Barbados is committed to ensuring that the healthy cognitive, social and emotional development of young children receives the highest priority.
This was revealed on Monday by Senior Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Karen Broome, as she delivered the feature address at the opening ceremony of an early childhood development training workshop, sponsored by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Dr. Broome quoted a World Bank statistic that every dollar spent on pre-school education earned between $6 and $17 of public benefits, in the form of a healthier and more productive workforce with fewer wrongdoers.
She said: “We recognise that reaching children in a holistic manner and incorporating health, nutrition, water and sanitation, education and interventions that support their full development is crucial.”
The health official noted that what happened to a child in the early years was critical for the child’s developmental trajectory and life course.
Many factors influenced how children reached their full potential, she said, and these included their families’ income status, geographic location, ethnicity, disability, religion and sexual orientation.
Dr. Broome explained that children who experienced good nutrition and health, and consistent loving care and encouragement to learn in the early years of life did better at school, were healthier, had higher earnings and participated more in society.
This was especially important for children in poverty, she added. “Early interventions for disadvantaged children lead to improvements in children’s survival, health, growth and cognitive and social development.”
The Senior Medical Officer stressed the important role played by health services, health workers and community providers in promoting the development of young children and she praised PAHO, WHO and UNICEF for sponsoring the two-week workshop which would provide essential training in early childhood development.