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Improving early childhood development, new WHO guideline

  |   SUN UN Network

Enabling young children to achieve their full developmental potential is a human right and an essential requisite for sustainable development. Given the critical importance of enabling children to make the best start in life,  the health sector, among other sectors, has an important role and responsibility to support nurturing care for early childhood development (ECD).This guideline provides direction for strengthening policies and programmes to better address early childhood development.

It is primarily the family who provides the nurturing care that children need to develop in the earliest years.  Many parents and other caregivers need support to put this into practice. Therefore, the guideline contains four recommendations aimed at caregivers, health professionals and other workers who can assist them, as well as policy-makers and other stakeholders.

The recommendations relate to (1) providing responsive care and activities for early learning during the first 3 years of life; (2) including responsive care and early learning as part of interventions for optimal nutrition of infants and young children; and (3) integrating psychosocial interventions to support maternal mental health into early childhood health and development services.

In order to provide clear and specific guidance on approaches for improving ECD, WHO developed this guideline with a particular focus on responsive caregiving, opportunities for early learning, and supporting the mental health of mothers. The guideline provides global, evidence-informed recommendations on approaches to improve ECD.

This guideline provides global, evidence-informed recommendations on improving ECD. The objective is to identify ECD-specific interventions and feasible approaches that are effective in improving developmental outcomes in children.

This new guideline focuses on the needs of both caregivers and young children because ECD is an outcome of healthy, nurturing interactions between them. It is relevant for all infants and young children and their caregivers.

The recommendations in this guideline are intended for a wide audience, including policy-makers, development agencies and implementing partners, district and sub-national health managers, health workers and nongovernmental organizations.

Download the Guideline
Download the summary

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