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AAP maps global paths to support early childhood development :

February 26, 2020

Nutrition and health. Protection from harm. Nurturing care and stimulation. The AAP has been a leader in championing these key ingredients so children have a healthy start in life.

Recently, the AAP added early childhood development (ECD) and nurturing care as global priorities. By adapting and expanding access to its ECD guidance and interventions, the AAP can reach more young children and countries in need.

Worldwide, about 250 million children under age 5 are at risk of not reaching their potential because they lack access to ECD interventions. For example, malnutrition stunts the lives of nearly one-fifth of young children. Three hundred million children under age 5 have been exposed to societal violence. Poverty affects three-fourths of 0- to 18-year-olds in Africa.

Without support starting in pregnancy and continuing through age 3, a child’s development and future societal contributions are at risk.

Steps toward progress in global AAP ECD include:

  • federal advocacy,
  • support of a 2018 global framework for infants and mothers that goes beyond surviving and includes thriving, and
  • cultivating, building and strengthening pediatric society relationships to help them bring change.

Mapping ECD needs

The AAP is participating in World Health Organization working groups to support national implementation of the Nurturing Care for Early Childhood Development Framework. The framework aims to help children reach their potential by offering a roadmap for countries to promote good health, adequate nutrition, responsive caregiving, opportunities for early learning, and security and safety.

A major challenge for vulnerable countries is collecting data on key ECD indicators that are vital to track progress and make improvements. Fortunately, the number of countries with data profiles has grown from 91 to 138.

ECD data from 2018 show Sub-Saharan Africa is at highest risk. More than 60% of children in most of the countries are at risk of not reaching their potential in school and in work.

This year, the AAP is working with two longtime partner pediatric societies in Sub-Saharan Africa on an initiative modeled after its global immunization efforts. The goal is to help the Kenya Paediatric Association and Paediatric Association of Tanzania develop ECD champions to strengthen their capacity to advocate for and apply evidence-based early childhood policies and programs in their communities and countries.AAP Chief Medical Officer/SVP Fan Tait, M.D., FAAP (second left) and other panelists urged support of early child development in developing countries.

Advocating against harm

One in six children worldwide lives in an area of crisis or conflict. The THRIVE Coalition, a group of 30 organizations co-chaired by the Academy, is promoting ECD in those settings.

The group hosted an event in Washington, D.C., last fall to provide information on the need for U.S. foreign assistance to support children globally.

“We’ve made a lot of progress on child survival,” Fan Tait, M.D., FAAP, AAP chief medical officer/senior vice president, said at the briefing. “… but it’s important to make sure these children do more than survive. We want to help them thrive.”

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