Early Support Reduces Health Costs in Old Age

  • Winners of the Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize present a surprising theory at the award ceremony in Zurich

Zurich, December 3, 2010 – The risk of age-related illnesses can be reduced and the associated increase in health costs mitigated with the aid of professional care and support in early childhood, said the winners of the Klaus J. Jacobs research prize, Terrie Moffitt and Avshalom Caspi, at the award ceremony in Zurich on Friday. The Anglo-American scientists were awarded one million Swiss francs by the Jacobs Foundation for their research into child and youth development.

Moffitt and Caspi, professors of neuropsychology at Duke University, North Carolina, USA, and King’s College, London, have until recently concentrated their studies on the long-term impact of childhood experiences. Now they intend to focus on the effects on health, Terrie Moffitt announced in her acceptance speech. She explained that initial investigations had shown that stress and traumatic experiences in childhood increase the risk of developing immunodeficiency disorders, heart and circulatory problems, as well as age-related dementia.

According to Terrie Moffitt, care and support during early childhood would become a key to solving the problems of ageing societies, if the connection between stressfree childhood and health in old age proved to be conclusive: the onset of agerelated illnesses would be postponed, and there would be fewer problems in old age. The bottom line was that it would be possible to curb the increase in health costs, which is to a large extent fuelled by increased life expectancy.

‘The research findings of Moffitt and Caspi make me confident that intervention programs for youth development are meaningful and necessary , particularly for children and youth at risk. This will encourage all the non-profit-organization members who have dedicated their workforce to improving the state of the disadvantaged around the world”, said an enthusiastic Dr. Auma Obama at the award ceremony. The half sister of US President Barack Obama who was elected as a new member of the board of trustees of the Jacobs Foundation during the current year, pursues a full-time career in youth development projects in Africa.

Early support is a focal point of the development work carried out by the Jacobs Foundation. With the Klaus J. Jacobs Best Practice Award, worth 200,000 Swiss francs, the foundation fittingly paid tribute to an early play and development program – the models developed by the Opstapje association in Germany and the a:primo association in Switzerland. These models provide care, support and education for parents of children from the age of two on the basis of home visits. The support program is now active in over sixty German and Swiss towns.

Find initial photos of the award ceremony on Flickr from approx. 5.30 pm:


Find the presentation films of the event on YouTube from 4 pm:


Find all additional information on the winners and the prize at: