Focusing on the Formative First Years

In the continuum of the life cycle, the formative years are emerging as the most pivotal for human health, development, and flourishing.  Fostering maternal-child health, and in particular the first 1000 days from conception, are proving to have significant, measurable effects on health of the body, mind and society.  Protecting the vulnerable from toxic environments of violence, neglect, malnutrition, disease, pollution, and lack of health services has long-term effects on bonding, growth, learning, behavior, economic development, health and longevity.

Maternal nutrition and well-being, healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies, just family and community relationships, accessible pre-natal and peri-partum care, birth registration, maternal and paternal bonding, cognitive stimulation, spiritual nourishment, pre-school education, wholesome nutrition, hygiene and sanitation, vaccination, and timely health interventions are all essential approaches to human flourishing in the early stages of the life cycle.  Early childhood development (ECD) is considered, “the foundation for subsequent educational and vocational attainment at the individual level and the overall human capital and economic development at the population level.”*  The Lancet published a series on the high value of ECD from 2016-2018, and the Nurturing Care for ECD was launched in 2017. At the G20 Summit in September 2018 an initiative for ECD was launched. The time is right for strengthening evidence and programming for ECD. 

The Christian faith values human life, family, care for the vulnerable, nurture and investment in subsequent generations.  Many FBOs and local faith communities engage in advocacy and development for those in the early years, but more evidence is needed on the role of FBOs in enhancing ECD. We call for original research papers addressing subjects such as the following:

  • Practical and faith-based approaches to support families to provide nurturing care in the earliest years of life, informing effective policies, enabling health system, and taking relevant actions in other sectors.
  • Scaling up effective interventions, to mobilize faith resources, monitor progress, and achieve results for stronger social and economic benefits.
  • Addressing pre-conception maternal health, family planning, pre-natal care, dignified obstetric services, breast-feeding, and water, sanitation and hygiene.
  • Measuring the impact of community health workers and building capacity to improve maternal-child health outcomes.
  • Enhancing health systems for better perinatal and pediatric health services, vaccinations, monitoring indicators of brain development, etc.
  • Promoting spiritual health in families and communities focusing on parental competencies and the dignity, capacity and rights of young children.
  • Enhancing disability-inclusive approaches to care giving at the earliest life stages.

Papers on other topics are always welcome, but deadline for this special issue is 31 August 2019.


WHO & UNICEF. Nurturing Care for Early Childhood Development: a framework for Action and Results Engagement and Consultations August 2017 - May 2018

G20 Initiative for Early Childhood Development. Building human capital to break the cycle of poverty and inequality. Sept 2018. Available from:

Grantham-McGregor S, Cheung YB, Cueto S, Glewwe Pl, Richter L, Strupp B, and the International Child Development Steering Group. Developmental potential in the first 5 years for children in developing countries. Lancet. 2007;369:60-70.

*Olusanya BO. Priorities for early childhood development in low-income countries. J Dev Behav Pediatr 2011; 32: 476–81.

De Angulo JM, Losada LS.  The emerging health paradigm in the 21st century: The formative first 1000 days of life.  Christian Journal for Global Health. Nov 2016; 3(2):113-128.

Bartkowski, John P. ; Xu, Xiaohe ; Levin, Martin L. Religion and child development: Evidence from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study. Social Science Research, 2008, Vol.37(1), pp.18-36.

Grantham-McGregor s, Cheung YB, Cueto S, Glewwe P, Richter L, Strupp B, Developmental potential in the first 5 years for children in developing countries. Lancet. 6 January 2007; 369(9555): 60-70.

Black MM, Walker SP, Fernald LCH, et al. Early childhood development coming of age: science through the life course. Lancet. 2017;389(10064):77–90.

Britto PR, Lye SJ, Proulx K, et al. Nurturing care: promoting early childhood development. Lancet. 2017;389(10064):91–102.

Stephenson J, Heslehurst N, Hall J, et al. Before the beginning: nutrition and lifestyle in the preconception period and its importance for future health. Lancet. 2018.

Richter LM, Desmond C, Behrman J, et al. G20's Initiative for Early Childhood Development. Lancet. 2019;392:2695-6.

Bhutta ZA, Black RE. Current and Future Challenges for Children Across the World. JAMA. 2019;321(13):1251–1252.