What happens in the early stages of life, and in particular before a child enters school, will impact significantly on their growth and development throughout their school years and also their long term health, wellbeing and life chances. That’s what delegates at an early years conference, held today [Thursday 17], heard about the importance of providing children with the best start in life.
The event, hosted by the Public Health Agency (PHA) and the National Children’s Bureau (NCB) for Northern Ireland, was held at Mossley Mill in Newtownabbey, and featured leading expert Dr Bruce Perry, who is a Senior Fellow of The Child Trauma Academy (www.ChildTrauma.org) in Houston and an Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Feinberg School of Medicine of Northwestern University in Chicago. Dr Perry shared from practice and research what can be positively achieved by working with people who are significantly affected through adverse early childhoods.
The discussion examined how legislators, policymakers and practitioners can ensure that there is targeted, early support for babies and families, the effects of which can positively influence later life potential.
Dr Carolyn Harper, Director of Public Health, PHA commented: “We know that prevention is better than cure, and this is no less relevant when it comes to gearing children up for life – early support is essential for lifelong health and wellbeing.
“The benefits of children having a positive start in life, and being properly equipped with the emotional and social skills that they will need, will mainly be seen in the longer term. These benefits will stretch beyond health to educational attainment, employment, and reducing numbers entering the criminal justice system.
“The care provided by parents and the wider family circle gives young children the best possible foundation for a thriving future. By ensuring that parents and carers have the right advice and support to help give their babies the best start can have a significant positive impact in later life. It is therefore important to ensure that all families receive universal services, with targeted additional support for those families who need it.
“The evidence shared today highlights just how important it is for us as a society to ensure that children and families are helped from day one. The PHA wants to see effective collaboration between health, pre-school education, and services such as Sure Start, as cooperation is essential to ensure early intervention when signs of psychological difficulties arise.”
Celine McStravick Director of NCB in Northern Ireland added “Government policies are now acknowledging the importance of early intervention in a child’s life and I am delighted that Dr Perry was able to join us today to share his knowledge to ensure that we provide the best possible services to enable our children to thrive.
“Dr Perry is well respected in the field of child trauma and he has inspired us all to examine how services in Northern Ireland can help our children cope with adversity and face a more positive future.”
Contact PHA Communications on (028) 9055 3663.
Notes to the editor
Pictured at the early years intervention conference hosted by the Public Health Agency (PHA) and the National Children’s Bureau (NCB) for Northern Ireland at Mossley Mill in Newtownabbey is Celine McStravick Director of NCB in Northern Ireland, Dr Bruce Perry and Mary Black, Assistant Director of Public Health, Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement, PHA