1. What are the risk, protective, and promotional factors to children’s health, safety, and well-being? What data and methods are used to assess and monitor these factors? Are these data and methods adequate and appropriate? What new assessment tools or methods are needed and what are the strategies for their development and application?

  2. Ideally, how should data be used to inform both policy and practice to ensure children’s health, safety, and well-being? What are the ethical considerations in obtaining such data and in their application?

The study committee included 13 members with expertise in key areas related to children’s health. The committee heard from a range of stakeholders active in various aspects of the field to benefit from a wider range of viewpoints and to obtain input on our charge. The committee’s first tasks were to (1) define what is meant by children; health, safety, and well-being; and risk, protective, and promotional factors and (2) determine how to approach the task of reviewing federal, state, or local data and methods.


The committee adopted the term “children” to refer to groups of individuals from the time of birth to their 18th birthday. Surveys and other data sources employ differing age ranges, and the committee recognizes that, from a developmental perspective, there is no exact age at which childhood definitively ends. Numerous factors can affect the timing of one’s transition from adolescence to adulthood and, as a result, individuals transition from child to adult roles at different rates. For some, adult roles are assumed during adolescence, while for others this does not occur until the middle of the third decade of life. Nevertheless, many datasets and systems consider individuals before and after they reach legal majority, so the committee has chosen age 18 as a minimum age for ending childhood. However, while the committee asserts that data on children’s health should extend at least to that point, collection of data for those older than 18 should be an important data collection priority for the nation. The committee also recognizes that myriad factors affect the developing fetus prior to birth that impinge on and influence the health of children at birth. In this report these prenatal factors are considered and discussed as influences on children’s health.

Although the terms “youth” or “adolescents” are often used to refer to older children and the terms “infants” and “toddlers” refer to very young children, for ease of reference, this report uses the term “children” to encompass all these groups. If a statement is intended to refer to a subset of the child population (e.g., infants, adolescents) the relevant descriptive term is used in the text.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement