The Lancet child development in developing countries series
More than 200 million children under 5 years fail to reach their potential in cognitive development because of poverty, poor health and nutrition, and lack of early stimulation.
Paper 1: "Developmental potential in the first 5 years for children in developing countries".
The first paper of the Series shows that most of these children – 89 million – live in south Asia and that ten countries account for 145 million (66%) of the 219 million disadvantaged children in the developing world. These disadvantaged children are likely to do poorly in school and subsequently have low incomes, high fertility, and provide poor care for their children, thus contributing to the intergenerational transmission of poverty.
Authors: Sally Grantham-McGregor, Yin Bun Cheung, Santiago Cueto, Paul Glewwe, Linda Richter, Barbara Strupp, and the International Child Development Steering Group.
Paper 2: "Child development: risk factors for adverse outcomes in developing countries".
In the second paper of the Series, the main causes of poor child development – stunting, iodine and iron deficiencies, and inadequate cognitive and social-emotional stimulation have been identified. Other potential risk factors include maternal depression, exposure to lead and arsenic, and some infectious diseases. Research shows that integrating health and nutritional interventions with validated home or center based psychosocial interventions, are a cost-effective approach which can have lasting benefits on children's development.
Authors: Susan P Walker, Theodore D Wachs, Julie Meeks Gardner, Betsy Lozoff , Gail A Wasserman, Ernesto Pollitt, Julie A Carter, and the International Child Development Steering Group.
Paper 3: "Strategies to avoid the loss of developmental potential in more than 200 million children in the developing world".
The final Series paper assesses the strategies that exist to tackle poor child development, identifies effective programmes, and defines characteristics of effectiveness. Despite convincing evidence, programme coverage is low. To achieve the Millennium Development Goals of reducing poverty and ensuring primary school completion for girls and boys, governments and civil society need to consider expanding high quality, cost-effective early child development programmes.
Authors: Patrice L Engle, Maureen M Black, Jere R Behrman, Meena Cabral de Mello, Paul J Gertler, Lydia Kapiriri, Reynaldo Martorell, Mary Eming Young, and the International Child Development Steering Group.
Commentary: "Early childhood development: the global challenge", Richard Jolly.