Developmental outcomes for at least 200 million children in resource-starved countries have been severely impacted by multiple risks including poverty, poor nutrition and lack of stimulating environments. Prevalence of the risk factors is often cumulative in these settings, aggravating the adverse effects on the development of one of the world’s most vulnerable groups. Interventions focussing on improved dietary intake of complementary foods and micronutrients, in combination with responsive feeding and early stimulation and care, have shown to improve children’s developmental status in conditions of poverty.
In 2006, with the support of the UNICEF and the Bernard van Leer Foundation, the International Early Childhood Development Group,( now the ECD Sub-Group of the ICYN) and the Global Child Development Group, prepared a series of three papers for the Lancet on the risks and interventions to improve early child development in low resource countries.
Following this the group met in Bellagio in October 2006 and since that period, much progress has been made in support of ECD programs, in further understanding of the risks leading to poor child development, as well as of interventions that may make a difference.
In 2009, the group proposed to prepare a new set of authoritative reviews to both document the progress since the Lancet series, as well as increase the understanding of early childhood development. Achieving these goals included two components. A working meeting of the group members was hosted in Jamaica, to work on the proposed reviews. The purpose of the meeting was 1) to prepare an update series of papers on advances in early child development in the past three years; 2) to plan for future activities of the group; and 3) to make recommendations to the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) about how ECD and nutrition could be most effectively combined. Although the focus was children from pregnancy through age 8, given the audience there was a particular focus on children under 3. A group of researchers, practitioners as well as policy makers, including representatives of key agencies including Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), Bernard van Leer Foundation, World Bank and UNICEF amongst others were invited to contribute to the reviews. Secondly, a Secretariat was established at the University of the West Indies, Jamaica to facilitate the dissemination of the most current state of evidence regarding early childhood development, particularly in developing countries. It aims to serve as an organizing hub for informing and co-ordinating efforts for ongoing activities.
Amena Hassan, American Psychological Association, Office of International Affairs, reports on the early efforts of the Global Child Development Group