Where Health and Education Meet, Children Win


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Every mom wants a healthy baby. And in the early days of a child’s life, parents and doctors understandably focus on how the baby’s physical development—is she gaining weight? Is he developing reflexes? Are they hitting all of the milestones of a healthy and thriving child?
But along with careful screenings for physical development, there is an excellent opportunity to tap into those same resources and networks to promote early cognitive, socio-emotional, and language development. This helps children everywhere have a strong start in life, ensuring that they are able to learn as they grow and fulfill their potential throughout childhood.

Save the Children works with partners around the world to integrate early childhood development interventions into programs in innovative ways—figuring out what works in local contexts and building an evidence base with governments to effectively support children and parents in the early years.
In El Salvador, for example, we worked jointly with the Ministry of Health and National Academy of Pediatricians to design a screening tool to measure development in children under five. This empowers doctors and health workers to screen for development alongside health check-ups. Now when parents take their children to “healthy child control’’ checkups, children receive a comprehensive developmental evaluation so that the medical staff can identify risks early and advise on age-appropriate activities. By encouraging parents to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months or mimic the babbling sounds that their two to four-month old baby makes, these health experts are putting parents and young children on the path to success.
Medical staff in communities throughout El Salvador have been trained on this screening tool, and among 100 health centers evaluated, Save the Children found that not only are medical staff using the screening tool, but 95% are using it properly. The program has been brought to schools nationwide, and the Ministry of Health expects to reach hundreds of thousands of children, from birth to age five, in the early years of implementation.
Non-state actors like Save the Children can work with governments to find innovative approaches that meet the specific needs of the local population, and government commitment can turn this approach into scalable, sustainable change for children. This type of partnership is a win-win: When all parties are willing to look at a problem from new angles, real and lasting solutions can help children in those critically important first few years of life.
Thanks to our early experience and success, Save the Children was invited to be part of the El Salvadoran government’s team to design the new national early childhood development curriculum. We are now, along with other organizations, supporting the national roll-out of the curriculum and providing feedback to the government on community and center-level implementation. 
Early childhood development is not limited to health, and it begins long before a child enters the classroom. Now, thanks to the leadership of the El Salvadoran government, the partnership of NGOs like Save the Children, and the support of health workers, parents and communities, children across the country are getting a stronger start in life—and the chance to build a better future for themselves.
Follow Carolyn Miles on Twitter: @carolynsave

Webcast: Stepping Up Early Childhood Development: An Investment for Life




Carolyn Miles

President and CEO, Save the Children

Join the Conversation

Sigamoney Naicker
December 18, 2014

Thanks for this inspiring article Carolyn. Early Childhood Education is critical if we want to improve the overall results of the education system. Equally important is the screening of children as they advance through their developmental physical milestones. Monitoring and checking these developments are vital signs for either intervention and other forms of support. South Africa has introduced screening in the formative years of schooling which is very important for overall performance of the system. This is indeed a substantial intervention in the lives of children. The country should be applauded for such a step. In El Salvador the interventions for the age of 5 is indeed an inspiration to the rest of the world. In these tough economic times around the world, the one thing that is critical for a better world is to take care of children. We can advance literacy and numeracy, throughput rates and the general well-being of education if we take care of the well-being of children in the formative years. Thank you for this article. It inspires everybody.

Lati Letsela
December 18, 2014

This is interesting information indeed. Is the screening tool accessible to anybody like me to introduce in Lesotho? Or is there anything I should do before I could access the tool?

Lati Letsela
December 18, 2014

This is interesting information indeed. Congratulations El Salvador!
Is the screening tool accessible to anybody, anywhere in the world to use in their respective countries? Can I access it to introduce it in Lesotho, for instance?