Date: 09-12-2023

Celebrating One Year of Transformative Change: Health Systems for Early Child Development Initiative

Alongside partners UNICEF Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia (ECARO) and WHO Regional Office for Europe (WHO/Europe), ISSA celebrated the Health Systems for Early Child Development initiative's transformative first year.

In its inaugural year, the initiative has assisted thousands of policymakers, health workers, and health care service planners in Europe and Central Asia, in their mission to provide young children and families with developmentally oriented care that looks beyond the traditional approach of focusing on the physical health of the child. The initiative acknowledges the untapped potential within health systems to shape children's lives. Leveraging their influential and trusted stature, health systems can empower caregivers, fostering holistic child development. This effort ensures every young child thrives and can develop to their full potential.

Hosting an international learning community
The initiative's primary goal—strengthening advocacy, learning, and knowledge-sharing to construct early childhood development-oriented healthcare systems—birthed a comprehensive platform. This platform serves as a one stop shop, disseminating contemporary evidence-based guidance and resources developed by experts. Comprising a Knowledge Hub, Learning Community, and Movement guided by experts and professionals, the initiative informs policy and practice, empowering advocates to revolutionize health systems.

In the first year, the initiative fostered an international learning community through nine webinars. These sessions gathered practitioners, policymakers, and advocates, fostering understanding, and exchanging insights on ‘developmentally-oriented’ health systems. Attended by hundreds across Europe and Central Asia, and beyond, these webinars underscored the global informational demand for this new approach, highlighting the desire for cross-country and cross-sectoral shared learning and exchange.

Creating new knowledge and curating materials for use
A crucial aspect has been knowledge curation. Over the past year, the initiative produced and disseminated 10 blogs covering five pivotal thematic areas—Early Childhood Development, Support for children with complex needs, Developmental monitoring, Home visiting, and Facility-based healthcare. These resources offer invaluable insights, empowering key stakeholders to enhance policies and practices supporting early childhood development-oriented health systems. The Knowledge Hub boasts over 50 evidence-based resources and expertise, empowering practitioners across Europe and Central Asia. These resources include several developed within and under Health Systems for Early Child Development.

Supporting Families for Nurturing Care: Resource Modules for Home Visitors
ISSA and UNICEF ECARO developed two additional modules for the package, Supporting Families for Nurturing Care: Resource Modules for Home Visitors. These new modules accompany 22 other modules which empower home visitors to take a strengths-based approach that promotes nurturing relationships between the caregiver and child as well as contributing to risk reduction by supporting and referring families to other services when necessary.

Module 23: Becoming a parent: Prenatal visits to families provides guidance to professionals (home visitors) in their work supporting parents-to-be during the prenatal period. Module 24: Using Telehealth in Home Visitation enables professionals to reflect on the ways in which telehealth resources can enrich current family support programs based on home visits, including the polyvalent home visiting services in working with families expecting children or providing care for young children.

Elements and Pathways to Establish Professional Learning Communities for Early Childhood Professionals
Under this initiative, ISSA also led the development of Elements and Pathways to Establish Professional Learning Communities for Early Childhood Professionals, which presents the necessary elements of PLCs (Professional Learning Communities) and guides the reader on how to set up and run a PLC. This guide is designed to supporting a variety of professionals from different sectors who work with young children and families to engage in PLCs.

Where can you learn more?

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For more information about this partnership, watch the anniversary video, featuring reflections on the successes of the last 12 months, and details on this initiative’s movement to enrich healthcare systems across the region.