Child and adolescent health and development

Early childhood development

Care and experiences in early childhood lay critical foundations for the entire life course. Failure to recognize the value of providing necessary support during this crucial period, is liable to adversely impact human development as well as the national development. Ensuring healthy child development right from birth is a wise investment as it results in improved child outcomes, improved long-term productivity that contributes to national development.

From conception through the first few years of a child's life is the period of greatest risk as well as greatest opportunity for making a difference for children. Rapid brain development affects cognitive and social-emotional development, which is critical for ensuring every child's right to survival and development and long-term economic productivity.

High levels of adversity and stress during early childhood are known to disrupt brain architecture, affect other organ systems, and lead to stress-management systems that establish relatively lower thresholds for immune responses that persist throughout life, thereby increasing the risk of stress-related disease and cognitive impairment well into the adult years.

The 2007 Lancet series on early childhood development estimated that globally 200 million children aged under 5 years are unable to achieve their full potential. Among those, 89 million live in South East Asia Region. Many of these children will do poorly in school resulting in lowered incomes and productivity.

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