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UNICEF and health ministry collaborate to strengthen early childhood healthcare

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Contact:  Adhara King


Health Outreach Programme (ECHO) to the Ministry of Health and other stakeholders.


Shelly-Ann Harper, UNICEF's Early Childhood Specialist says ECHO provides early interventions in health and nutrition, education and social protection, and promotes the development of skills and abilities which are the foundation for learning throughout life.


“Basically what we want to do is to make sure that we reach children—wherever they are—with early stimulation services and quality experiences which support their total development.

“The overall objective is to support parents in terms of parenting—to interact with them and demonstrate to them strategies that they can use to support development.”


The aim, Harper says, is to build on the existing health care services to deliver an integrated intervention to improve health and child development for disadvantaged families.


“In terms of the Roving Caregivers programme, they have done an excellent job of reaching that population. What we are taking from the programme is the whole idea of the home visitation model- the community based intervention. We also use the component of early stimulation, working with educational materials within the home, and of course using the principle of the Roving Caregivers, where there is interaction with the parent.”


To promote sustainability, Harper says the idea is to integrate key aspects of the Roving Caregivers Programme into a separate and distinct programme that is an extension of existing maternal child health services in the eastern Caribbean. This means that healthcare personnel who already work in the field will be trained in early childhood development as well.

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