LAC nations urged to redouble early intervention efforts

28 Oct 15

Early childhood programmes are key to reducing poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean but are too often under-funded and poor quality, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has said.

“Development in early childhood casts a long shadow all the way into adulthood,” said Norbert Schady, principal economic advisor to the IDB’s social sector.

“Spending on effective programmes for young children has cascading positive impacts in later life and is a powerful tool for upwards social mobility.”

The IDB’s report, published yesterday, noted that countries in the region had made big strides in reducing child poverty and improving health and school attendance. But it said government-funded services were of insufficient quality and total early childhood spending ‒ including health, education, housing and social protection ‒ amounted to less than 6% of total spending in the region.

However, greater spending alone is not enough, and the IDB called for a shift in public policy priorities to ensure these investments are of a high quality.

For example, while many governments in the region make the construction of new day care centres a priority in their social spending on early childhood development, the report found that home visit interventions produced positive effects on cognitive skills around 10 times larger than day care programmes.

The report cited a case study in Jamaica, which found that children who benefited from parenting intervention in the first two years of their life earned 25% more in adulthood than children who did not. They were also less likely to become depressed and engage in criminal activity.

The IDB is urging governments in the LAC region to rethink how and when they intervene in early childhood and divert more spending from other priorities to the cause. 

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