Summarized by: Kathleen Lee and Lisa Gee
In 2017, the Lancet released a Journal Series on “Advancing Early Childhood Development: from Science to Scale.” The series provided an overview of the status of early childhood development in low- and middle income countries. The series was commissioned because since the first Lancet Series on Child Development in Developing Countries in 2007, scientific publications had increased greatly; one-third of the countries in the 2007 publication had adopted policies on early childhood development, and funding for it had increased. This required a re-examination of the research and programs of early childhood development to date.
Based on the review of the current literature, this paper emphasized the significance of the first 2- 3 years of life to children's development, and the long-term consequences of poor early development in later adulthood.
The paper pointed to new, scientific research which showed that genetic, biological, and environmental influences beginning at a baby's conception affected early childhood development and carried across the rest of the child's life. There was evidence from the series that a program that sought to increase brain development of stunted children in Jamaica, 25 years ago, resulted in a significant 25% increase in average adult earnings.
In that same study, growth failure (stunting) in the first 2 years of life had harmful effects on later adult health and social outcomes, such as chronic disease, less educational attainment, and lower adult earnings. Such disadvantages continue into the next generation, and therefore, result in lost adult earnings and the continuation of poverty over time. Considering this cycle of poverty, the researchers emphasized that programs to improve early childhood development have the potential to transform early child development programs in low- and middle-income countries and help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The study recommended an all-inclusive early childhood development program for both pregnant women and young children. They stressed that interventions need to include caregivers and children at sensitive times, particularly from conception to 2-3 years. Despite the growth in evidence supporting the impact of early childhood programs, the authors noted that more progress is needed as services for early childhood development are usually fragmented and have varying quality levels. Furthermore there were few larger scale programs, and evaluation of these programs was poor.
Daelmans, Bernadette, et al. "Early childhood development: the foundation of sustainable development." The Lancet 389.10064 (2017): 9-11.