Inclusive Child and Adolescent Development
In the last two decades, many countries have significantly reduced mortality thanks to Reproductive Maternal Neonatal Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCAH) policies and programs. Although there is still much to be done to reduce high maternal and child mortality in many countries, this success calls now for a sharp increase in the focus on "Beyond Survival" policies and programs in RMNCAH. New data shows that developmental and learning disabilities and lack of mental health support through childhood, adolescence, and maternity/paternity are increasingly contributing to the disability component of the Global Burden of Disease (GBD), particularly Years Lived with Disability (YLDs).
However, disability policies and programs are not included in regular work streams of current health, education and social programs. Furthermore, there is fragmentation and lack of coordination between and within sectors. Programs that promote Early Childhood Development (ECD), Healthy Adolescent Behaviors, Global Mental Health and Disability policies work separately and most of the time, without representation from the disability community.
We can do better. Longitudinal studies have shown that programs combining early nutrition with "early stimulation" for all children, as well as high quality inclusive preschools are among the best policy investments in development. Global trends are looking at initiatives that promote a “best start for kids”, strengthening their safety network so that they arrive better prepared to schools, and best practices for schools so that they are ready to receive, support, and embrace all children as well. Sustaining early development with effective health and education programs for adolescents and through adulthood, ensuring transition to the workforce while embracing gender equity, is essential.
Addressing the "Beyond Survival" challenges in RMNCAH requires a concerted effort of governments, donors, health and education professionals, community leaders, and families to ensure effective early years inclusion of all children and adolescents. We in CHD are passionate about supporting this growing priority, embracing early years into adolescence as a continuum. We do so through two areas of expertise:
Inclusive policies and program design and implementation are critical for vulnerable children who show early signs of developmental delays or learning difficulties. Most recent estimates of UNICEF’s Early Childhood Development Index (ECDI) show that 36.8% of children aged 3 and 4 years in Low and Middle Income Countries (LMICs) show cognitive and social emotional developmental delays.
Country leaders designing and implementing children’s early years policies and programs still face mayor challenges in coordinating their efforts with an inclusive framework that also embraces children who have fragile beginnings (e.g. premature infants who might develop learning difficulties and disabilities, children who show early difficulties with executive functions and self-regulation, and autistic children). LMICs struggle to implement early detection programs and offer mainstreamed habilitative services during the first 1,000 days. Furthermore, most ECD and Adolescence health programs have a sector tunnel approach notwithstanding the fact that many interdisciplinary programs have been implemented by private organizations (NGOs mostly) usually on small-scale basis. Many countries struggle to find ways to make large-scale multi-sectoral approaches work (i.e. combination of effective education, nutrition and infant, childhood and adolescent mental health) because of the inherent challenges of institutional collaboration.
CHD provides advice to policy makers, program managers and donors on program design and implementation on inclusive ECD, Adolescence and Youth policy, pilot design and scaling up, and community-tested approaches that mainstream the promotion of inclusive child & adolescent development, gender equity, and parent-child mental health in primary health care, schools and transition to work force. We do this in collaboration with those who will benefit from services, embracing youth participation and collaboration with the disability community, nothing about us without us.
During the last decade there has been significant progress in identifying evidence-based programs that incorporate the latest advances of neuroscience and proven community based approaches to respectfully promote healthy development of children and adolescents with fragile beginnings (e.g. premature infants who might develop learning difficulties and disabilities, children who show early difficulties with executive functions and self-regulation, and autistic children). There is a substantial scarcity of health professionals and educators who are well-trained on how to support families who have children and adolescents with developmental delays, learning difficulties and disabilities with an inclusive, evidence based framework in LMICs. There is also very little training for families and parents, particularly in developing countries, in a way that fits their language and cultural needs.
CHD brings together a diverse group of experts that have developed learning opportunities for health care providers, educators, and parents through previous initiatives. Our members have the expertise to set up effective distance learning interactive opportunities, including training of trainers and mentoring models that can responde to the learning needs of professionals working in rural areas of LMICs at lower costs for everyone.
The strength of our capacity building model relies on building the curriculum together with the final users, bringing down language and cultural barriers, introducing reflective practice and supervision, interdisciplinary collaboration, bridging theory to practice and local implementation, integrating the latest advances from neuroscience, evidence, and contributions from the disability community.
We invite you to contact us to share the learning needs of your organization and explore collaboration.