NIEER policy update recommends ECEC partnerships with allied health professionals

by Freya Lucas

January 08, 2019

America’s National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) has issued a policy update recommending early childhood education and care (ECEC) partnerships with health, dental, mental health, developmental, vision, and hearing professionals to support better outcomes for all children, but particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

 

Other recommendations in the Early Childhood Education: Three Pathways to Better Health policy update include:

 

  • Every nation (and state) should prioritise high-quality early learning opportunities and other supports for early childhood development

 

  • Because health habits are formed at an early age, early education programs should be required to provide health, nutrition, and exercise education

 

  • To combat obesity, programs should prescribe desirable meals, snacks, and exercise; and, when needed, offer nutrition supplementation to prevent and reverse effects of malnutrition

 

  • ECEC curriculum should include an emphasis on supporting children’s social-emotional development

 

  • More health-related early education research is needed.

 

The policy update reviewed a broad research base from a variety of fields such as economics, education, psychology and medicine, finding that children reap significant health benefits from attending ECEC programs.

 

The pathways to positive health outcomes as associated with attending a quality ECEC program may be direct, through services provided to the child, and/or indirect, through services provided to their parents and cognitive and socioemotional skills developed through ECEC programs

 

The final recommendations of the policy update are:

 

  • Begin parenting education early in pregnancy with the degree of support based on risk of poor health and developmental outcomes.

 

  • Provide screenings and referrals for health, dental, mental health, developmental, vision, and hearing in early care and education programs or facilitate access to these services through other means.

 

  • Include health, physical activity, and development of healthy eating habits in early education curriculum, as such habits are formed at an early age. Programs also can help families implement healthy changes at home.

 

  • Offer nutrition supplementation through ECEC to prevent malnutrition where needed.

 

  • Include supports for children’s social/emotional development, including self-regulation, preschool curriculum in order to reduce future risky behaviour.

 

  • Support more health related early education research. Both short- and long-term health outcomes should be included in evaluations of impacts of early childhood programs as well as benefit-cost analyses

 

The policy update can be accessed in full here

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