Children from St. John’s Basic School, Kingston, Jamaica – taken by Cynthia Hobbs.
We know it’s critically important to give our children the right ingredients during the first five years of life – good nutrition, education and language stimulation, vaccinations and other health interventions. But now experts are narrowing it down further to the first 1,000 days – 270 days of pregnancy and the first two years of life. The sooner we begin caring for children, the better, even before children are born, in pre-natal care of pregnant mothers.
Longitudinal studies (child cohort studies) from Jamaica show positive effects of interventions across generations. In other words, food supplements and psychosocial stimulation (home visits and play sessions with children and parents) not only benefited the children in the study, they also benefited those children’s children a generation later! This gives us hope. Because it shows that early attention, especially to children who live in poor families with fewer resources, can break the cycle of poverty.
We now know some of the key ingredients for successful early childhood programs. For example, they should include targeted home visits and work more broadly with children and their families. Research shows that the presence of two parents, a mother AND a father, significantly improves a child’s success in life – better school performance, better health, more stability in the work force, and lower incidence of alcoholism and other addictive diseases.
Based on research and a comprehensive framework to monitor and evaluate the development of children and the impact of ECD programs, Jamaica and other Caribbean countries are using research findings to develop policies and programs for early childhood development. For example, Jamaica’s National Parenting Support Policy and National Parenting Support Commission will share good parenting practices to guide parents’ critical role in raising children. As Prof. Nigel Paneth from Michigan State University noted, “A great deal of research has been done. It is time to move to action. The Caribbean is a place for the rest of the world to look to learn about implementing creative ECD programs.”
Early Childhood Development practitioners, researchers and advocates came together in Jamaica to celebrate two milestones. On November 14, research teams from the University of the West Indies presented the findings of three studies funded by the IDB through Technical Cooperations. On November 15, 2013 we celebrated the 10th Anniversary of the establishment of the Early Childhood Commission, the agency responsible for oversight of the early childhood sector. Please also see additional articles from the Jamaica Observer and the Global Child Development Group.