SEATTLE, Washington — In 2019, Senators Chris Coons and Roy Blunt along with Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick and Joaquin Castro introduced the Global Child Thrive Act. This bill, if passed, will incorporate early childhood development interventions into foreign programs designed to help children reach their full potential. The bill has the power to improve children’s physical and emotional development in low-income nations. Also, the bill can help decrease poverty in foreign nations and provide support for children during the pandemic.
A key to ensuring that children experience healthy childhood development is by providing them with enough physical activity. Through play, children acquire healthy bone development and strong muscles. According to Michigan State University, physical activity builds strength in the body by causing bones and muscles to work against the weight of gravity. Examples of play that encourage this development often involve running, such as soccer and basketball.
According to data collected by the WHO, a high percentage of adolescents in developing nations don’t engage in enough physical activity. For example, in Afghanistan, 88.1% of adolescents failed to meet the recommended 60 minutes of play each day in 2016. With the Global Child Thrive Act, foreign programs will have the power to implement strategies backed by the U.S. These strategies will utilize data to develop interventions to increase the level of physical activity among adolescents in developing countries.
While physical development in children is important, it is crucial to secure emotional development in children as well. Fortunately, positive intervention techniques can change the course of a child’s future for the better. These interventions can also improve self-esteem in children.
A study done by Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health focused on the early development of children in low- and middle-income countries. They reported that 80.8 million of the 240 million preschool kids in the world’s 132 low- and middle-income countries failed to develop essential cognitive skills. These skills are responsible for controlling aggression, communicating more effectively and getting along with others. Through funds provided by Congress, the U.S. will support foreign programs that strategize ways to help children develop their emotional intelligence.
UNICEF reports that one in three children lives in a household affected by poverty. Because of this, children become vulnerable due to the lack of physical and cognitive development that would allow them to succeed. The U.S. has not yet incorporated early childhood development interventions into foreign programs. These interventions can jumpstart development in children, resulting in their earning 26% more than their peers who are lacking in such development.
The COVID-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has been creating new challenges for early childhood development. Children now face the threat of losing a parent or guardian, which may lead to more kids without caretakers. With this loss of support combined with the trauma of losing a loved one, children are less likely to reach healthy developmental milestones.
Also, 1.5 billion children in 188 countries have experienced school closures due to COVID-19. This means that children are no longer in the company of teachers and daycare providers who can report on potential abuse that is happening at home. Many youths also rely on schools for nutritious meals. But now, 368.5 million children in 143 countries are forced to find other ways to get their meals. The Global Child Thrive Act would allow foreign programs to implement caregiving methods that reinforce positive childhood development. It would also provide children with the support and protection they need should their support system be lost.
The Status of the Bill
The Global Child Thrive Act was introduced in October 2019 and later amended on December 12, 2019. This bill would benefit children in need by establishing intervention programs designed to promote physical and emotional development. Overall, children who are facing poverty and suffering due to the pandemic will see a positive difference in their lives if the Global Child Thrive Act passes.
– Ashleigh Jimenez