Supporting families helps children thrive

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Boosting children’s development by providing better support for families has been proposed by team of researchers, including Professor Mark Hanson from the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre.

A review of current evidence on approaches to promoting children’s development, published in the Lancet, has shown that supporting families helps give children the best possible start in life.

Covering all aspects of caring for a child, including good nutrition and hygiene, interacting well with the baby and ensuring they stay safe, the review evaluated 40 different approaches and identified 15 that were successful in promoting the healthy development of babies and toddlers.

Starting right

Babies born into a stable home, with good nutrition and a caring environment tend toreach their developmental milestones, such as walking and talking, at a younger age. The first few years of a baby’s life are a particularly important time, when key brain regions develop, they forma bond with their mother and learn essential skills.

Good nutrition for both the mother and child during this period is essential to give babies the best possible start. During pregnancy, women can be given advice on which supplements to take, foods to avoid, and how to eat a healthy diet. And after birth, breastfeeding and a healthy diet for the child can make a big difference.

Better support       

The researchers discovered 15 different approaches that help to improve children’s early development, and recommend ways that these could be introduced on a large scale.

If these approaches could be integrated into the existing care the child receives, they are more likely to be effective. This is why they recommend combining support for families, healthcare providers and schools, to cover the entire period from early pregnancy to when the child is five years old.

By looking at all aspects of childhood development, they hope these new services will help to give families the support they need to give their child a great start.

Posted on Friday 17 February 2017