Based on numerous examples from this country and abroad, we now have a reasonable idea of how we can reduce substantially the incidence of low-weight births, child abuse, adolescent pregnancy, school failure, and school dropout. The most effective long-term strategy appears to be the development of a comprehensive, coordinated, community-wide approach focused on preventing low- and medium-risk families from becoming high-risk as well as providing intensive services to those who already have reached a high-risk status. The best results can be obtained when all levels of government and the private sector work together. In this partnership, the best outcomes appear to result when the state and federal governments, private corporations, or both provide technical assistance, additional funding as needed, and help in setting program standards, and when the community maintains local control over establishing priorities and implementation strategies. However, to reach these goals and to maintain program support over the long time periods needed to show positive results (4 to 8 years), it is necessary to become skilled in social marketing techniques to turn program need into demand and to develop a strong local and statewide advocacy group to facilitate passage of needed legislation and prevent funding cutbacks.

Pediatricians can modify their practices to make them more supportive to families and can work with other community leaders to bring about the changes in attitudes and about the changes in attitudes and funding priorities at the state and community levels that will be necessary to develop more effective preventive programs.

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