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The global state of early child development: from epidemiology to interventions
  1. Michelle Fernandes1,2,
  2. Kerry Blackett3,
  3. Maria M Crespo-Llado4,
  4. Charlotte Lau5,
  5. Amy Jane Stevens6,
  6. Alexandra Richards7,
  7. Sunil S Bhopal8,9,
  8. Delan Devakumar10,
  9. Helen Brotherton11,
  10. Maryke Nielsen12,13
  1. 1 MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Centre and Human Development & Health Academic Unit, Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton, Southampton, Hampshire, UK
  2. 2 Nuffield Department of Women’s & Reproductive Health, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  3. 3 Department of Neonatology, Bradford Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Bradford, UK
  4. 4 Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, Institute of Life Course & Medical Sciences, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
  5. 5 Department of Paediatrics, Royal Hospital for Children and Young People, Edinburgh, UK
  6. 6 The School of Public Health, Health Education England Yorkshire and the Humber, Leeds, UK
  7. 7 Department of Paediatrics, Cardiff University School of Medicine, Cardiff, UK
  8. 8 Population Health Sciences Institute, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
  9. 9 Department of Paediatrics, Great North Children's Hospital, Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK
  10. 10 Institute for Global Health, University College London, London, UK
  11. 11 Faculty of Epidemiology and Population Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  12. 12 Institute of Infection, Veterinary & Ecological Sciences, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
  13. 13 Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Programme, Blantyre, Malawi
  1. Correspondence to Dr Michelle Fernandes, MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Centre and Human Development & Health Academic Unit, Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton, Southampton SO16 6YD, Hampshire, UK; m.c.fernandes{at}

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Globally, one in five children are at risk of not achieving their developmental potential by their 5th birthday1. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in considerable setback in previous progress in early child development (ECD).2 The International Child Health Group is a special interest group of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health; its 2021 conference sought to answer the question of whether the global state ECD is a silent emergency, a unique opportunity, or perhaps both.3 The conference featured keynote lectures on themes spanning the epidemiology of ECD; the effects of toxic stress on early brain development; the application of translational neuroscience to identifying targets for early intervention; community-based parent-driven interventions to rescue neurocognition in at-risk groups; the economic benefits …

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  • Twitter @Dr_MCFernandes, @AmyJStevens1, @drhelbro

  • Contributors MF conceptualised and wrote the letter with input from all the other authors. All authors reviewed and approved the final manuscript. MF and MN led the organisation of the International Child Health Group 2021 conference, together with the other authors. The conference’s organising committee included MF, MN, KB, MMC-L, CL, AJS, AR, DD and HB.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.