In­vest­ing in the early years pays off

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION -

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.

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