Once in a month my husband and I pack Amos in his stroller and walk a few blocks to our closest health care center. We take the elevator to the fourth floor and enter Neuvola, the maternity and child care clinic, or ‘Place for Advice’ as translated freely from the Finnish word.
Neuvola is a Finnish public health care service available for all expectant mothers and children for free.
Maternal and child health is crucial, a cornerstone of development for all countries. Currently in the world approximately 830 women die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth and an estimated 5.9 million children die annually before they reach the age of 5.
The numbers for maternal and child mortality used to be staggering in Finland as well. Just 80 years ago, out of 1000 children a total of 95 died before reaching the age of 5. Now that number is less than 3, one of the lowest in the whole world. Similarly, the rate of maternal deaths used to be high, with 400 mothers dying per 100,000 births. Today, such deaths do basically not occur.
Who are we to thank for this?
The story of Neuvola dates back to the 1920s.
Mr. Arvo Ylppö, a Finnish pediatrician, was determined to decrease infant mortality in Finland. He got his motivation from Germany where he studied and observed, for instance, that the cause of death for prematurely born infants can be traced to treatable conditions instead of simple underdevelopment.
The ideas he then implemented in Finland are, in essence, preventive health care measures.
He supported efforts to educate health care professionals, along with midwives, to municipalities. The services provided by Neuvola were to be free of charge and voluntary. At its core were to be the provision of guidance for mothers and families, a complete vaccination programme as well as the detection of abnormalities in a child’s development as early as possible.
These remain the activities of Neuvola even today.
Neuvola started small, but today it reaches practically all expectant mothers and children in Finland from their birth to the beginning of primary education which is usually at the age of 7. It has been a tremendous success story. My mother used Neuvola services, now I do too. It is a privilege shared by many generations.
It is not an exaggeration to say that Finland is one of the best countries in the world for parents.
[Podcast] Early Stress Gets Under the Skin: Promising Initiatives to Help Children Facing Chronic Adversity
Disadvantaged children who often experience deep poverty, violence, and neglect simultaneously are particularly vulnerable to the pernicious effects of chronic stress. New research reveals that chronic stress alters childrens’ rapidly developing biological systems in ways that undermine their ability to succeed in school and in life. But there is good evidence that specialized programs can help caretakers learn to be more supportive and responsive. High-quality childcare can offer a safe, warm, and predictable environment amid otherwise chaotic lives, and home visiting programs can help both parents and foster parents learn to provide an environment of greatly reduced stress for their children.
On May 7, Princeton University and the Brookings Institution released the Spring 2014 volume and accompanying policy brief of the Future of Children. The release event featured researchers and policy experts who explained how chronic stress “gets under the skin” to disrupt normal development and how programs can provide the support so urgently needed by children who face chronic stress.
From Failure to Listen -Gene-Environment Interactions Simplified, January 26, 2013
I have many theories on how to empower communities but understanding the genetic-environmental interplay is key. Frameworks that simplify these complex interactions can have a powerful impact in explaining the pivotal role of early childhood development and education in building healthy foundations.
The first five years are the most important, those are the years when important brain circuits develop (like roots from a tree) or some circuits remain dormant or die. Although the ability to learn continues way into “old age;” the stronger the circuits developed the more pertinent they become in guiding our behavior. These are the years we develop the foundation on which we build our identities.
The formative years begin at birth as our bodies grow and our brain develop. This is the time to make the greatest impact; ‘Pay now or pay a lot more later!’
For us to survive as a country or a society, children need to become the center of our policies. We need to bring back communities by sharing a common vision, and pooling our resources to help those in the community.
The individualistic thinking of me and my accomplishments ignores that we live in a connected world not a vacuum. We are responsible for each other’s accomplishments and faults. There is a larger collective sense that we are all part of and we should tap into more often.
Here is an example of Gene and Environment Simplified:
Society composed of many smaller communities, which are dynamic with each member belonging to many communities, moving in and out of a variety of communities.
The landscape surrounding my house is very similar to society. Individual sections represent communities and each group of plants represent neighborhoods where each plant reflects race, culture and our unique characteristic. There are obvious differences between plants and humans but early preventive interventions are most cost-effective for both….
- It Pays to Invest in Early Education Says a Nobel Economist Who Boosts Kids’ IQ (pbs.org)
- Genomic data are growing, but what do we really know? (eurekalert.org)
- Childhood trauma leaves mark on DNA of some victims: Gene-environment interaction causes lifelong dysregulation of stress hormones (bipolarblue.wordpress.com)
- Nearly two-thirds of parents of young children in child care say their children could not attend because of illness in the past year.
- One-third of parents of young children are concerned about losing jobs or losing pay when taking off work to care for their sick children.
- 8% of parents with kids in child care say taking their sick child to the emergency room is more convenient than seeing a primary care doctor.
Missing work because a sick child was sent home or not allowed into child care is common; 42% of parents of young children in child care have missed work in the last year. Nearly a quarter of parents (26%) missed work three or more times over a one-year period because of their child.
When a child is sick, parents must either take time off from work, make other child care arrangements, or try to get immediate medical care in order to comply with exclusion policies for the child care setting. One-half of parents with children in child care report that finding alternative or back-up child care for their sick children is difficult (Figure 1).
In addition, about one-third of parents say taking time off of work with a sick child is difficult because they may lose pay or lose their job, and a similar proportion report that they do not receive enough paid time off from work to care for their sick children (Figure 1).
When asked about where to take a sick child for care, 8% of parents with children in child care say taking their sick child to the emergency room is more convenient than seeing a primary care doctor…..
Additional UM Reports (over 50) may be found here
- Parents of high school athletes speak out on performance-enhancing drugs
- Knowledge key to support for embryonic stem cell research
- Who do voters prefer for children’s health issues?
- Bullying worries parents of overweight and obese children
- Retail clinics: an emerging source of health care for children
- Obesity tops list of biggest health problems for kids in 2008
- Summer safety for ‘tweens’ home alone
- Children in research: many parents willing if risk of harm is small
- Ask the doctor: is my child’s medicine FDA-approved?
- Child health threats: are consumer alerts enough?
- New poll shows importance of paid sick leave to parents of young children (washingtonpolicywatch.org)
- One-third of parents concerned about losing jobs, pay when they stay home with sick kids who can’t attend child care (prnewswire.com)
- Parents fear sick kids will cost them their jobs (sott.net)
- Times are tough for low-wage workers (miamiherald.com)
- Improving child care in the U.S.: A Q&A (nj.com)
Community Services Locator An Online Directory for Finding Community Services for Children and Families
Most communities have education, health, mental health, family support, parenting, child care, and other services that can help children and families. However, locating those services or even knowing which services to look for is often difficult. The Community Services Locator is designed to help service providers and families find available national, state, and local resources that can address child and family needs.