All Children Surviving and Thriving: Re-envisioning UNICEF’s Conceptual Framework of Malnutrition

Black, Maureen M., Chessa K. Lutter, Angela C. B. Trude. The Lancet Global Health, Vol. 8, Issue 6, June 2020
  • Early Childhood Development
  • Nutrition in Humanitarian Contexts
Research Articles
The authors of this commentary propose a revision to UNICEF’s malnutrition conceptual framework, adding responsive care, learning opportunities, and safety and security components to health and nutrition. They suggest that by combining these elements, the revised framework will better promote children’s growth, nutritional status, and neurodevelopment, helping children to thrive, not just survive.

Association between Malaria Infection and Early Childhood Development Mediated by Anemia in Rural Kenya

Milner, Erin M., Patricia Kariger, Amy J. Pickering, et al. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Vol. 17, February 2020
  • Early Childhood Development
  • Nutrition and Health Systems
Research Articles
Malaria is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality among children under 5 years and anemia is a well known morbidity resulting from malaria infection. This study in western Kenya found malaria infection significantly increased odds of risk for delays in gross motor, communication, and social-emotional development. Anemia was a significant mediator on the path between malaria infection and poor child development; however, the total effect of anemia was small (it explained only 9-16 percent of the risk), indicating the need for more research to understand the pathways between milder malaria infection and child development outcomes.

The Brain Architects Podcast: COVID-19 Special Edition: A Different World

Harvard University Center on the Developing Child, March 2020
  • Early Childhood Development
Events
Caregivers and health care workers caring for children through the current pandemic can listen to this series of podcasts on child development for advice and support. The podcasts cover a range of topics on how best to protect child development in the context of COVID-19, including the importance of caregiver mental health, how children can safely receive care from their pediatrician, and how to mitigate the effects on children as the virus disproportionately affects communities of color.

Breastfeeding and Prevention of Overweight in Children

WHO, UNICEF, March 2020
  • Early Childhood Development
  • Nutrition and Health Systems
Reports and Tools
Breastfeeding gives a baby a healthy start in life that extends into adulthood and can even impact nations as a whole. This advocacy brief describes the various benefits of breastfeeding, focusing on the reduction of childhood overweight risk and obesity that can extend into adulthood. On a larger scale, it advocates for breastfeeding as a means to reduce healthcare costs and support the development of nations.

The Case for Early Child Development Programmes (a Review of the Documentary "Brain Matters")

Mushtaq, Ammara, Farooq Kazi. The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health. September 25, 2019. "Brain Matters," Directed by Carlota Nelson, L9 Goodies, 2019. 72 min
  • Early Childhood Development
Reports and Tools
This “Reflections” article reviews the recently released documentary by Carlota Nelson, Brain Matters. The film focuses on the first three years of life when a baby’s brain is optimized for learning, highlighting evidence that child development interventions during this period yield lifetime developmental benefits. The film details four essential “brain boosting experiences” during this period, including responsive care, language stimulation, opportunities for play, and good nutrition. The review concludes that the film offers a compelling argument in support of ECD programs.

COVID-19 & Risks to Children's Health and Nutrition

World Vision, May 2020
  • Early Childhood Development
  • Nutrition in Humanitarian Contexts
  • Food Systems
Reports and Tools
Although children are not in a high-risk category for COVID-19, they still suffer indirect health and nutrition impacts due to disruptions in health care and food systems. This brief provides recommendations for immediate actions that governments, UN agencies, donors, nongovernmental organizations, private actors, and faith leaders should take to protect health care and food systems and reduce the indirect effects that COVID-19 will have on these vulnerable communities.

Diet Quality Over Time Is Associated with Better Development in Rural Nepali Children

Miller, Miller, Laurie C., Sumanta Neupane, Neena Joshi, et al. Journal of Maternal and Child Nutrition, e12964, February 2020  
  • Early Childhood Development
  • Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning
Research Articles
To better understand the links between diet quality and developmental status in resource-poor settings, the authors of this study explored different aspects of dietary quality and child development among children in a western Nepali community. Analysis of dietary diversity, animal-source food, and “Ages and Stages Questionnaire” scores led researchers to recommend that programs targeting child development also consider home environmental quality along with long-term diet quality.

Do Effects of Early Life Interventions on Linear Growth Correspond to Effects on Neurobehavioural Development? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Prado, Elizabeth L., Leila M. Larson, Katherine Cox, et al. The Lancet, Vol. 7, Issue 10, October 10, 2019
  • Early Childhood Development
Research Articles
Linear growth and child development are often assumed to have common determinants. The authors assess this assumption through a systematic review and meta-analysis of interventions focused on length-for-age or height-for-age Z scores and child development outcomes for children 0-5 years old and during pregnancy. The researchers found that the determinants of linear growth and neurodevelopment are only partly shared; therefore, interventions should target determinants of both, if children are to thrive.

Early Childhood Development and Stunting: Findings from the MAL-ED Birth Cohort Study in Bangladesh

Nahar et al. Maternal & Child Nutrition. 2019, June 25:e12864
  • Early Childhood Development
Research Articles
The global early childhood development and nutrition fields lack robust research in low-income contexts on the link between stunting and child development. A recent study in Bangladesh, where 36 percent of under‐5 children are stunted, explored the differences in child development between non-stunted and stunted. The study found that stunted children had notably lower early childhood development scores than their non‐stunted peers on language, cognitive, social-emotional, and motor scales. In Bangladesh, stunting in young children is associated with poor developmental outcomes.

Early Childhood Development Through a Gender Lens: Designing Policies that Work for the Whole Family

Center for Global Development, December 2019
  • Early Childhood Development
  • Food Systems
Events
The links between early childhood development and women’s economic empowerment were the subject of the fifth annual Birdsall House Conference on Women. The event gathered researchers, practitioners, and policymakers to explore evidence-based solutions that benefit mothers, older sisters, caregivers, and children in a variety of areas, including nutrition and health.

Early Estimates of the Indirect Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Maternal and Child Mortality in Low-Income and Middle-Income Countries: A Modelling Study

Roberton, Timothy, Emily D. Carter, Victoria B. Chou, et al. The Lancet Global Health, May 2020
  • Early Childhood Development
  • Nutrition in Humanitarian Contexts
  • Food Systems
  • Nutrition and Health Systems
Research Articles
The authors of this study estimate maternal and child deaths that may result as an indirect consequence of COVID-19 and the disruption the pandemic may cause to health systems and the food supply. Although they make assumptions that lead to a wide range of anticipated outcomes, the common conclusion indicates a devastating increase in maternal and child deaths if disruptions to health care and food access persist. Their estimates are as high as 1,157,000 additional child deaths and 567,000 additional maternal deaths over the next six months.

Facility Readiness and Counseling during Antenatal Care and the Relationship with Early Breastfeeding in Haiti and Malawi

Mallick, Lindsay, Rukundo K. Benedict, Wenjuan Wang. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, Vol. 20, p. 325, May 2020
  • Early Childhood Development
  • Nutrition and Health Systems
Research Articles
This study uses data from service provision assessment surveys in Haiti and Malawi to examine the relationship between indicators of the breastfeeding-related health service environment. Researchers found that while more than 95 percent of facilities in Haiti and Malawi stated that they regularly provide breastfeeding counseling during antenatal care (ANC), only 4–10 percent of patients received counseling. Although mothers were more likely to initiate breastfeeding within an hour after birth if they had received breastfeeding counseling during ANC, they were only likely to receive counseling if their providers had recently undergone training. These findings show that regular provider training could help improve rates of early initiation of breastfeeding.

Factors Associated with Child Stunting, Wasting, and Underweight in 35 Low- and Middle-Income Countries

Li, Zhihui, Rockli Kim, Sebastian Vollmer, et al. JAMA Network Open, Vol. 3, No. 4, e203386, April 2020
  • Early Childhood Development
  • Nutrition and Health Systems
Research Articles
Data from the 2007–2008 Demographic and Health Surveys were used to assess how 26 factors are associated with child stunting, underweight, and wasting. The authors conclude that short maternal height, lack of maternal education, poorest household wealth, low maternal body mass index, and short paternal height were the strongest factors associated with stunting, underweight, and wasting. Thus, they suggest addressing poverty reduction, women’s education, and household nutrition programs in strategies to reduce child undernutrition.  

Family Friendly Policies: Redesigning the Workplace of the Future

UNICEF, July 2019
  • Early Childhood Development
  • Social and Behavior Change
Reports and Tools
Most workplaces around the world have not yet adopted family-friendly policies. Yet such policies can play an important role in supporting the overall wellbeing of families, helping them excel professionally, financially, academically, and in achieving lifelong health. This policy brief from UNICEF’s Department of Early Childhood Development recommends four specific policies, including one that promotes breastfeeding support and highlights the importance of lifelong nutrition and gender equality. 

Global Launch: A Future for the World's Children

World Health Organization, UNICEF, Lancet Commission, February 2020
  • Early Childhood Development
  • Food Systems
  • Nutrition and Health Systems
Events
The WHO, UNICEF, and the Lancet Commission released a groundbreaking report highlighting the dramatic threats to children’s health, development, and wellbeing due to existential threats, including  climate change and predatory marketing of harmful products such as alcohol, tobacco, sugar-sweetened beverages, and breastmilk substitutes. The report launch highlights the key findings and recommendations on what can be done to coordinate global action to address these threats while engaging young people in the solutions to promote sustainable development.

Household Food Insecurity and Early Childhood Development: Longitudinal Evidence from Ghana

Aurino, Elisabetta, Sharon Wolf, Edward Tsinigo. PLoS ONE, 15(4): e0230965, April 2020
  • Early Childhood Development
Research Articles
An analysis of longitudinal information on preschool-age children and their households in Ghana informs this study. Authors focus on the relationship between three levels of food-insecure households and early childhood development domains across three years. They conclude that children from households with transitory food insecurity—food insecurity that only occurs in one wave—experienced decreased numeracy, short-term memory, self-regulation, and literacy. Literacy skills continued to decrease for children from persistently food-insecure households or households that experience food insecurity in two or all waves. The authors believe that these findings can help stakeholders develop multi-sectoral early-childhood strategies.

Human Resources and Curricula Content for Early Child Development Implementation: Multicountry Mixed Methods Evaluation

Kohli-Lynch, Maya, Victoria Ponce Hardy, Raquel Bernal Salazar, et al. BMJ Open, Vol. 10, Issue 4, April 2020
  • Early Childhood Development
Research Articles
Researchers evaluated 32 responsive caregiving and early learning projects in 17 low- and middle-income countries on 4 continents to identify human resources and curricula critical for program implementation. Human resources themes that emerged range from worker characteristics and incentives to training and supervision. Curricula themes that emerged include flexible adaptation of content and delivery, fidelity, and intervention duration. The authors suggest that stakeholders pay special attention to these themes when designing and implementing programs.

The Implications of Three Major New Trials for the Effect of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene on Childhood Diarrhea and Stunting: A Consensus Statement

Cumming, O., B.F. Arnold, R. Ban, et al. BMC Med 17, 173, 2019
  • Early Childhood Development
  • Nutrition in Humanitarian Contexts
  • Food Systems
  • Knowledge Management
  • Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning
  • Nutrition and Health Systems
  • Social and Behavior Change
Research Articles
With the results from the SHINE and WASH Benefits trials demonstrating limited impact of basic water, sanitation, hygiene (WASH) on childhood stunting, what role does WASH now play in multi-sectoral nutrition programming? Following the studies, the World Health Organization and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation convened experts to reach a consensus on five key messages in response to the new evidence. This consensus statement details those five messages.

Improving Early Childhood Development: WHO Guideline

World Health Organization, March 2020
  • Early Childhood Development
  • Nutrition and Health Systems
Reports and Tools
Systematic reviews of available evidence inform this guideline, which provides recommendations for improving child development within the health sector. Key recommendations include promoting responsive care for early learning, integrating responsive care and nutrition interventions, and supporting maternal mental health. A central theme throughout: supporting parents as they provide essential care for their children to promote optimal development.

Improving Parenting Practices and Development for Young Children in Rwanda: Results from a Randomized Control Trial

Abimpaye, Monique, Caroline Dusabe, Jean Providence Nzabonimpa, Richard Ashford, Lauren Pisani. International Journal of Behavioral Development. July 16, 2019
  • Early Childhood Development
Research Articles
The first years of life have long-term impacts on children’s development across language, cognitive, social-emotional, and motor domains, yet evidence on critical parent-young child interactions in low-income settings is scarce. A cluster randomized control trial in Rwanda compared the outcomes of light-touch and full-intervention 17-week courses on parenting skills and child development for families with children aged 6–36 months. The results revealed that children in the light-touch and full-intervention groups scored significantly higher on early childhood development scales across all domains than the control group.