Maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health

10 facts about early child development as a social determinant of health

Fact 1

Brain and biological development during the first years of life depends on the quality of stimulation in the infant’s environment—at the level of family, community, and society. Early child development (ECD), in turn is a life long determinant of health, well-being, and learning skills. Taken together, these facts make early child development a social determinant of health.

Fact 2

Addressing ECD means creating the conditions for children prenatal to 8 years to thrive equally in their physical, social/emotional, and language/cognitive development.

Fact 3

Safe, cohesive, child-centred neighbourhoods, communities, and villages matter for early child development.

Fact 4

In order to improve the state of early child development, global communities need to continuously improve the conditions for families to nurture their children by addressing economic security, flexible work, information and support, health and quality childcare needs.

Fact 5

Barriers of access to programs and services that have been demonstrated effective in supporting physical, social/emotional, language/cognitive development for ECD need to be removed.

Fact 6

Children require stimulating, supportive and nurturing care when their parents are not available. High quality childcare and early childhood education can improve children’s chances for success in later life.

Fact 7

Early child development is a cornerstone of human development and should be central to how we judge the successfulness of societies. Measuring the state of early child development with a comparable approach throughout the world will provide a way for societies to judge their success.

Fact 8

Success in the area of early child development requires a partnership, not only among international, national, and local agencies but, also, with the world’s families.

Fact 9

Many in the international development community agree that child survival and child development are not in conflict but program financing in the international development community has not yet reflected this understanding.

Fact 10

Among all the social determinants of health, ECD is the easiest for societies’ economic leaders to understand because improved ECD not only means better health, but a more productive labour force, reduced criminal justice costs, and reductions in other strains on the social safety net. National and international fiscal and monetary institutions need to recognize that spending on early child development is an investment and incorporate it into policy accordingly.