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Lifestyle Habits

January 2008 - An editorial by Kenneth Tercyak, assistant professor of oncology and pediatrics and member of the Cancer Control Program at Georgetown's Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center published in Pediatric Psychology in 2007 argues that child health psychologists should play a greater role in development of positive lifestyles thus contributing to adult disease prevention.

Many lifestyle habits developed in childhood and adolescence (such as poor diet, lack of exercise, and experimentation with tobacco and substance use) can have a major impact on health later in life and contribute to leading causes of death such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes. The scope of what child health psychologists can contribute is much broader than many have yet recognized.

Kenneth Tercyak explained:

"That means the choices that children and teenagers make early in life, and the activities that they engage in, can have serious implications for their physical health and well-being when they grow up. Because these health-compromising behaviors are typically initiated when a person is young, there is a need to more effectively prevent their onset and reform public health approaches to prevention. That is where child health psychologists can help."

"There is a pressing need to readdress prevention efforts targeted toward our nation's young people and their families, and child health psychologists are well-poised to advance this mission. Specialists in childhood behavior have a lot of good expertise that should now be employed to play a greater role in disease prevention."

The author argues that while there are numerous lifestyle and behavioral prevention programs available both within and outside the public health sector, too few have been designed specifically for younger people.

Kenneth Tercyak said:

"Increasingly, the energy in public health is being focused on the lives of children because we know these lifestyle habits form early and may carry forward into adulthood. Child health psychologists and other advocates for children's health need to be more involved at all levels of prevention research, applied work, and policy making in helping young people adopt good self-care."

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