Early childhood development (ECD )- including the sensori-motor, social /emotional and language /cognitive capacities - is indivisible from the child survival, health and education agendas and represents one of the important stages for breaking the intergenerational cycles of poverty and for promoting sustainable development. Development during the early years lays the critical foundations for health, learning and behaviour across the life course.
Poor development during childhood, unfortunately, is widespread. Globally over 200 million children do not reach their developmental potential in the first 5 years because they live in poverty, and have poor health services, nutrition and psycho-social care. These disadvantaged children do poorly in school and subsequently have low incomes, high fertility, high criminality, and provide poor care for their own children.
As a result, their countries suffer an estimated 20 per cent loss in adult productivity (Lancet Series Ref.). Investment in early childhood programmes is essential because ECD programmes and interventions can provide a "fair start" to children and help to modify distressing socio-economic and gender-related inequities. There is strong evidence regarding interventions that can address the causal factors and reduce the burden of poor child development.
This package aims to help a variety of health and community workers to provide age-appropriate guidance to caregivers of young children for stimulating cognitive, language and social-emotional development through play and communication. This guidance is designed to benefit those children and families who need it most. It has been shown to be effective in improving responsive care. Implemented on a wide-scale, Care for Child Development will have significant public health and social benefits.
The Care for Child Development package consists of:
. Simple recommendations health workers can make to families to improve the development of children.
. Training materials for health workers and community providers.
. Support for families to solve common problems in providing good care for young children.
. Advocacy materials.
. A monitoring and evaluation framework.