The foundation for healthy development of the biological systems necessary to enable children to thrive in adulthood is health from the very beginning. This includes the mother’s well-being prior to becoming pregnant. Children benefit from positive early experiences that provide a solid foundation for building a strong brain architecture. This supports a wide range of skills and learning abilities throughout their lives.
Why is early health important?
Biology of Health explains how environmental and personal influences can “get under the skin” to interact with genetic predispositions.
“Early experiences literally are built into our bodies, whether it’s for good or bad.”
These physiological changes or disruptions can have a lasting impact on learning, behavior, and overall well-being. Science has shown us:
Our early experiences create biological memories that influence our development.
The body can become more sensitive to toxic stress from significant adversity. This can affect the structure of the brain, the cardiovascular system and metabolic regulatory control.
These physiological disturbances can last well into adulthood, causing permanent impairments to both mental and physical health.
The Three Foundations of Lifelong Health
Three foundations for lifelong health have been identified through extensive scientific research. They are found in the early years of childhood.
Stable and responsive relationships that are stable. These relationships provide children with a stable, nurturing, and protective environment that allows them to interact with adults. This helps them develop adaptive capabilities that support learning and well-regulated stress responses.
You can have safe and supportive environments, both built and chemical. These environments provide safe and supportive places for children and their families.
Sound and proper nutrition. This includes healthy eating habits and food intake, starting with the preconception nutritional status of the future mother.
Promoting health through community and caregiver support
To ensure that children get a healthy start in life, it is important to have the support of their families, early childhood program staff, neighbourhoods, voluntary associations, parent workplaces, and neighborhood leaders. There are three types of caregivers and community capacity that support children’s health.
Commitment and time. It includes how caregivers spend their time with children, and how they are assigned and accepted responsibility for child health. This includes the way that communities adopt and enforce laws and regulations that impact child well-being.
These include financial, psychological, as well as institutional resources. These include the ability of caregivers to buy goods and services, as well as their mental and physical health and child-rearing skills. It is also important to have access to community services and organizations that support healthy development of children, as well as supporting structures like schools, parks, afterschool programs, child care facilities, schools and other such amenities.
Knowledge and skills. The ability to support children is affected by caregivers’ education, training, interactions and personal experiences. The political and organizational abilities of communities also affect their ability build systems that are beneficial to children and families.
Programs and Policies that Improve Health Outcomes
There are many policies and programs that can improve the health of families and children.
“People love to claim that children’s well-being is the nation’s wealth. But until we start acting on these ideas, we will not be able to create a healthier population or a more prosperous society.”
Both the private and public sectors can offer programs and policies that benefit children. They enhance the capabilities of caregivers and the communities where they live. Relevant policies include administrative and legislative actions that impact public health, child care, early education, child welfare and child welfare, early intervention and family economic stability, community, housing, environment protection, and primary care. In addition to supporting workplace policies, the private sector can play a significant role in strengthening families’ ability to raise competent and healthy children.
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