WHO and UNICEF have published a manual for the provision of early childhood development support to young children and their families through the health care system. The advocacy tool provides a package of material under the heading, “Care for Child Development: Improving the Care of Young Children”. It recognises that in most countries the health-care system reaches more young children and their families than any other service, and advocates for the use of the primary health care setting to strengthen families’ efforts to promote children’s development.
Through these efforts, the mandate of the health system should include the active promotion of better growth and development.
The manual provides tools to build the capacity of health-care service providers to observe children and their primary caregivers, to counsel family members on activities for strengthening the relationship between the child and caregiver, and to offer advice on appropriate play and communication activities to stimulate the child’s growth and healthy development. The participant manual provides a basic but essential collection of information on ECD and interventions that have been proven to optimise this development at different ages of the infant. It also provides detail on the kind of support the health-care worker can provide to the caregiver to ensure that the infant and young child’s development is optimised through the relationship with his or her caregiver. The manual includes a set of tools to support health-care workers, including counselling cards that the health-care worker can refer to when counselling caregivers on play and communication activities, a checklist to assess the child’s care, facilitator notes, a guide for clinical practice, and a framework for monitoring and evaluation.
The “training” provided to the health-care worker includes simple but effective interventions to be recommended in the health-care worker’s interactions with the mother and child – for example, making eye contact and communicate with the infant from the first few days of life; stimulating the infant’s natural desire to follow and reach out for colourful and safe objects used in the house; using homemade toys like a shaker rattle; and aiding the young child to learn to name things and count through simple games and repetition.
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