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About Sickkids
About SickKids

February 22, 2013

Care in the first 1,000 days helps a 1,000 ways

SickKids hosts 7th annual Global Child Health Day

By Elissa Hanna

SickKids hosted its 7th annual Global Child Health Day on Feb. 12, 2013, in support of Canada’s International Development Week. This year’s theme was the importance of early childhood development, and the changes necessary to overcome its barriers in both our local communities and abroad.

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Panelist Dr. Janet Smylie speaks at Global Child Health Day 2013

A crowd of over 200 people from the academic, health and development communities gathered to hear Dr. Maureen Black, Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, discuss the threats and solutions to global childhood development. Black stressed the importance of proper nutrition, parenting education and access to education in a child’s first 1,000 days of life as key factors to proper sensory and brain development.

In discussion panels, 10 experts in child health echoed Black’s message by highlighting the challenges faced by Ontario communities to access proper medical and mental health care – particularly some Aboriginal and immigrant communities. Panelists unanimously concluded that investing in early childhood development would lead to reduced rates of mental health issues, poverty, drug use and early pregnancies. Ultimately, this would break the cycle of disparity and human poverty around the world.

The theme of early development goes hand-in-hand with SickKids’ Global Child Health program, which emphasizes the need to help build capacity globally. The program also focuses on research, advocacy and knowledge translation, and a national-global health policy initiative. Through paediatric education and training, the SickKids Global Child Health program is currently working with partners in Ghana, Ethiopia and Tanzania to help share the organization’s knowledge and expertise with local health-care practitioners.

Global Child Health Day also held a networking session that included a photo exhibit featuring stunning photographs of children and families from around the world. Dr. Donald Cole, a University of Toronto professor at the event, was particularly impressed with a photograph of a Bangladeshi mother providing skin-to-skin warmth for her child.

“In countries where there are no ICUs to keep children warm, ‘kangaroo care’ is the best care you can give your kids,” he says. “The discussions today have been great because they bring to light serious issues faced by children and families in the developing world.”

These are the very issues SickKids wishes to remedy through its Global Child Health projects and initiatives.