New Lancet Series finds that investing in early childhood development is essential to helping more children and communities thrive (5 October 2016)

The Lancet has released a new series of articles on Early Childhood Development with support and guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, and World Bank.

The present series is the third on childhood development, and describes the latest evidence about linkages between early care and development and progress towards global commitments on early childhood development.

Interventions that are most beneficial through the life course are reviewed, and how to scale up early childhood development programmes globally is examined.

Key Messages:

An estimated 43 percent—249 million—of children under five in low-and middle-income countries (LMICs) are at an elevated risk of poor development due to extreme poverty and stunting.

Early childhood development interventions that promote nurturing care—health, nutrition, responsive caregiving, security and safety, and early learning—may cost as little as 50 cents per child per year, when combined with existing services such as health.

Research shows that a child’s brain develops faster in the first 2-3 years than at any other time in life. These early years are also a critical period of adaptability and responsiveness to interventions.

When young children are deprived of nutrition, stimulation, and protection, the damaging effects can produce long-term detriments for families and communities.

Individuals are estimated to suffer a loss of about a quarter of average adult income per year, while countries may forfeit up to as much as two times their current GDP expenditures on health or education. Consequences of inaction impact not only present but future generations.

Historically, early childhood interventions have focused on children of preschool age. But we now know that interventions encompassing the period before conception through the first two years of life can greatly reduce adverse growth and health outcomes, and help ensure young children reach their full developmental potential.

The authors propose several ways the global community can scale-up support for early childhood development services by:

  • Encouraging the adoption and implementation of policies to create supportive environments for families to provide nurturing care for young children,
  • Building capacity and strengthening coordination to promote early childhood development through existing health, nutrition, education, social, and child protection services,
  • Strengthening measurement and ensuring accountability for early childhood development services,
  • Increasing research, and fostering global and regional leadership and action, and
  • Expanding political will and funding through advocacy for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Useful Links:

Link to the WHO news release:

Link to UNICEF’s Care for Child Development Package web site:

Link to the Reach Up Early Childhood Parenting Programme web site:

Link to The Lancet Series (articles are free to access, but registration [free] required):

Link to an Executive Summary for The Lancet’s Series:

Click to access bf3f4e_c07d25f01ce041dca8cab61c3c565415.pdf

Link to commentary by Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO (also part of The Lancet’s Series):

Link to WHO’s infographic on Early Child Development [PDF]:


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