Do you want your new born to be healthy, wealthy and become most productive citizen later in life? Then invest your time, energy, knowledge, skills in first 1000 days.
For the country to make tremendous strides in all fronts; you need young minds to be full of enthusiasm, vigour & energy. For that parents need to understand the importance of 1st thousands days.
The period between conception and child’s second birthday i.e.; the first 1000 days of life is a golden period of opportunity. In the first 1000 days, foundations for optimum health, growth, and neurodevelopment across the lifespan are established.
What is first 1000 days?
The first 1,000 days refers to a child’s life from the moment it is conceived until he/she reaches 2 years of age (24 months). This is a period; the brain, body and immune system grows and develops significantly.
It is currently known that the intrauterine period and early years of life are essential for the physical, emotional and cognitive development of children. Along with pregnancy and the first years of life (especially during the first thousand days), rapid brain development occurs, and also at this stage the neural circuits are formed and strengthened through stimulation and bonding relationships. Physical and emotional health, social skills, and cognitive-language skills that emerge in the early years are important prerequisites for success in school, and later in the workplace and community. Hence, Early childhood development has gained increasing prominence thanks to the contribution of research in neuroscience and public policy.
Why Invest in early childhood?
Evidence indicates that investment in quality early childhood programs provides society with a high rate of return. In addition, early childhood investment is the best way to reduce inequalities, address poverty and build a social and environmentally sustainable society. Despite the evidence of early childhood importance, it is estimated that over 200 million children under the age of five in low and middle-income countries do not reach their developmental potential due to exposure to environmental, biological and psychosocial risk factors.
UNICEF Report; an eye opener:
As per the report published in Lancet nearly 250 million children in developing countries are at risk of poor development due to stunting and poverty. There is an urgent need to invest for childhood development particularly in low-income countries. Disadvantaged children living in middle- and high-income countries are also at risk. UNICEF reported that, millions of children are spending their formative years growing-up in unstimulating and unsafe environments, putting their cognitive, social and emotional development at risk. Investment in early childhood is one of the cost-effective method of increasing the ability of all children to reach their full potential – increasing their ability to learn in school and, later, their earning capacity as adults. This is especially significant for children growing up in poverty.
Early childhood development interventions are;
- Care for Child Development
- Encourage exclusive breastfeeding for first 6 months.
- Hi protein diet for lactating mothers
- Highlight the importance of health & hygiene.
- Training community health workers to teach families about the importance of playing with their children in a way that stimulates healthy development. It does not cost anything.
- Governmental policies frame works need to be inclusive to address the needs of marginalised social groups.
UNICEF is calling for governments to increase investments in early childhood, expand health and social services offered to young children, and strengthen support services for parents and caregivers.
Malnutrition can decrease the economic growth of a nation by 8 per cent due to loss in productivity caused by reduced schooling and cognitive impairments. Estimates suggest that stunted children earn 20 per cent lesser as adults compared to healthy individuals.
Undernutrition, affects foetal growth restriction, stunting, wasting, and deficiency of essential vitamins and minerals along with sub optimum breastfeeding adversely impacts child survival. Globally, 45 per cent of under-five deaths can be attributed to undernutrition.
The right nutrition during this 1,000-day window can have an enormous impact on a child’s ability to grow, learn, and rise out of poverty. The vicious cycle of malnutrition, produces under nourished girls who will later become under nourished women who give birth to low-birth-weight infants.
Dr. Pramod N Sulikeri, Ph.D