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Over 200 million children under age 5 failing to reach their potential in cognitive development

More than 200 million children under 5 years fail to reach their potential in cognitive development because of poverty, poor health and nutrition, and deficient care, reveals the first paper in a three part Series on child development, which begins in this week's issue of The Lancet.

The Series shows that most of these children 89 million live in south Asia and that ten countries (India, Nigeria, China, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, and Tanzania) account for 145 million (66%) of the 219 million disadvantaged children in the developing world.

"These disadvantaged children are likely to do poorly in school and subsequently have low incomes, high fertility, and provide poor care for their children, thus contributing to the intergenerational transmission of poverty," says Professor Sally Grantham-McGregor, one of the lead authors of the Series.

In the second paper in the Series, researchers identify the main causes of poor child development stunting, iodine and iron deficiencies, and inadequate cognitive and social-emotional stimulation. Other potential risk factors include maternal depression, exposure to lead and arsenic, and some infectious diseases, such as malaria or HIV/AIDS.

Interventions that address these causal factors can reduce the burden of poor child development, say the authors of the final paper in the Series. Research shows, for example, that stimulating children through programs involving play and improving their home environment through parental education can have lasting benefits on their IQ and educational performance. The benefits are even greater when psychosocial stimulation is combined with improved diets for infants and toddlers, say the authors.

The final Series paper assesses the strategies that exist to tackle poor child development and identifies those that are most effective.

The authors conclude: "The most effective early c
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Contact: Joe Santangelo
j.santangelo@elsevier.com
212-633-3810
Lancet
4-Jan-2007


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