An estimated 250 million children (43%) younger than 5 years in low and middle-income countries are at risk of not growing to their full potential due to challenges in their early, formative years, according to studies in the Lancet. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, about 115.5 million (81%) children are at risk of poor development. The early years of a child's life are considered the most important developmental period since they set the child's developmental trajectory and have effects throughout the life course. By age 5, children with healthy development develop a set of age-appropriate core intellectual, social, and emotional skills which enable them to maintain attention, understand and follow directions, communicate with others, and solve complex problems.

Early childhood development (ECD) is one of the most cost effective investments a country can make to promote healthy child development and improve children's lives now and throughout their lives. ECD promotes the physical, social, emotional and cognitive development of children during the early years of their lives. There is evidence that ECD interventions reduce the long-term effects of poor early development in later adulthood such as poor health, low educational attainment, increased violence and crime, and a general loss of human capital. According to UNICEF, economic analyses from both low- and high income settings indicate that investing in children's early years yields some of the highest rates of return to families, societies and countries. For instance, the 43% of children estimated to be at risk of poor development due to extreme poverty and stunting would grow up to earn about a quarter less than average yearly adult income.

At country level, this translates to losses to gross domestic product up to double what is currently spent on health. The case for investment can therefore be made not only with respect to returns but also to the cost of inaction. Investment in rigorous research on the delivery of early childhood interventions and their outcomes is essential for improving ECD programs. The Center for Learning and Childhood Development – Ghana (CLCD), through its Research for Practice Project (R4P), aims to make such research on early childhood development more understandable and accessible to educators, health workers, parents and policy makers. We hope that improved understanding of research findings on children's health and development will advance advocacy and facilitate translation of research evidence to practice

This magazine provides a review and lay summary of early childhood-related research articles. Articles summarized here are mainly from the 2016 Lancet Early Childhood Development Series, however we also draw from research studies and national surveys on ECD in Ghana, particularly on challenges facing early childhood education and regional and socio-economic disparities. The lay summaries provided do not necessarily reflect the views of the authors of the various studies.

At CLCD, we believe all children have the right to healthy development. We seek to bring partners together to make this right a reality – in Ghana and around the world. We welcome you to join the conversation!

· Daelmans, Bernadette, et al. "Early childhood development: the foundation of sustainable
development." The Lancet 389.10064 (2017): 9-11.
· Lu, Chunling, Maureen M. Black, and Linda M. Richter. "Risk of poor development in young children
in low-income and middle-income countries: an estimation and analysis at the global, regional, and
country level." The Lancet Global Health 4.12 (2016): e916-e922
· McCoy, Dana Charles, et al. "Early childhood developmental status in low-and middle-income
countries: national, regional, and global prevalence estimates using predictive modeling." PLoS Med
13.6 (2016): e1002034
· UNICEF. "Programming experiences in early child development." New York: Early Child
· UNICEF. “ Early childhood development: A statistical snapshot. Available from
URL: [Accessed date:
January 5, 2017] .