Maternal and Child Health Journal

, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 389–395

Translating Life Course Theory to Clinical Practice to Address Health Disparities


DOI: 10.1007/s10995-013-1279-9

Cite this article as:
Cheng, T.L. & Solomon, B.S. Matern Child Health J (2014) 18: 389. doi:10.1007/s10995-013-1279-9


Life Course Theory (LCT) is a framework that explains health and disease across populations and over time and in a powerful way, conceptualizes health and health disparities to guide improvements. It suggests a need to change priorities and paradigms in our healthcare delivery system. In “Rethinking Maternal and Child Health: The Life Course Model as an Organizing Framework,” Fine and Kotelchuck identify three areas of rethinking that have relevance to clinical care: (1) recognition of context and the “whole-person, whole-family, whole-community systems approach;” (2) longitudinal approach with “greater emphasis on early (“upstream”) determinants of health”; and (3) need for integration and “developing integrated, multi-sector service systems that become lifelong “pipelines” for healthy development”. This paper discusses promising clinical practice innovations in these three areas: addressing social influences on health in clinical practice, longitudinal and vertical integration of clinical services and horizontal integration with community services and resources. In addition, barriers and facilitators to implementation are reviewed.


Life course theory Health disparities Health care delivery Maternal child Health Family health Clinical care 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PediatricsJohns Hopkins University School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA