"A Vital and Productive Society with a Prosperous and sustainable future is built on a foundation of healthy child development." -- Harvard Center on the Developing Child
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Overview: Welcome back to the blog! In this post, I will be explaining why early childhood and early life are VITAL to lifelong health through a source from Harvard University. I will be defining 3 foundations of early development as well as discussing 4 research findings presented by this InBrief on lifelong development.
Note: This source is one of many that was provided to me through my college courses. I highly encourage any new readers to explore this post because this source provides helpful information to parents and teachers on healthy development. Happy reading!
To read the full InBrief, CLICK HERE
Child development is complicated.
There are innumerable factors that can shape a child’s development for better or for worse and predict their outcome in life. It is often intimidating to teachers and parents to think about their influence and how their actions are affecting their child/student.
I mean, I was terrified to hear from my professor (as she so bluntly yet truthfully put it) that “Every day, we choose to either grow or shrink brains.” Crazy, right?!
Yet, our everyday actions, mannerisms, and behaviors are just one of the many factors that influence a child’s development.
Harvard Center on the Developing Child (HCDC) identifies healthy development as a causal chain of “policies and programs across the public and private sectors affect the capacities of caregivers and communities to strengthen three foundations of healthy development.”
In other words, a child’s development can be impacted on both a grand/societal scale and individual scale. Confused? Let’s start with the basics.
3 Foundations of early Development
Here are the three most fundamental components that will lead to healthy development in early life, according to the HCDC.
Together, these three components trigger physiological adaptations that lead to lifelong outcomes and success. As I learned in class, a child's relationships; environment; and nutrition are vital to their lifelong health and make up some of the most important themes in early childhood education, development, and policy decisions.
4 Research Findings
Similar to the "Quiet Crisis" breakdown from last week, there are multiple research findings that provide additional information on the impact of early life on lifelong health.
1. Biology of Health
The HCDC has found that early experiences and environment influence genetic predispositions, which have the ability to impact a child's behavior, learning and health. This means that some experiences, especially trauma, have the ability to change how certain genes are expressed. In particular, the genes that influence a child's behavior or learning abilities.
Under this umbrella of the "biology of health," there are a few scientific conclusions:
2. The Foundations of Health
The Foundations of Health (as discussed earlier in this post) help to "establish a context within which the early roots of physical and mental well-being are nourished."
These roots include
For more details, see the full PDF
3. Influence of Caregivers and Communities
The caregivers and community that surround a child have the ability to encourage healthy development with the proper support. There are three primary capacities of caregivers and communities to promote health early development, which include. . .
1. Time and commitment
"Time and commitment" refers to both the quality and quantity of time spent with children and the assignment of responsibility of raising and supporting a child.
2. Financial, psychological, and institutional resources
For a full list of resources, see the full PDF
3. Skills and knowledge
"Skills and knowledge" refers to the education and training of caregivers, teachers, and communities and their capability of raising/educating a child and creating policies to best support young children.
4. Influence of Public Policy and Programs
"Public and private sector policies and programs can strengthen the foundations of health by enhancing the capacities of caregivers and communities in the multiple settings in which children develop."
In other words, public policy decisions have the ability to impact every aspect of child care, including (but not limited to) child welfare, early intervention, and family economic stability.
For the full list, see the PDF
To summarize all of the main points in this post and in the InBrief, study the diagram below.
Image Source: https://46y5eh11fhgw3ve3ytpwxt9r-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/InBrief-The-Foundations-of-Lifelong-Health-1.pdf
I hope this post was educational and helpful. Although this post was content-heavy, it addresses a topic on which I believe the public has a right to be educated.
Tune in next week to learn about the impact of race on health and education!
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Meghan Hesterman (she/her) is a child advocate and education blogger. While a student at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD), she created Journal of a Future Teacher to share her journey in becoming an early childhood teacher.