Investing in the early years pays off
Whether you are interested in politics and the latest Budget, the fact remains that our city faces many challenges, in particular rising living costs and the health and wellbeing of its youngest citizens.
I doubt many will have forgotten the compelling Inside Child Poverty documentary that aired before the last election.
In Porirua East, Bryan Bruce investigated how our city still had widespread yet avoidable childhood diseases, diseases which have been eradicated elsewhere.
They are diseases linked to poverty, overcrowding and damp, unhealthy homes.
Right here. Our patch. Think how much this will cost our city and country in terms of health and social costs down the track.
We know that the first years are crucial to a child’s future. In that time, a child’s experiences, nutrition and environment will influence the way their brains develop.
During that time the scene is set for success in school and physical and mental health into adulthood.
Research from Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child demonstrates how ‘‘ toxic stress’’ can severely damage children’s minds. According to those studies, the same brain flexibility, called plasticity, that makes children open to learning in their early years also makes them vulnerable to damage from the stressors that often accompany poverty.
Not getting the right start has an impact not just on the person, but also on society and, when it’s multi- plied by many people, the effects can be devastating.
So it’s important for us all that the Government invests in our children’s wellbeing.
From the latest Budget we see free doctor’s visits for those aged under 13 and, though this is a step in the right direction, it still seems a bit like the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff.
How about we avoid our children getting sick in the first place and concentrate on improving our housing stocks, and keeping kids warm, well fed and educated?
In the big picture, a country can only do as well as the sum of its people.
People’s physical and emotional wellbeing are set early in life. It’s wise to invest in the early years, because if we miss the boat then, we miss the wellbeing of a nation.