Survival and health issues are intrinsic to the field of early child development, especially when focused on vulnerable population. Inequity and inequality present in the region are reflected in child morbidity and mortality. Approximately 10 million children die annually in Latin America, mostly children living in low-income countries or poor areas of middle-income countries.
Mortality in children under age five is a basic indicator of child welfare. This indicator expresses the risk of death for one child, under age five, per 10,000 children, and includes perinatal deaths (from week 22 of gestation to the first 7 days postpartum) and infant deaths (birth up to 12 months old).
While the region has shown sufficient progress over the last decade in this matter, in most countries infants remain one of the most vulnerable groups and account for 37% of deaths in children under age five. In this sense, disease prevention is an essential component to reduce infant mortality; vaccinations being a proven tool for controlling and even eradicating diseases. Even so, there are over 1.2 million children who do not receive routine vaccination before their first year of life. Investment in this health service comes with great future cost savings.
Based on the previous considerations, the health care system plays a central role during the first years of life, as it is the first point of contact for pregnant women and can serve as a portal to other early childhood care services. In many cases, health care providers are the only agents with whom the families have contact during the first years of the child’s life. Therefore, professionals in health care can be extremely effective in promoting ECD programs amongst parents and children in the communities.
As previously mentioned, early childhood interventions must be all inclusive, therefore nutrition and education are not sufficient on their own. Children must receive an adequate health program that will allow early detection and preventive treatments, among others. This component includes mother – child health and access to drinking water and sanitation.