Improving developmental health of children in schools.

The LCT-RN School Node encourages innovative research on ways to use schools as a platform to improve health development across the life course, and as a context to translate and scale science-based approaches to improve developmental capabilities. 


Photograph of running towards the camera in front of a school.

School Node Leadership

Portrait of Mitch Wong, Center Faculty

Mitch Wong, MD PhD

Professor of Medicine; Vice Chair of Research Training in the Department of Medicine

Schools play an important role in children’s lives, and are a key component of children’s developmental ecosystems from preschool entry to high school graduation.  Events and experiences in the school setting can have positive and negative impacts on children’s health trajectories, especially during adolescence, when there is increasing independence from parents and greater connection to peers.    Health behaviors, mental health, peer networks and academic achievement are interconnected.  When things go well teens develop a strong positive self-concept and social identity, and a range of social -emotional competencies related to self (e.g., confidence, control of emotions), relationships (e.g., empathy, communication, social awareness)and tasks (e.g., resiliency, growth mindset, optimism).  Conversely, setbacks in school, with negative feedback from peers and adults can be devastating, especially at a life stage when coping strategies and resiliency skills are not fully developed.¹

Present in every neighborhood, schools are a novel platform for life course interventions with potential to transform children’s health trajectories through the creation of positive and supportive school climates.  This means taking a broader view of schools than one focused solely on academic achievement, and instead promoting whole child well-being including cognitive, social, emotional, psychological and physical development.


  1. Wong, M. D., Quartz, K. H., Saunders, M., Meza, B. P. L., Childress, S., Seeman, T. E., & Dudovitz, R. N. (2022). Turning Vicious Cycles into Virtuous Ones: The Potential for Schools to Improve the Life Course. Pediatrics149(Suppl 5), e2021053509M.

Recent Publications:

Wong, M. D., Meza, B. P. L., Dosanjh, K. K., Jackson, N. J., Seeman, T. E., Orendain, N., & Dudovitz, R. N. (2022). Association of Attending a High-Performing High School with Substance Use Disorder Rate and Health Outcomes in Young Adults. JAMA network open5(10), e2235083.