Experiences from the prenatal period through adolescence have far-reaching impact, affecting well-being throughout an individual’s life. Early risk exposures can result in a cascade of poor health outcomes, some of which will not manifest for decades. Early exposure to positive and protective factors, however, can set a child on a path toward a healthy and successful life - a life with a substantially lower risk for developing chronic disease. Viewing health through a life course lens highlights the potential of maternal and child health programs to improve outcomes for the entire U.S. population and reduce burgeoning health care costs.

Although a rapidly growing number of life course studies from fields as diverse as medicine, psychology, sociology, and economics indicate that early life experiences influence the development of bio-behavioral pathways, there are still many outstanding questions about the relationship between early experiences and lifelong health and well-being, and about the mechanisms underlying this relationship. In addition, questions remain about how existing and emerging knowledge can be applied to the development of evidence-based practice and policy.

Some of the challenges to advancing life course health development research that can answer these questions include a lack of a strong research and data infrastructure to support the development of new methodologies and collaborative approaches, limits on currently available funding, and the fact that researchers continue to work in discipline-specific silos. To address these challenges, LCRN aims to:

- Identify gaps in what we know about how health develops among individuals and populations
- Develop and support the implementation of a research agenda that can fill those gaps
- Promote methodologies and data that provide researchers with better tools and information
- Illuminate clinical and programmatic changes that translate new knowledge into better health
- Align local, state and federal policies with these realities

In addition to producing peer-reviewed and other publications, organizing webinars on a variety of topics, hosting in-person meetings of invited experts and stakeholders, and supporting member-led research nodes focused on particular health conditions or issues, we have created this community that provides researchers, practitioners, and policymakers with a mechanism for interacting, sharing information, and developing collaborative and innovative projects that advance our mission.

If you have an idea for a topical affinity group you'd like to create within this community, or a project you'd like to undertake with administrative and/or funding support from LCRN, or if you have any suggestions for how this community or LCRN can best support you and fulfill our mission, please contact a community manager at any time.

LCRN is managed by the UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families, and Communities, and is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under UA6MC19803, Maternal and Child Health Life Course Research Network. This information or content and conclusions are those of the author and should not be construed as the official position or policy of, nor should any endorsements be inferred by, HRSA, HHS, or the U.S. Government.