How do health & social inequalities impact the early years?
I have just watched an interview with Kathy Brodie and Sir Michael Marmot which discussed how health and social inequalities impact the early years.
It was broadcast on Kathy’s new Early Years TV platform, where she interviews experts on different subjects each week. If you haven’t done so already, check it out here.
Sir Michael Marmot is the Director of The UCL Institute of Health Equity and has lead research groups on health inequalities for over 35 years.
People are not selected randomly into their social position in adult life; it’s a culmination of their whole life up till then, and that starts with early childhood. People who do well in early years, tend to do well in school. People who do well in school tend to go onto higher education. People who go onto higher education tend to get higher incomes, more interesting jobs, better places to live. All of those things impact on health. It all starts with early childhood.”
As Childcare Professionals we can’t change a families wealth or social standing, but we can make a difference to a child’s attainment, reducing the inequality gap and giving them a head start in later life.
Studies have shown that investment in pre-school education correlate to higher achievements at age 15 and above. The things we do for our children now can help them throughout their lives.
Putting it very simply, there are two ways inequality can impact early years education:
Positively – where children from more affluent families tend to do better with linguistic, social, emotional and behavioural development. This is because they often have better interactions with adults and peers and more focused attention.
Negatively – where statistically, children from lower income and deprived families are more likely to experience adverse child experiences (ACE’s) such as parental separation, mental illness and abuse. Children that have experienced ACEs are more vulnerable to other unfavourable outcomes in later life.
So our challenge is to:
- Promote good child development
- Prevent adverse experiences
Ideally, we’d like all of our children to have healthy relationships with their parents and to grow up in a happy and safe home environment. But when this doesn’t happen, the services we provide CAN make a difference.
Things that are completely normal to us, talking to children, actively listening to them, reading, singing playing, are not always taking place in the most deprived households.
The biggest thing we can do to help is allow children the opportunity to experience things they may not be getting at home, outdoor play, messy play and focused adult attention.
The input we have on children during their early years helps them throughout their lives. The health gap is cumulative, meaning it grows over time and what starts off as a small disadvantage grows overtime to be an unbridgeable gap. But early years education is also cumulative. The skills and knowledge we are giving our children in their early years will also grow and support our children well into adulthood. We have a small window of opportunity to help the most disadvantaged children to grow into happy, confident and secure adults.
I urge you to listen to Sir Michael Marmot’s interview which gives really interesting facts and figures as well as an optimistic outlook for Childcare professionals.
You can watch it yourself here