The American Academy of Pediatrics is calling on its members to advocate for high-quality early childhood education.
The group, which represents 66,000 doctors, has issued a policy statement on the issue that was published in the August edition of the journal Pediatrics.
It notes that high-quality early childhood education has particularly strong benefits for children from low-income families and lays out what pediatricians can do to ensure young children in their communities are getting this strong foundation.
The statement also points out the barriers many families face when it comes to finding high-quality programs, such as cost, availability and a lack of consistent regulation and enforcement.
How Pediatricians Can Play a Bigger Role in Early Education
In addition to lobbying government leaders for more funding for early childhood programs, the AAP also notes that there are several areas where programs would benefit from more pediatrician involvement.
For example, the statement suggests the quality rating and improvement system, or QRIS, which is used in most states to measure and improve the quality of early childhood education, could benefit from more input from pediatricians. It notes that pediatricians’ knowledge about the common health problems faced by young children and the “challenges of translating research into practice” could be helpful to those implementing these systems.
The AAP also praises early childhood health care consultants who can provide screenings for things such as developmental delays as well as hearing and vision problems. These professionals can also help to set policy around health-related issues such as immunizations and providing medication in addition to helping to make sure that early childhood education settings work for children with special health needs.
Health care consultants can also provide children and families with information about diet and the need for physical activity. Despite all the benefits these consultants provide, the statement points out that health professionals are rarely hired because of a lack of funds.
The AAP statement also provides a list of recommendations for pediatricians including that they ask patients’ families about child care arrangements and provide guidance to finding high-quality care. Pediatricians are also advised to become health consultants and to push for training for early childhood education professionals on topics related to health such as safe-sleeping arrangements.
Photo: Preschool students work on an art project. (Pixabay)
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A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.