Life Course Research Agenda (LCRA), Version 1.0

This is one of 26 chapters published in the Handbook of Life Course Health Development.


Abstract: Life course health science research is “connecting the dots” between child health development, adult patterns of premature morbidity and mortality, and more integrated notions of healthy aging. However, there are still many outstanding questions about the relationship between early experiences and lifelong health and well-being, as well as a growing need to understand how emerging knowledge can be applied to the development of evidence-based practice and policy that can reduce risks, minimize exposures, and optimize lifelong health. In 2010, the Maternal and Child Health Life Course Research Network (LCRN) initiated an inclusive research agenda-setting process that resulted in the Handbook of Life Course Health Development, which offers state-of-the-art reviews and analyses of life course health-development (LCHD) research focused on key life stages and a variety of health conditions, as well as recommendations pertaining to future research in these areas. In developing this concluding chapter and the research agenda it contains, we have attempted to synthesize the authors’ findings and recommendations in order to propose a more integrated set of research priorities and strategies that can advance the entire LCHD field. The resulting transdisciplinary research agenda focuses on foundational research, including research that addresses life course epidemiology, research that elucidates LCHD processes (e.g., sensitive periods, epigenetics), and research that identifies effective interventions, with a special emphasis on health disparities research and research on high priority conditions (e.g., obesity and mental health conditions) and specific vulnerable populations (e.g., children in foster care, premature infants, and children with medical complexity). It also considers essential research capacity-building activities focused on data, data systems, and methods, as well as strategies for building the human, technical, cultural, and financial capacity required to carry out this challenging work. Lastly, it addresses the importance of translational and intervention research that can speed the application of concepts and findings to the practice and policy arenas. We conclude with a discussion of advancing the overall LCHD research paradigm, including the framework and principles that have emerged from the research thus far and that are helping to define a robust explanatory and theoretical LCHD framework.


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