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Early Child Development Programmes: Further Evidence for Action

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Black MM, Hurley KM. Early child development programmes: further evidence for action. Lancet Glob Heal [Internet]. The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an Open Access article under the CC BY license; 2016;4(8):e505–6.

With the recognition that early child development lays the foundation for subsequent academic and social performance, economic productivity, and societal contributions, support for early child development programmes and policies has increased worldwide. Longitudinal studies and neuroscientific evidence have shown that, during the formative periods of children’s development, brain architecture and functioning are responsive to environmental conditions (both adversities and nurturance), which continue throughout life and into the subsequent generation. In response to the role of early child development in building human capacity, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include two targets for children younger than 5 years: meet developmental milestones (indicator 4.2.1) and participate in organised learning before primary school (indicator 4.2.1). The SDGs hold countries accountable for measuring and reporting on these targets.

Attention to early child development programmes and policies is desperately needed because millions of young children in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs) are not meeting SDG targets. Estimates based on population-level indicators of nutrition (stunting) and extreme poverty show that 39% of children younger than 5 years in LMICs are at risk of not reaching their developmental potential,5
and initial estimates from UNICEF’s Early Childhood Development Index (ECDI) based on reports from nearly 100 000 caregivers show that 36·8% of children aged 3 and 4 years in LMICs do not achieve basic cognitive and socioemotional skills. ECDI scores are positively associated with caregiver–child joint activities such as reading, playing, listening to stories, counting, singing, or travelling outside of home, illustrating the centrality of the caregiving environment to child development.


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