Children's health, or pediatrics, focuses on the well-being of children from conception through adolescence. It is vitally concerned with all aspects of children's growth and development and with the unique opportunity that each child has to achieve their full potential as a healthy adult.
Children's health was once a part of adult medicine. It emerged in the 19th and early 20th century as a medical specialty because of the gradual awareness that the health problems of children are different from those of grown-ups. It was also recognized that a child's response to illness, medications, and the environment depends upon the age of the child.
There are many aspects to children's health. Any organization of these aspects of child health is necessarily arbitrary. For example, the topics could be presented in alphabetical order. However, it seems most logical to start at the beginning -- with the factors that determine a child's healthy growth and development.
Children's growth and development
A healthy child's development actually begins before conception with the parents' health and their genetic legacy. It continues on to conception and through the prenatal period. During this time, there is naturally considerable overlap between pediatric concerns for the fetus and obstetrical concerns for the mother.
Once the baby is delivered, there are new and important matters to ponder, such as breastfeeding, newborn screening tests and sleeping safety. All too soon, there are health care appointments to be kept, for example, for well-baby checkups and immunizations. These are followed by other challenges, such as when to introduce solid foods and to start toilet training and when to see the dentist.
The field of pediatrics recognizes classic stages in growth and development, but these are artificial since a child's growth and development constitute a continuum. A baby changes at an astonishing rate during the newborn period and early infancy. Before you know it, the baby becomes a toddler, next a child and, after a little more than a decade, is already a teen. It is a busy, challenging period.