Developmental health - sample page

3.1 Investing in early child development

Making the case for investing in early child development must stand on a solid rationale. How the rationale is communicated matters too.

Listen to Dr. Fraser Mustard explain the importance of investing in early child development.

VIEW Mustard- why invest in early development (2:23)

Making the case

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The research rationale for investing in early child development comes from: the biology of early brain development, the impact of early experiences on overall health and well-being, factors related to individual and population health, and the economics of healthy populations and successful societies.

Jacques Van der Gaag, a leading global economist advocates a “level playing field”. Early child development affects education, health, the social capital, and the overall equality of societies that is key for stable societies and economic growth.

How might you use this slide to make the case for investing in a program that supports early human development?

How might you use some of the material on Developmental Health, p. 2.4?

While it seems like common sense to say it is better to prevent a problem from occurring rather than trying to repair it later on, many countries’ policies and programs don’t seem to reflect this approach. Dr. Neal Halfon, from University of California Los Angeles, makes the argument for early investments that set life trajectories on a positive path and prevent problems.

VIEW Halfon – preventing problems by investing early (2:11)

Listen to Dr. Fraser Mustard discuss why investing in early child development is the best way to support healthy and competent populations.

View | Mustard – supporting healthy populations (1:23) – Not available in this preview

Using data from Sweden and Cuba, Mustard goes on to explain how high quality ECD programs that support language and literacy as well as maternal and child health go a long way to creating safe and stable societies.

View | Mustard – Sweden and Cuba data (2:04) – not available in this preview

Why does Mustard say the education system cannot solve the problems of literacy?

What are some ways early language can be supported?

How exactly does the Cuba example support investing in ECD?

International example

In the next clip, Dr. Mary Eming Young, formerly at the World Bank, explains how understanding the economics of investing in early child development makes sense from the perspective of donors.

VIEW Young – donors’ investment (3:10)

The government of Kenya has recognized the return investing in ECD can make. In the next clip, Leah Rotich, Senior Deputy Director of Basic Education in Kenya (2007), explains how Kenya is making investments in early child development programs.

VIEW Rotich- Kenya ECD investments (3:16)


Communicating the case for investing in early childhood education is critical. To be effective, key points must be stated clearly and concisely. An excellent example is the work of the Consultative Group on Early Childhood Care and Development (CG), a global network of partner agencies involved in ECD. CG has outlined four key strategies for investing in early childhood initiatives.

The Consultative Group has developed supporting papers for each cornerstone, as well as some illustrative videos filmed in different parts of the world.

To close the gap between what we know about early child development and what we do often depends on how we communicate evidence and experiences. Listen to Kerry McCuaig and Dr. Charles Pascal explain.

VIEW McCuaig – communication (2:49)
VIEW Pascal – communication (1:05)

Dan Keating recommends aiming for a higher comfort level with the biology of early child development.

VIEW Keating – biology (2:00)

Click on the link below to see more examples from SECD resources.