Investing in early childhood through high-quality preschool programs and community support programs is an essential element to creating a more healthy country, says a commission convened by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation—the nation's largest philanthropy devoted solely to health issues.
The report, Time to Act: Investing in the Health of Our Children and Communities, is a followup from the Commission to Build a Healthier America, which first released 10 sweeping recommendations in 2009. One of its recommendations then was "ensure that all children have high-quality early developmental support (child care, education, and other services)."
The commission was called together again to expand on some of its recommendations from four years ago. In the newest report, the commision says that the country should:
• Create stronger quality standards for early childhood development programs, link funding to program quality, and guarantee access by funding enrollment for all low-income children under age 5 in programs meeting these standards by 2025.
• Help parents who struggle to provide healthy, nurturing experiences for their children.
• Invest in research and innovation. Evaluation research will ensure that all early childhood programs are based on the best available evidence. Innovation will catalyze the design and testing of new intervention strategies to achieve substantially greater impacts than current best practices.
The report also says that spending on high-quality early childhood programs must take priority in an era of fiscal constraints. The U.S. now ranks 25th out of 29 industrialized countries in the amount spent on early childhood education as a percentage of gross domestic product, said the report, citing data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. "It is imperative that the country, for both fiscal and moral reasons, put our youngest children first and invest in initiatives that we know will lead to a healthier, stronger America tomorrow," the report said.