Early Childhood Health Equity Landscape Project

Research BriefEarly ChildhoodApr 29 2021

Early Childhood Health Equity (ECHE) work strengthens early childhood systems to support healthy child development and reduce health inequities that can have a lifelong impact. 

Thelp policymakers, advocates, communities, and families understand efforts to improve health equity and the well-being of children and families, the Early Childhood Health Equity Initiative Explorer presents information about 143 cross-sector initiatives that aim to advance health equity for young children and their familiesThe tool allows users to sort these initiatives by state, health and well-being focus, service sectors, funding sources, and age groups. 

This tool is a snapshot of survey results from March 2020 that can help users understand how initiatives employ cross-sector partnerships to improve health equity. This tool can also help communities and policymakers connect with other local and national initiatives to support program design and policy making to advance health equity in early childhood.


Key trends revealed by this project include the following: 

  • Crosssector early childhood health equity initiatives are most commonly led by nonprofits and community organizations. 
  • Initiatives most commonly address the socialemotional development, mental health, and school readiness aspects of health and development.  
  • Most initiatives (74%) indicate work within four or more of the following sectors:  
    • Early Childhood 
    • Education and Workforce 
    • Social and Community Supports 
    • Legal 
    • Disability 
    • Health Services and Systems

Project Overview 

Resources and relationships in early childhood set the foundation for lifelong health and well-being.1, 2 A rapidly growing body of knowledge about the relationship between equity and well-being in early childhood has served as a foundation for state and community leaders as they design initiatives to improve early childhood systems that support young children and their families.3 The ECHE Landscape Project explored and documented innovative practices across the United States that sit at the intersection of early childhood development and health equity. This work was completed with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) as a partnership between Child Trends and the National Institute for Children’s Health Quality (NICHQ). 

ECHE Landscape Project staff conducted a search for current health equity initiatives that work across sectors of the early childhood and health fields to promote early childhood health equity in states and communities. The project sought to document national efforts that support and connect early childhood initiatives and to elevate local community experiences that are often undervalued in creating systemic change. Initiatives identified through this search were invited to complete an ECHE Landscape Survey about their work. Results from 143 participating initiatives were analyzed to develop a Landscape Map and Initiative Explorer tool, and to inform a series of briefs on key lessons from the field.

Key Findings 

Read an overview of trends within the Landscape Survey, including a basic description of respondent characteristics, common themes, and innovative practices.

In addition to the Landscape Survey, the ECHE Landscape Project team developed briefs to illustrate innovative practices in greater depth and elevate promising practices and insights.  


1. Braveman, P., Acker, J., Arkin, E., Bussel, K., Wehr, K., & Proctor, D. (2018). Early childhood is critical to health equity. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

2. Braveman, P., Arkin, E., Orleans, T., Proctor, D., & Plough, A. (2017). What is health equity? Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

3. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2019). Vibrant and healthy kids: Aligning science, practice, and policy to advance health equity. The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25466.