Breaking Poverty Cycle Investing In Early Childhood Sociology Essay Example
Breaking Poverty Cycle Investing In Early Childhood Sociology Essay Example

Breaking Poverty Cycle Investing In Early Childhood Sociology Essay Example

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  • Pages: 16 (4206 words)
  • Published: July 28, 2017
  • Type: Speech
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I am honored to have the chance to speak at this important conference. It brings me happiness that the Inter American Development Bank has chosen "investing in early childhood" as the main focus for their yearly event. [1] This subject holds great importance but has been somewhat neglected due to different reasons. It is vital not just to examine the needs of investing in children, but also to approach it with a similar conceptual understanding.

The argument of the text is that investing in children as part of overall development allows for a better understanding of the importance of early childhood investment. The limited perspective on childhood's quality and implications is often why this topic is neglected. Taking a comprehensive developmental perspective helps us comprehend the relationship between childhood and adulthood, as well as the interconnections am


ong individuals and families in society. This achieves greater justice for these interconnections and necessary integrations.

Development as Freedom

Thus, I begin with a simple question: what is "development"? In my other writings, I have argued that development can be seen as an expansion of human freedom.


The success of an economy and society depends on the lives that members are able to lead.

When assessing the quality of life, it is crucial to consider not only our living conditions and satisfaction but also the level of control we have over our own lives. This implies that both the outcome and the range of choices available to us should determine our quality of life. To illustrate this point, let's consider an individual who engages in intense weightlifting every day. When evaluating their quality o

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life, it becomes important to ascertain whether they do so voluntarily (with other options) or if they are compelled by a oppressive overseer. This distinction would make a significant difference. By recognizing that freedom can be influenced by personal actions and available alternatives, considering freedom offers a more comprehensive perspective when assessing human advantage and societal success.

This is the core idea behind the concept of "development as freedom." Instead of narrow perspectives that equate development with GNP increase, trade expansion, industrialization, or technological progress, it focuses on human freedoms. While GNP growth, industries, and technology can contribute to societal freedoms, individual freedoms also rely on other factors like social and economic institutions (such as education and healthcare) and political and civil rights (like the freedom to participate in public discourse). By emphasizing substantive freedoms in development, attention is drawn to the important goals rather than solely focusing on means.

Using a broad perspective, we can analyze the unique role of investing in children and its various characteristics. It is important to distinguish the different ways in which this investment can enhance human freedom and promote development. While taking a "holistic" approach is advised nowadays, it is also necessary to make analytical distinctions and empirical differentiations in this topic. Understanding the individual parts is crucial before evaluating the whole, as the whole may be greater than the sum total of its parts.

The initial, fundamental connection between childhood investment and development pertains to child mortality.

The text discusses two subjects: the possibility of decreasing child mortality through both public and private investments, and the significance of reducing child mortality for development. In relation to the first subject, there is

substantial evidence that dedicating resources to nutrition, immunization, and child care significantly reduces child mortality rates, especially in regions with high rates. Examples from various regions such as Europe and Japan demonstrate how even small investments in these areas can produce noteworthy outcomes.

In recent years, international organizations like UNICEF and WHO have played a supportive role in reducing child mortality alongside national policies. The link between mortality reduction and development has been widely recognized, leading to an increased acknowledgement of its importance in assessing development performance. As an advocate for incorporating mortality reduction into development, I am happy to see a decline in resistance towards recognizing its significance, especially at practical levels. Mahbub ul Haq's Human Development Reports, which challenged traditional measures of development since 1990, are now considered a standard part of development literature. While some individuals may still differentiate between "human development" and simply "development," suggesting that the latter only includes considerations for well-being of animals as well as humans, there is no universal agreement on this perspective.

However, in the practical literature on development, there has been a shift in focus towards increasing life expectancy and reducing mortality as important indicators of development. While some may criticize the use of aggregate measures like the "human development index" for oversimplifying complex achievements, addressing life and death issues is widely recognized as crucial in development studies.

Moreover, it is not just about accepting these measures; understanding that development involves expanding human freedom and recognizing the importance of reducing child mortality are also essential. Preventing unnecessary deaths plays a significant role in development because premature death restricts individuals' basic freedom. This restriction exists not only because we

value living a long life and have reasons to do so but also because being alive enables us to pursue our desires.

Being alive and active is crucial for achieving many of our goals, as opposed to being stagnant or lifeless as defined in medieval times. Not only is living enjoyable, but it also greatly aids in accomplishing what we desire.

The Well-being and Survival of Children

It is important to explicitly acknowledge in this conference that children's health and survival are paramount. Focusing solely on poverty from a perspective of low income can provide more clarity within the broad topic of this conference. Some may view the concept of "breaking the poverty cycle" as primarily aimed at combating the perpetuation of low incomes, but interpreting it thus would limit the scope and relevance of this conference's subject matter.

Child mortality, which continues to claim a significant number of lives, needs to be recognized as poverty itself. The essential poverty-fighting measures, such as healthcare, public education, ensuring food entitlement, and other interventions, should be prioritized in a comprehensive approach. The suffering and illnesses associated with high child mortality also deserve public attention as they violate the rights of young individuals to live a life full of enjoyment and prosperity.

Childhood Quality and Adult Capabilities

Recognizing the crucial importance of children's health and survival in their overall development, I will now discuss the links between childhood and adulthood. In his insightful book The Twelve Who Survive, Robert Myers convincingly argues that our concern should not only be preventing child mortality but also focusing on "strengthening programs of early childhood development" in order to promote a richer life for children.

Investing in early childhood

is essential for improving the well-being of children and their future growth. This encompasses offering guidance, safety measures, and injury prevention. As stated by Enrique Iglesias, President of the Inter-American Development Bank, these investments yield long-term enhancements in health, mental and physical capabilities, and productivity. Furthermore, Iglesias stresses that appropriate investments can effectively mitigate or avoid economic and societal issues like juvenile delinquency, teenage pregnancy, domestic violence, and social unrest. The experiences encountered during early years significantly influence individuals' capacities as adults.

Once again, it is necessary to differentiate between various elements within this interconnected image. Investing in education and other aspects of childhood opportunities can enhance future capabilities in different ways. Firstly, it can directly improve adult lives, making them more fulfilling and less difficult, as a well-prepared childhood can enhance our ability to live a good life. There is substantial social psychological evidence to support this claim.
Secondly, in addition to the direct impact on the capability to live a good life, childhood preparation and confidence also contribute to the capacity of adult human beings to earn a living and be economically productive. These earnings and economic rewards enrich the lives of adults.

The Intera?‘American Development Bank has recently shown a lot of concern about the transmission problem, as it greatly affects the lives and future adulthood of their children. This "indirect economic connection" greatly enhances the impact of childhood quality on adult lives and capabilities. This connection is important overall, but it is especially crucial for female-headed families and female maintained households. Studying and taking action on the indirect economic connection should be a focus in future years.

The third connection, although not direct,

is linked to societal connections that go beyond just economic ones. The skills we learn as children greatly affect our ability to interact with others, engage in social activities, and prevent social catastrophes. While some research has been done on these relationships, there is a need for further investigation into the social and psychological aspects of this field. It is important to prioritize collective efforts to improve social capabilities within the standard development literature. Additionally, there is a fourth connection - a political one. The success of democracy depends on citizens' participation, which requires both instinctive reaction and systematic preparation for active and thoughtful citizenship.

Various political theorists, including Habermas and more recently Robert Putnam, have emphasized the issues surrounding the connection between childhood and adulthood. Consequently, it is crucial to consider the diverse aspects of this relationship. To effectively explore these elements and their interrelation, an interactive analysis framework is necessary. The research conducted by Felton Earls and Maya Carlson on U.S. families in Chicago illustrates the substantial influence of childhood experiences and quality on adults' societal success. However, these findings are not limited to a particular region but are applicable to other countries as well, including the rest of America.

We can learn a lot from each other.

A Final Note

I have briefly discussed both a comprehensive approach to development that considers the importance of investing in childhood inclusively and some of the distinguishing factors in the relationship between adults and children that need to be fully understood in order to develop an equitable policy approach to this complex issue. It is important to consider the various aspects involved, including our commitment to the

well-being and quality of life for children and the direct and indirect impact of childhood on adults' ability to live fulfilling lives. These connections encompass not only the direct outcomes throughout life but also the indirect effects through economic, social, and political linkages. This is an issue of great significance, and I appreciate the Inter-American Development Bank for taking a leadership role in addressing this problem. The challenges at hand are relevant worldwide.

We can gain knowledge by learning from one another.

A Final Note

I have briefly discussed two things: a comprehensive approach towards development that values investing inclusively in childhood, as well as understanding key elements within adult-child relationships necessary for developing fair policies around this intricate matter. It's crucial to consider multiple facets involving our dedication towards improving children's welfare and their impact on adults' ability to lead fulfilling lives directly or indirectly via economic, social, and political connections encompassing lifelong consequences. This significant issue is being addressed with appreciation towards Inter-American Development Bank's leadership role while acknowledging its relevance globally.


By Gro Harlem Brundtland

The rubric you have defined for today's seminar could have easily been selected from an advocacy handbook of the World Health Administration: "Interrupting the Poverty Cycle: Investing in Early Childhood". The discussions we have just had convey a message that I am dedicated to conveying to the political decision-makers in our effort to bring health to the center of the global development agenda: investment in health matters. Investing in health is a well-documented strategy for lifting populations out of poverty. Investing in early childhood is cost-efficient and a valid example of preventive

public health policies. The fact that we are addressing these issues at the Seminar of the Inter-American Development Bank is encouraging, but not surprising.

The IDB has been leading in highlighting the importance of health matters and stressing the need for Member States to prioritize their health policies. It has worked closely with PAHO, the Inter-American System's health division, as well as with WHO's Regional Office for the Americas. Today, I express my support for this collaboration and confirm that WHO will actively engage with international financial institutions to improve global health and well-being. In this regard, I would like to present some general guidelines for WHO's efforts in child health and explore how these initiatives can be integrated into a more comprehensive partnership with development banks. Both organizations have distinct roles to fulfill.

Despite the impossibility of residing in separate worlds, collaboration and combining efforts are necessary for development. Currently, we have a reliable understanding of the global burden of disease. The statistics from 1995 reveal few surprising results, with respiratory infections, diarrhea, and birth-related conditions remaining as the primary causes of death or disability.

Regarding the hazard factors, malnutrition, poor water, and sanitation come first. These three factors were also the top causes of child mortality back in 1965 or earlier. Although they continue to be major causes, their rates have significantly decreased. However, child mortality is where societal inequalities are most evident. The persistence of childhood illness is a major contributor to the unfinished health agenda as we enter the 21st century.

Despite having tools to combat illness, the application of these tools to everyone has been unsuccessful due to societal inequality and unjust healthcare systems.

As a result, significant improvements in child health have not been experienced by all individuals. Consequently, we continue to witness the persistence of diseases that should no longer be prevalent.

Overall, child mortality rates have decreased and life expectancies have increased. This has led to a greater number of children surviving past the age of five. As a result, we now have more children to care for. The advancements in science and public health that have helped more children survive their early years also bring with them a new responsibility: ensuring that these children have a nurturing and healthy upbringing. By doing so, we can prepare them for the challenges they may face in the future and enable them to contribute to the social and economic development of their societies.

Investing in early childhood agencies can help prevent poverty. It has been known for a long time that poverty affects health. However, it has recently become clear that ill health also perpetuates poverty. This creates a cycle of poverty. As previously highlighted by the speakers, the solution to break this cycle is to focus on children.

I believe that we are making progress in our efforts to improve the lives of young children. We now have powerful and cost-effective tools that can have a positive impact on the well-being of the youngest individuals. In order to meet the needs of children, it is essential that we recognize the importance of early childhood attention for their long-term survival, growth, and development. This has led to a shift in our approach to assisting children living in poverty. Now, let me focus on the role that the WHO can play in

this regard. We all acknowledge the need to prioritize cognitive stimulation and psycho-social factors in child development. However, it is important to note that a key prerequisite for normal mental development is the absence of serious illness.

A child who is constantly affected by diarrhea or malaria will suffer. Preventing or stopping the repeated attacks of illness on a young child is therefore a crucial part of ensuring their psycho-social development. Nutrition plays a vital role. The impacts of nutrition on not only growth and physical development, but also cognitive and social development, are well-documented.

Malnutrition in children not only increases their susceptibility to diseases but also hampers their cognitive development, especially during the first three years of life. Insufficient physical growth is closely related to compromised mental development. Therefore, it is crucial to start our intervention well before birth. Between 5% and 15% of the global burden of disease is caused by the failure to address reproductive health needs.

Many of these jobs originate from young individuals becoming parents too early. Just envision the expenses, both to the individual and to society, of the 600,000 women dying every year due to maternal causes, and the 7.6 million perinatal deaths. Neglecting to ensure that young people have the knowledge, skills, and services they need to help them make healthy choices in their sexual and reproductive lives is costly for us. Investing in reproductive health is an investment in future health and development.

The Cairo conference made promises to improve global resources for reproductive health, but these commitments have not been adequately fulfilled. It is crucial for WHO to actively engage in and prioritize the reproductive agenda. Any child-centered program

should give significant attention to reproductive health, nutrition, and measures to combat common early childhood illnesses.

Other development activities can be derived from this. Health, nutrition, cognitive and societal stimulation, as well as education, are interrelated issues that can collaborate across professional boundaries. A child's day is not divided into health, nutrition, education and similar areas, and we should not impose our professional compartments on their lives. Our role is to ensure that health and education, nutrition and social activities combine into a unified and nurturing environment for the child. One of WHO's contributions to early childhood care and development is the strategy for Integrated Management of Childhood Illness.

The text highlights the significance of Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI) as a result of lessons learned from combating childhood diseases. Previous individual disease-focused strategies for children often overlooked opportunities, leading to redundant efforts and sometimes providing confusing or overly narrow advice to mothers. IMCI is important because it concentrates on the most difficult age group to reach - infants and children up to five years old. Moreover, it leverages existing infrastructure by training and supporting local healthcare workers to assist children and parents. When a child visits a clinic for diarrhea treatment, they are simultaneously checked for other diseases such as acute respiratory infections and undergo a nutritional assessment. The child will receive vaccinations, and the mother will receive guidance on breastfeeding, nutrition, and the importance of using insecticide-treated bed nets in malaria-prone areas.

All of these efforts in one integrated audience. As part of the IMCI scheme, improvements in health workers' practices are accompanied by improvements in the health infrastructure and targeted efforts to change key

family and community practices. Although IMCI is a new scheme and there is not yet definite and large-scale data on its success, the change is already noticeable on the ground.

Uganda is among the 58 countries that have implemented the IMCI program. A perplexed mother in a small town in Uganda recently questioned whether nurses had received a significant salary increase because the healthcare workers now engage in lengthy conversations and show unusual concern for her child. In Brazil, one of the 19 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean that have adopted IMCI, early data from a research study suggests that nutrition guidance provided by IMCI-trained healthcare workers has substantially reduced weight loss for infants transitioning from breastfeeding to regular food in poor rural areas. The program also emphasizes the importance of not missing any opportunities to immunize children.

Childhood immunization has made significant progress in increasing vaccination rates worldwide. The percentage of children getting vaccinated has increased from 5% in the 1970s to approximately 80% currently. However, maintaining these coverage levels requires continuous effort, and ensuring every child has access to vaccinations remains an unresolved challenge. There is a significant delay in making new vaccines available to underprivileged children compared to those in developed countries. Innovative funding methods are part of the solution to address these persistent issues.

The importance of teamwork across subjects and bureaus is emphasized in this seminar. In the past, similar gatherings were typically organized by child-oriented organizations like UNICEF or WHO. However, this time it is organized by a bank. The inclusion of an economic perspective is crucial in bringing about real changes in society.

By recognizing the economic consequences of environmental

degradation, we have successfully shifted the focus from being a concern only for the convinced to becoming a significant issue that receives attention from prominent stakeholders. This principle applies to the field of health as well. The key to achieving desired outcomes lies in forming partnerships. Unconventional entities often form the most effective partnerships, as they combine diverse backgrounds and unite around a common purpose. This leads to the unleashing of creativity and utilization of expertise in innovative and beneficial ways. Such collaborations truly inspire the World Health Organization.

We have enhanced our ability to understand how economic rationality can support effective health policies. Our goal is to gather, analyze, and disseminate evidence that investing in health is a key pathway to reducing poverty. We have established strong partnerships with the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and regional development banks. As mentioned earlier, the Inter-American Development Bank has long embraced this idea. The IDB has been a pioneer in providing loans for social-sector projects, including what are known as "soft-sector" loans since the 1980s.

Other regional development Banks are now also adopting this approach. In the past ten years, the World Bank has also significantly increased such lending. The current economic crisis in Asia and various Latin American countries has emphasized the need to safeguard and enhance social sector initiatives and ensure affordable and inclusive healthcare and education systems for everyone. The concept of "trickle-down" does not function independently. While this truth may be overshadowed during prosperous economic conditions, it becomes painfully obvious during times of recession and crisis.

Ensuring that children receive the childhood they are entitled to is a crucial demand for intercession. As shown

by several speakers today, investing in early childhood has impressive economic benefits. However, interventions must be cost-effective. It does not require a large amount of resources to make significant improvements in children's circumstances. Nonetheless, poorly designed programs can easily fail, wasting limited public resources and making it more challenging to convince decision-makers of the value of child-focused programs. When Prime Ministers and Finance Ministers are informed that early childhood development is relevant to their roles and that wise investments yield real results, their perception will be different.

They will see that there is hope for them to assign money when they see that sound, cost-efficient schemes exist and that they are supported by world-renowned expertise. This seminar has demonstrated that we possess the expertise, we have a growing number of cost-efficient schemes, and with the IDB's support, we have a willing and capable financier. In essence, we have what it takes to improve conditions for the children in the Americas and the rest of the world. This seminar serves as evidence of our willingness to forge new partnerships, which gives me confidence that we will succeed in fulfilling the promises and obligations we have towards our children and breaking the cycle of poverty.

About the Writers

Amartya K. Sen currently holds the position of Maestro at Trinity College in Cambridge, England. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1998 for his contributions to welfare economics, which have greatly enhanced our understanding of the economic mechanisms underlying poverty and deprivation. Before joining Trinity College, he served as the Lamont University Professor at Harvard University, where he held positions as a Professor of

Economics and Philosophy from 1987 to 1998. Sen has also held professorships at other prestigious universities, including Oxford University (1977-1987), the London School of Economics (1971-1977), and Delhi University in India (1963-1971).

A native of India, Professor Sen studied at Presidency College in Calcutta, India and earned his B.A. (1955) and Ph.D. (1959) degrees in Economics from Trinity College. His research has covered various fields in economics and philosophy, including social choice theory, welfare economics, measurement theory, development economics, moral and political philosophy, rational choice and behavior, and objectivity from positional perspectives.

Gro Harlem Brundtland, the current Director-General of the World Health Organization, has been in public office for over 20 years. She served as Prime Minister of Norway for a total of 10 years (1981, 1986-1989, 1990-1996), making her the first woman to hold this position in the country. In 1974, Dr. Brundtland also held the position of Minister of Environment.

Prior to her current position, she had previous experience working on children's health issues at the Ministry of Health. This included focusing on topics such as breastfeeding, cancer prevention, and various other diseases. Additionally, she held positions in the children's departments at both the National Hospital and Oslo City Hospital. Later on, she was appointed as the Director of Health Services for schoolchildren in Oslo. In 1983, she was personally invited by the UN Secretary-General to establish and lead the World Commission on Environment and Development, also known as the Brundtland Commission. This commission is most renowned for its role in shaping the concept of sustainable development on a global scale. Dr. Brundtland holds a medical degree and obtained a Master of Public Health from Harvard


During her time as a doctor and scientist in the Norwegian public health system, she accumulated 10 years of experience.

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