Advancing Life Course Intervention Research


Children born today in the US can reasonably expect to live for 100 years. Yet, surviving for a century is not the same as thriving – living a life characterized by health and wellbeing. A new collection of pathbreaking articles asks: How can we identify and eliminate the risks to thriving? How do we put in place the kind of scaffolding that supports optimal health and wellbeing? The science of life course health development, summarized and applied in this special supplement to the journal Pediatrics, is attempting to do just that. Understanding the contexts and processes that influence health development, connecting the dots between what happens early in life and future health trajectories, and devising interventions that can optimize lifelong trajectories of health and wellbeing, especially for those facing the greatest challenges. The collection of 17 articles, authored by 64 scientists from universities and research institutions from across the US and Australia, defines a new discipline of Life Course Intervention Research within the rapidly emerging field of Life Course Health Science. Life Course Intervention Research is focused on identifying how and when to intervene early in life to improve future health outcomes and achieve health equity.

Table of Contents

Foreword: Life course investments at the Maternal and Child Health Bureau

Dana M. Foney, Jessica DiBari, Rui Li, Michael Kogan

Introduction: The emergence of life course intervention research: optimizing health development and child well-being

Neal Halfon, Shirley A. Russ, Edward Schor

What makes an intervention a life course intervention?

Shirley A. Russ, Emily Hotez, Mary Berghaus, Sarah Verbiest, Clarissa Hoover, Edward Schor, Neal Halfon

The Life Course Intervention Research Network undertook a modified Delphi process to develop a list of 12 characteristics of life course interventions to guide research.

 Building a Life Course Intervention Research Framework

Shirley A. Russ, Emily Hotez, Mary Berghaus, Clarissa Hoover, Sarah Verbiest, Edward Schor, Neal Halfon

The Life Course Intervention Research Framework sets out a stepwise approach to intervention development incorporating the characteristics of life course interventions at each step.

 Proposal for life course intervention researcher core competencies

Emily Hotez, Mary Berghaus, Sarah Verbiest, Shirley Russ, Neal Halfon

This paper describes the process and results of an iterative and collaborative methodology for developing the Life Course Intervention Researcher competencies. 

Engaging families in life course intervention research: an essential step in advancing equity

Clarissa Hoover, Allysa Ware, Andrea Serano, Sarah Verbiest

Grounds life course intervention research in health equity by describing how family and community engagement connects to equity and its implementation in each research phase.

Toward integration of life course intervention and youth participatory action research

Emily J. Ozer, Linda Sprague Martinez, Michelle Abraczinskas, Brian Villa, Ndola Prata

We provide an overview of Youth-Led Participatory Action Research (YPAR) and its synergies with Life Course Intervention Research (LCIR) to promote healthier development for youth. 

Family Health Development: a theoretical framework

Mark Feinberg, Emily Hotez, Kevin Roy, Christy J.W. Ledford, Amy B. Lewin, Norma Perez-Brena, Saltanat Childress, Jerica Berge

A theoretical framework of family health development is proposed for analyzing dynamic interactions between individuals, family relationships, and environmental factors influencing life course health trajectories.

Family health development in life course research: a scoping review of family functioning measures

Saswati B. Ramaswami, Todd Jensen, Mary Berghaus, Sophia De-Oliveira, Shirley A. Russ, Nomi Weiss-Laxer, Sarah Verbiest, Shari Barkin

This article reviews 50 tools that measure family functioning and discusses opportunities to refine or develop measures more compatible with life course intervention research.

Scaffolding Parenting and Health Development for Preterm Flourishing Across the Life Course

Kamryn McKenzie, Emma Lynch, Michael E. Msall

This article describes scaffolding parenting and health development for preterm infants. “Model programs” are reviewed and applied to the Life Course Health Development framework.

The family is the patient: promoting early childhood mental health in pediatric care

Stephen L. Buka, Lee Beers, Matthew G. Biel, Nathaniel Z. Counts, James Hudziak, Stephanie Parade, Ruth Paris, Ronald Seifer, Stacy S. Drury

A diverse team summarizes novel strategies to support early childhood mental health development based on life course principles, including telemedicine, “warm lines,” and contingency management. 

Turning vicious cycles into virtuous ones: the potential for schools to improve the life course

Mitchell D. Wong, Karen Hunter Quartz, Marisa Saunders, Benjamin Meza, Saltanat Childress, Teresa Seeman, Rebecca N. Dudovitz

This study describes the importance of adolescence as a key transition period and the potential for schools to improve life course trajectories.

Using the tools of today to advance the life course interventions of tomorrow

Shari Barkin, Sarah Verbiest, Jerica Berge 

A framework for cross-sector partnerships to address childhood adversity and improve life course health

Patrick Y. Liu, Andrew F. Beck, Stacy Tessler Lindau, Monique Holguin, Robert S. Kahn, Eric Fleegler, Adrienne W. Henize, Neal Halfon, Adam Schickedanz

We propose a framework for cross-sector partnerships to address childhood adversity and improve health along the life course

Applying a health development lens to Canada’s youth justice minimum age law

Elizabeth S. Barnert, Devan Gallagher, Haoyi Lei, Laura Abrams

We used expert interviews to examine the conceptual framework for Canada’s youth justice minimum age law of 12, drawing implications for US and Canadian children. 

Striving and thriving: a life course trade-off?

Arnold Chandler

Embedding life course interventions in longitudinal cohort studies: Australia’s GenV opportunity

Melissa Wake, Sharon Goldfeld, Andrew Davidson

Article Summaries

Click on article titles to view or download one-page summaries of the findings. Many articles also have video abstracts! Please feel free to use any of these videos or summaries as teaching tools, with credit to the authors and the Life Course Intervention Research Network.