Global Children’s Initiative: How the US, Mexico, Canada and Brazil Have Teamed up to Protect Young Children’s Brain Development

According to the Center for Developing Child at Harvard University, “recent reports estimate that 200 million children fail to reach their full developmental potential by age 5. Drawing on their work in North America, the Center on the Developing Child works globally to build a broader movement to achieve breakthrough outcomes for children around the world” (Center for Developing Child, 2018).  To help poverty-stricken populations across the world, the Center for Developing Child decided to coordinate methods to support development in children around the world.

The center for Developing Child (2018), has coordinated efforts with Mexico, Canada, and Brazil to help children and their families from poor economic backgrounds learn strategies to support child development which can multiply the effects of investments in child survival, health, education, and economic development.  In addition, they strive to teach the importance of protecting children from significant adversity, in addition to providing them with enriched learning opportunities.

One initiative which is a culmination of the US, Mexico, Brazil, and Canda is called “Bringing the ECD Field Together for an Innovation Agenda” (The Center for Developing Child, 2018).  In Mexico, the Center and U-ERRE sought to create an innovation cluster in Mexico, they also recognized an opportunity to strengthen an emerging national ECD sector. Thus, the groundwork for the Aceleradora de Innovación para la Primera Infancia (Projectos in Mexico, 2018) was laid by first conducting a series of site visits with local partners to gain a more complete understanding of the Mexican ECD landscape, and then leveraging subsequent insights to inform the cluster’s development strategy and design. Although this initial phase required more time and effort than originally anticipated, the groundwork had an unexpected and highly positive result—a ripple effect on Mexico’s ECD landscape that has advanced a national ECD community and captured the attention of senior leaders in the field (Projectos in Mexico, 2018).

One such program is called Mexico: Aceleradora de Innovación para la Primera Infancia (“the Aceleradora”) – Pilot Projects.  This program brought together 40 Mexicans specialized in early childhood, forming multidisciplinary teams. The participants carried out various ethnographic studies to detect specific needs of vulnerable communities within the national territory, resulting in the design of 12 proposals based on the FOI methodology, which were evaluated by an international team of experts, resulting in 3 projects selected to be anchored and guided by the FOI team for 2 years.  One insight that I have gained was that in order for the team in Mexico to gather enough information in their studies they went into the homes of every family they could and sat down with them trying to figure out their exact needs.  In the video provided by The Center for Developing Child featured many of the scientists who conducted the ethnographic studies.

brain_architecture-card

Another insight that I have gained through The Center for Developing Child (2018) is that Improving the physical and mental health of a society rests on ensuring that early learners are free from adversity and stress which can interrupt their developing health from a biological and cognitive perspective (Center on the Developing Child, 2010). The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (2010), examines how external stressors like exposure to cigarette smoke, adverse experiences like physical abuse or war, and lower socioeconomic status can result in adult diseases, interruptions in brain development and psychological disorders in adulthood. The center also examines a child’s environment and how responsive relationships, secure attachments, emotional responsiveness, and nutrition play a role in the overall health of a child (Center on the Developing Child, 2010). “A child’s environment of relationships can affect lifelong outcomes in emotional health, regulation of stress response systems, immune system competence, and the early establishment of health-related behaviors” (p.8).

In Mexico City, a series of parallel workshops for young pregnant women and their mothers or mothers-in-law that seeks to strengthen the relationship between them and build a supportive caregiving environment for infants. One such program is called the “Wellness in your Pregnancy: An intervention to reduce stress in the pregnant adolescent and to favor the quality of the interaction with the unborn baby. Through workshops and activities, the grandmothers are integrated into a program of care for pregnant young women, many of them single mothers” (The Center for Developing Child, 2018). It seeks to reduce the toxic stress within the system that surrounds the baby. Positive parenting practices will be encouraged, defining the roles of both the grandmother and the mother.

References:

Center on the Developing Child. (2010). The Foundations of Lifelong Health Are Built in Early Childhood. https://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/the-foundations-of-lifelong-health-are-built-in-early-childhood/.

Center on the Developing Child (2018). (http://developingchild.harvard.edu/about/what-we-do/global-work/)

 

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