Role of the health sector in promoting early childhood development
AbstractThe most common services that come in contact with children from birth to three years are the health services in most countries. Therefore, the health sector in partnership with other sectors has a unique role in young children's growth and development. The WHO Commission on the social Determinants of Health in 2008 called on health systems to reduce health inequities in a generation by "building on existing child survival programmes and extending interventions in early life to include social/emotional and language/cognitive development". From conception through the first few years of a child's life is the period of greatest risk as well as greatest opportunity for making a difference for children. Rapid brain development affects cognitive and social-emotional development, which is critical for long-term economic productivity, for meeting the challenges of globalization, and for ensuring every child's right to survival and development. It is estimated that globally over 200 million children under the age of 5 years are not developing their full potential, and many of these children (about 89 million) are in South Asia. Investments in early child growth and development, particularly for children living in poverty will contribute to achieving the Milliennium Development Goals and closing the gap between rich and poor. In the last two to three decades most countries in the South-East Asia Region have recorded significant declines in child mortality and impressive economic growth. The Region should be moving from a focus on child survival, to a broader concern for healthy development of children, economic productivity, and the reduction of disparities between rich and poor. WHO./UNICEF have developed a package of tools and a training manual, "Care for Child Development" that can be used along with "Care for Feeding" by primary health care and community health workers to assist individuals and families in promoting good nutrition and development, and preventing risks. This strategic framework recommends developing programmes for children's growth and development that can be implemented in South and South-East Asia Region through the health sector with partners, and policies and plans to support these programmes. It outlines evidence-based, effective age-appropriate interventions that health facilities, communities and families can use to ensure optimal early child development through the health system. The Strategic Framework recommends that countries incorporate promotive, preventive and curative care for early child development into integrated primary health care and describes the steps each country could take to develop a plan for putting the programmes and policies into practice for promoting early childhood development.
World Health Organization, Regional Office for South-East Asia. (2011). Role of the health sector in promoting early childhood development. WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia. http://www.who.int/iris/handle/10665/205874