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Early childhood development programs improve the lives of children around the world

Designing programs at scale can help overcome the effects of poverty and adversities on children’s development

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. - A new supplement in Pediatrics, edited by a researcher at nonprofit research institute RTI International provides the evidence that early childhood development programs are effective in promoting children's development in multiple low- and middle-income countries.

Children’s development is shaped by cultural context and interactions that begin prenatally and extend throughout childhood,” said the supplement’s editor Maureen Black, Ph.D., Distinguished Fellow, expert in early childhood development, and a founding member of RTI’s Center for Thriving Children. “Children have the best chance of reaching their full potential if they receive nurturing care, including adequate nutrition, responsive caregiving, protection from adversities and opportunities for learning, along with health and educational services.”    
Throughout the world, hundreds of millions of children experience poverty and adverse experiences in their communities or households that can disrupt their developmental progress, preventing them from reaching their developmental potential. By supporting parents through family-friendly policies, adequate wages, access to healthy food, and culturally and developmentally sensitive programs, children can overcome many of the challenges of poverty.  
In the United States, in 2021, 18% of children under age five years lived below the poverty line ($26,246 for two adults and two children).  Poverty combined with caregiver stress can undermine children’s exposure to nurturing and developmentally enhancing interactions and opportunities. Globally, more than 43% of children (250 million) under age five are at risk of not meeting their developmental potential.

“With unrealized human development, children’s ability to escape poverty and build fruitful careers and satisfying lives as adults can be jeopardized,” said Black.

The supplement includes papers on a wide representation of effective caregiving programs from Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and South America. The caregiving programs are delivered through multiple platforms, integrated into health and community services, and bundled with nutrition and violence prevention.  These innovative papers address topics related to program quality, including children in conflict zones and other extremely difficult settings, delivering services remotely and partnering with government and non-government agencies. A protocol paper by Katherine King and other RTI colleagues on the USAID-funded Cambodia Integrated Early Childhood Development Activity illustrates collaboration with the Royal Government of Cambodia.  Investing in the development of young children has long-term benefits of increasing the human capital of countries and promoting the attainment of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.  
Learn more about RTI’s Center for Thriving Children