Child stunting, measured as low height for age, is associated with numerous health, cognition and productivity risks with potential intergenerational impacts.
and the pace of decline remains slow and uneven.
In Sindh, for example, things have worsened over time, with one in two children now stunted!
The policy response to this enormous health crisis has been almost entirely centered on interventions at the household level—reducing open defecation (OD), improving household behaviors like child feeding and care practices and food intake.
A recent World Bank report, which I co-authored, suggests that a major shift is this policy focus is required for significant progress on child stunting.
The report begins by showing that .
This has improved dietary diversity, even among the poorest, and increased household investment in a range of assets, including toilets within the home.
This has, in turn, led to a major drop in OD, from 29 percent to just 13 percent. Curative care has also expanded, with the mainstreaming of basic health units and the lady health worker program.
Tuberculosis is the #1 infectious disease killer in the world. It kills more people annually than HIV/AIDS. Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by bacteria that most often affect the lungs. TB is spread from person to person through the air (coughing, sneezing, etc). Each year, almost 10 million people develop TB, at least 1 million of which are children.
Tuberculosis is curable and preventable. However, since it’s most affected areas are in developing countries, international assistance and action is critical to help control, contain and eliminate this disease. To raise awareness about TB, especially its effect on children, the campaign “Louder than TB” produced this short - yet hard to watch - video:
Source: TB Alliance
Economists are skeptical bunch, but they seem convinced of the value of interventions in early childhood (0-6 years) and, conversely, the multiple, long-term and often irreversible effects of the failure to provide infants with nutrition, health care and stimulation.
For instance, Norbert Schady and Chris Paxson’s found that whereas at age 3 all children (from a sample in Ecuador) had the same vocabulary score, by age 6, children from the poorest quartile scored 50 percent of those from the richest quartile.
Meanwhile, scientists studying the development of the human brain (and body) are reaching the same conclusion.
In a fascinating presentation, Jack Shonkoff describes the process of brain development that is interrupted, sometimes permanently, by adversity in early childhood. Overproduction of hormones associated with stress can leave toxic effects.
He also shows how human contact (as opposed to contact with inanimate objects or no contact) can significantly improve a child’s cognitive development. A group of pre-schoolers were exposed to a nanny who spoke to them in Chinese for a few hours a week; in a couple of years the children were speaking fluent Chinese. Another group was exposed to a high-quality video in Chinese, but they didn’t develop any speaking ability in the language.