Welcome to the fifth edition of PHE’s Health Matters, a resource for public health professionals, which brings together important facts, figures and evidence of effective interventions to tackle major public health problems.
The earliest experiences, starting in the womb, shape a baby’s brain development. During the first two years of life the brain displays a remarkable capacity to absorb information and adapt to its surroundings.
At age two, the connections that are being formed in a child’s brain are happening about twice as fast as in an adult’s brain.
What happens in pregnancy and early childhood impacts on physical and emotional health through into adulthood. Supporting good maternal health is important for safe delivery and good birth weight to give babies the best start.
The prevention of adverse health factors in pregnancy is vital. Premature and small babies are more likely to have poorer outcomes.
Enabling children to achieve their full potential and be physically and emotionally healthy provides the cornerstone for a healthy, productive childhood and adulthood.
Investing in early years services can improve babies’ and children’s health outcomes including:
- early cognitive and non-cognitive development
- social development
- children’s readiness for school
- later educational outcomes
Investing in the early years can help to address health inequalities that disadvantage some from the very beginning of their lives.
It also makes strong sense to invest in the early years from an economic perspective as the long-term savings that can be generated are considerable. Social Return on Investment studies show returns of between £1.37 and £9.20 for every £1 invested in the early years.
This resource for local authorities and health professionals makes the case for investing in early years care and outlines how to support women, and their partners, from conception through to pregnancy and into parenthood.
To assist with this, we have created a new suite of Health Matters infographics to help you make the case in your local area.
This edition includes advice on:
- encouraging a healthy pregnancy
- the importance of newborn screening and vaccination
- encouraging secure attachment
- promoting breastfeeding
- improving maternal mental health
It also sets out the importance of The Healthy Child Programme which sits at the heart of services commissioned by local authorities for children and families. This is delivered as a universal service with additional services for those with specific needs and risks.
Read the early years edition of Health Matters for more on what local authorities and health professionals can do to improve our children’s health and ultimately the health of the nation.
Health Matters is a resource for professionals which brings together the latest data and evidence, makes the case for effective public health interventions and highlights tools and resources that can facilitate local or national action. Visit the Health Matters area of GOV.UK or sign up to receive the latest updates through our e-bulletin. If you found this blog helpful, please view other Health Matters blogs.