score 6 of 6 on the required California school Fitness-gram test. The six-part test is used to evaluate levels of fitness that offer protection from diseases related to inactivity.

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Over 70 percent of California adolescents are not eating enough fruits and vegetables

Eating vegetables and fruits is connected with a reduced risk of many chronic diseases, may be protective against certain types of cancer, and may help teens achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

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Sugar-sweetened beverages are the largest source of added sugar to our diets

Adolescent sugar-sweetened beverage consumption is measured by the number of adolescents who drank two or more glasses of soda or other sugar drink the previous day. The added sugar in our diets from these beverages is associated with increased rates of obesity and other chronic health conditions.

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Adult onset obesity now appears at younger ages

According to a 2012 Institute of Medicine report, obese youth are at greater risk for other health problems, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, early maturation, and joint problems.

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Three out of four teenage smokers end up smoking into adulthood.

Youth are more sensitive to nicotine and can become dependent sooner than adults.

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Emotional and mental well-being are integral to overall health

Physical health and mental health are closely related. This indicator measures the percent of students in 7th, 9th, and 11th grade that have constant feelings of sadness or hopelessness, with the aim of reducing their frequency.

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