Stakeholders discuss strategy to improve child development

SKNIS Photo: Dr. Filipe Osvaldo Benitez

Basseterre, St. Kitts, January 28, 2013 (SKNIS): The assessment of whether or not children in the Federation are being provided the necessary stimuli to ensure the attainment of developmental milestones was the purpose of a consultation that concluded at the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) Conference Room, yesterday.

Reaching or not reaching developmental milestones can determine future decisions made by children as they become adolescents and even into adulthood, hence the consultation being dubbed “Early Childhood Development, Adolescent Health and HIV/STIs.”

Consultation Facilitator Dr. Filipe Osvaldo Benitez, Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) Advisor for Family and Community Health for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Region explained.

“Together between different sectors like education, health, social services, civil society – we could come up with ideas to improve developmental milestones in children but also specific areas in adolescent care,” Dr. Benitez explained. “For example: adolescent pregnancy/teenage pregnancy, HIV/AIDS infection, suicide, homicide rates. So we are discussing an approach – different models, so we can improve these outcomes.”

He further outlined the importance of attaining developmental milestones.

SKNIS Photo: Mrs. Jacqueline Morris

“Child development has to do with stimulation, and the proper stimulation,” Dr. Benitez stressed. “So when the child is neglected, is abused, is not fed properly – you see, there will be some problems and this is where the gap is between a child that is born into a poor environment and a child that is born into a rich environment. So closing the gap is important and early stimulation will do that. But we need to create parental skills and a positive home environment. But the community also needs to be improved. Do we have enough recreation areas, enough parks where families can go together to have a good time.”

Consultation Participant Mrs. Jaqueline Morris, St. Kitts and Nevis Director of Early Childhood Development, made the link with the social aspect of a child’s development.

“The social skills that they [children] learn during the early years again are the foundation skills that they build on as they move up in years,” Mrs. Morris emphasized. “And those social skills will really help them make healthy choices in terms of the friends they connect with and in terms of how they relate to others. In Early Childhood we do have an approach to conflict resolution that we are trying to have all the schools to adopt. It’s called the Six Step Conflict Resolution Strategy and it really helps them to relate in positive ways to solving conflict in general.”

Dr. Benitez noted that the consultation was a collaborative effort between PAHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) which was being represented at the consultation by Ms. Shelly-Ann Harper, Early Childhood Development Specialist at the UNICEF Eastern Caribbean Office. The preparations and local coordination was handled by Eulynis Browne, Coordinator for Community Nursing Services which is the umbrella organization for Family and Adolescent Health in St. Kitts and Nevis.

Follow-up to the Consultation will be provided by Dr. Patrice Williams-Lawrence the St. Kitts and Nevis PAHO Country Programme Specialist.

SKNIS Photo: Consultation participants including Dr. Patrice Williams-Lawrence (far left)SKNIS Photo: Consultation participants

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