Investing in Early Life

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Besides advocating for economic justice, we've turned our attention toward providing systemic support for people during critical times. Early life - the first 1,000 days after conception - is vitally important to a person's lifelong health. As much as half of our adult health may be programmed during that critical period. Therefore, investing in early life is one way to address the diminished health outcomes associated with poverty and inequity. 

Studies indicate paid maternity leave results in fewer low birthweight babies, fewer infant deaths, higher rates of breastfeeding, increased probability of children being fully vaccinated, increased long-term achievement for children, and longer parental lifespan.

And yet, the US is one of only two countries that do not have a policy that guarantees some paid leave for new parents. (The other is Papua New Guinea.)

WPSR members have worked to build grassroots support for paid family leave among health care professionals. In 2016, our members successfully encouraged the Washington Academy of Family Physicians to pass a resolution stating that the academy would “advocate for addressing the dearth of state funding for a parental leave policy that provides working parents job-protected time with their newborn or adopted child”. In 2017, Washington State passed the nation's strongest paid family and medical leave policy, ensuring that all Washington workers can receive paid parental leave starting in 2020!

Below, you will find examples of current and past work by WPSR members on the topic of income inequality, including:

  • A video of street interviews in Seattle on public opinion of paid parental leave policies

  • "Population Health and Paid Parental Leave: What the United States Can Learn from Two Decades of Research," an article by Dr. Stephen Bezruchka and Adam Burtle

  • Information on our work with the Washington Work and Family Coalition

We’re currently building a larger task force to help with this work. If you are interested in participating in this effort, or have suggestions for us, please get in touch. 

Our Work with the Washington Work and Family Coalition


Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility joined the Washington Work and Family Coalition in 2016. The WWFC is Washington State’s coalition of individuals, organizations and businesses dedicated to promoting responsible workplace policies in support of healthy families and strong businesses. 

In 2017, we supported paid family and medical leave bills in the Washington state Senate and in the House (SB 5032 by Senator Karen Keiser; HB 1116 by Representative June Robinson). At the end of the 2017 legislative session, the Washington legislature passed a measure that will provide paid parental and family leave for working families. Beginning in 2020, working families will be able to take extended paid time off for the birth or adoption of a new child, to care for an ill or injured family member, or for their own serious health condition. The measure will allow 12 weeks of paid family leave, which can be extended up to 16 weeks in some cases and up to 18 weeks for individuals with pregnancy-related complications. 

The Economic Opportunity Institute and the Washington Work & Family Coalition have developed an illustrated guide to Washington's new paid sick, family and medical leave.

Here is a sneak peak: 

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We encourage you to view the entire illustration and share it with your friends and family:  

Population Health and Paid Parental Leave: What the United States Can Learn from Two Decades of Research

journal article by Dr. Stephen Bezruchka and adam burtle 

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Over the last two decades, numerous studies have suggested that dedicated time for parents to be with their children in the earliest months of life offers significant benefits to child health. The United States (US) is the only wealthy nation without a formalized policy guaranteeing workers paid time off when they become new parents. As individual US states consider enacting parental leave policies, there is a significant opportunity to decrease health inequities and build a healthier American population. This document is intended as a critical review of the present evidence for the association between paid parental leave and population health.

Street Interviews: Public Opinion on Parental Leave

Interviews by Dr. Stephen Bezruchka and Adam Burtle

Click the video to see clips from some of the interviews conducted in Seattle while surveying attitudes and knowledge related to American family leave, inequality, and social determinants of health.

You can find more information at the Population Health Forum website.