Social determinants of health

Early child development

Children outside of a waste picking center, south Bangkok, Thailand

The early child period is considered to be the most important developmental phase throughout the lifespan. Healthy early child development (ECD)—which includes the physical, social/emotional, and language/cognitive domains of development, each equally important—strongly influences well-being, obesity/stunting, mental health, heart disease, competence in literacy and numeracy, criminality, and economic participation throughout life. What happens to the child in the early years is critical for the child’s developmental trajectory and lifecourse.

The evidence of successful models and challenges to implementing early child development programs (pre-natal through to eight years ) was collected from countries, international agencies, NGOs and civil society. Criteria for successful implementation was developed for a range of country contexts, with particular focus on low income countries. Additionally, a database of successful program models was created and is now accessible via this site.

Organizational hub

Human Early Learning Partnership led by Dr Clyde Hertzman functioned as WHO's Knowledge Hub for ECD. Its broad mission was to raise the profile of early child development globally.

Key publications

Final report of the Early Child Development Knowledge Network - Early child development : a powerful equalizer

Cover image

The final report of the ECDKN proposes ways in which government and civil society actors, from local to international, can work in concert with families to provide equitable access to strong nurturant environments for all children globally.

Total environment assessment model for early child development

This report provides a framework for understanding the environments (and their characteristics) that play a significant role in providing nurturant conditions to all children in an equitable manner.

International perspectives on early child development

This review identifies general principles that can guide wealthy and developing countries in improving their children’s developmental outcomes during the early years of life and through critical transitions such as entry to school.