Investing in early childhood care, development determines children’s future: Experts

Bhubaneswar, Dec 21: Research shows that early years of a child is critical for its brain development, experts said here on Thursday.

While the child’s genes provide the brain’s blueprint, it is the child’s experiences and the environment he or she are brought up in, that shape and connect it, they said while participating in a state level roundtable organized by the UNICEF here.

According to them, investing in this phase of life determines the child’s brain development and potential.

Retired professor of psychology Jawaharlal Nehru University New Delhi Dr (Prof) Ajit Kumar Mohanty, Head of  Department of Psychology Utkal University Prof Bhaswati Patnaik, Education Specialist and Officer-in-Charge, UNICEF Odisha Lalita Patnaik  and Communications Specialist, UNICEF Odisha Alka Gupta participated in the discussion.

Setting the context to the media round-table Lalita Patnaik said Children who grow up healthy and educated, loved and protected, are more likely to develop into responsible, productive adults.

“However, we know that today millions of children across the world are losing out due to poor health, nutrition, and lack of positive stimulation in their lives. Investing in the early years of a child needs multi-disciplinary action: by parents; government, civil society and private sector, working together,” she said.

Professor Ajit Mohanty said,” The earliest years of life from birth to eight years of age, are the most important period of development when the brain is developing the fastest. Research shows that for optimum brain development children need good nutrition and health, as well as positive stimulation and protection from violence, abuse and neglect. The poorest and most disadvantaged children face the biggest risk of missing out. Poverty, malnutrition and psychosocial deprivations adversely impact the developing brain of the child.”

Prof. Bhaswati Patnaik spoke on the importance of knowledge management said,” Generating evidence and knowledge management of interventions that have worked are critical to understanding early childhood development.  The Department of Psychology, Utkal University is contributing towards this effort.”

She said the sustainable, long-term economic growth of any country nation is related to the overall development of its youngest citizens, its children.

“The price of not investing in these early years of children leads to poorer health, fewer learning skills and reduced ability to earn as well as greater burden on health, education and welfare services, promoting an inter-generational cycle of disadvantage and inequity,” she added.

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