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Children's health and development: approaches to early identification and intervention
  1. Frank Oberklaid1,
  2. Gillian Baird2,
  3. Mitch Blair3,
  4. Edward Melhuish4,5,
  5. David Hall6
  1. 1Centre for Community Child Health, Royal Children's Hospital, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Parkville, Victoria, Australia
  2. 2Guy's and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust and King's Health Partners, London, UK
  3. 3Department of Paediatrics, Imperial College London, Harrow, UK
  4. 4Institute for the Study of Children, Families and Social Issues, Birkbeck, University of London, London, UK
  5. 5Department of Education, Oxford University, Oxford, UK
  6. 6Institute of General Practice, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Frank Oberklaid, Centre for Community Child Health, Royal Children's Hospital, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Parkville, VIC 3052, Australia; frank.oberklaid{at}


Many children arrive at school with problems of development and behaviour which affect their educational achievement and social interaction and can have lifelong consequences. There is a strong association between developmental vulnerability at school entry and a well-documented series of parent and family risk factors, often linked to social disadvantage. Strategies which are likely to make a difference to these children and improve outcomes include family support, high-quality early education and care programmes in the preschool years, and early detection of emerging problems and risk factors. The evidence suggests that these services and programmes are best delivered within a framework of progressive universalism—a universal basket of services for all children and families, with additional support commensurate with additional needs. This provides the best opportunity for early identification and appropriate intervention for emerging developmental problems and family issues that impact on children's development. While there are a number of challenges that need to be addressed and overcome, such an approach is an important investment that will yield measurable educational, social and economic benefits over the long term.

  • General Paediatrics
  • Paediatric Practice
  • Comm Child Health
  • Health Service
  • Screening

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