Nordic network about the child’s first 1000 days – a healthy start in life
The first years in an child’s life are important for laying a good foundation for mental and physical health in later life. But children and parents do not receive the same support and follow-up in all parts of the Nordic region. Nordic network about the first 1000 days - Supporting a healthy start in life has been tasked with proposing how Nordic cooperation can enhance and accelerate work by the countries in this area.
The right of children to equal opportunities for life and development
There is at present a great deal of variation in working methods and procedures among those organisations that work with the youngest children and their parents. Of a large number of methods and measuring instruments used, only a few have been tested so thoroughly that they have sufficient support in recent research. Nordic collaboration on developing, testing and implementing evidence-based working methods and approaches has tremendous potential. The goal is to create conditions for equal health and welfare for all children. If we collaborate more closely, we can do a lot – for the best interests of children in the Nordic region.
Each of the Nordic countries has access to a lot of new knowledge and working methods that the countries are working to put into place, in order to give all children and parents the best possible support during the first period of the child’s life. But the Nordic countries do not have sufficient capacity individually to introduce, teach new knowledge and initiate effective working methods as quickly as they would like. Work to test new methods and evaluate them takes time. It also takes time to adopt new working methods and implement them.
A good childhood forms the basis of a whole life
The first years of a child’s life are crucial for the child’s mental and physical health. The child’s brain undergoes extensive development. This development is based partly on the child’s maturity and partly on the experiences the child has in the interaction with its carers and the context in which the family lives. This is especially true of those areas of the brain that influence learning, language development and emotional skills, which are fundamental for good development and health. It is now that the child acquires the skills required to learn how to trust, love and feel compassion for fellow human beings. They learn how to manage their emotions in order to be able to create their own positive relationships in the future.
Good mental health is important for both the child and the family. This is why the UN, in its work on the global sustainable development goals, has placed particular emphasis on the responsibility of countries to ensure that all children have equal rights to life and development.
Increased knowledge and Nordic cooperation
Nordic network about the first 1000 days – Supporting a healthy start in life will be cooperating with the Nordic Welfare Centre from 2023 to 2027. The goal of this collaboration is increased knowledge and sharing of knowledge at a Nordic level on how we can better ensure children’s development and health from pregnancy until the child reaches the age of two.
The network will draw up recommendations on how Nordic cooperation can enhance and accelerate work by the countries in this area.
Detect risks at an early stage
Cooperation within the network over the next five years aims to follow up on the recommendations of Nordic experts and researchers for enhanced, knowledge-based collaboration on the youngest children in the Nordic region.
The proposals will be based on a Nordic Situation Analysis, which describes how services such as maternity care, child health and childcare in the countries contribute to the vast majority of children having a good, safe start in life. There has also been a review of how these activities and related services contribute to detecting and identifying risks to children at an early stage. Known risk factors are, for example, if a parent is struggling with mental illness or drug addiction, or if there is violence in the family. The working methods used in the countries have also been mapped.
The network is working with the following recommendations
- Increase and spread knowledge about the importance of the first 1000 days of life for lifelong mental health and wellbeing.
- Provide comprehensive support for parents during children’s first 1000 days of life.
- Identify and respond systematically to risk factors early in life.
- Improve equity and quality in services for young children and their families.
- Strengthen cross-sectoral collaboration for the benefit of young children and their families.
- Advance research, knowledge and understanding about the first 1000 days of life.