Mumbai: The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), with the support of the Bernard van Leer Foundation (BvLF), launched PAALAN 1000 recently. This initiative is aimed at raising awareness of Early Childhood Development (ECD) in the cognitive space by combining early years’ coaching for parents and caregivers of young children with services aimed at meeting the basic needs of families. A National Campaign focused on disseminating messages about the right nurturing care and stimulation to infants and toddlers and a Parenting App, which will provide caregivers practical advice on what they can do in their everyday routine to advance the holistic development of their children, was also launched during the event.
Dr Bharti Pravin Pawar, Hon’ble Minister of State, MoHFW virtually launched the campaign, conclave and app. Dr Vinod K Paul, Member (Health & Nutrition), NITI Aayog; Dr Pradeep Vyas, Additional Chief Secretary (Health), Govt. of Maharashtra; Dr P Ashok Babu, Joint Secretary (RCH), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, GOI; Dr Sumita Ghosh, Additional Commissioner In Charge (Child Health), MoHFW; and Rushda Majeed, BvLF, were part of the inaugural session. Actress Divyanka Tripathi, the celebrity face of the campaign, joined the launch via video link.
The programme is one of the initiatives that the Government of India is undertaking under the Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram, which emphasises responsive care and focuses on interventions during conception and up to the first two years of a child’s life.
Since cognitive development of children under two years is a major focus area of this programme, the campaign focuses on six principles adapted from the Boston Basics:
Maximise Love – Infants and toddlers thrive when their world feels loving, safe, and predictable.
Talk and Engage (Singing, Pointing, Counting, Grouping, and Comparing) – Babies start learning languages from the very beginning (before they are even born). They begin by listening to the sounds when family members and caregivers talk to them.
Explore Through Movement and Play – Movement and play are good for children’s bodies and brains. They help keep children healthy and build their coordination and strength.
Read and Discuss Stories – Reading and talking to children about stories builds their language skills and sparks their imagination. Reading aloud from the very beginning is one of the most important things you can do to prepare the child to do well in school.
Mother’s Engagement with the Child while Breastfeeding – The closeness between the mother and the baby is unique. This is further enhanced while the mother breastfeeds the baby, which gives a strong sense of nourishment, warmth, and fulfilment.
Manage Stress and Stay Calm – Children can sense emotions and will respond to them through reactions. Hence, it is important to find practical strategies that help cope with stress when around children.
The objectives of the campaign include providing education and support on ECD and encouraging crucial parental engagement, both on-ground (through government and non-government health establishments) and online (through call centres) and the mobile app. As part of this programme, seven TV commercials, radio spots, and print communication pieces have been released for widespread dissemination.
Stressing the importance of the early years, Dr Bharti Pravin Pawar, Hon’ble Minister of State, MoHFW, said, “The process of a baby’s brain development begins during pregnancy and is influenced by the mother’s health, nutrition and environment. The first 1000 days of a child’s life establish a solid foundation for his/her physical, mental, emotional, cognitive and social health. Investing in early childhood development is one of the strongest public investments we can make as this helps children attain their full potential and also impacts their future life as adults. The Paalan 1000 initiative will benefit children, parents and caregivers, and society at large.”
Dr Vinod K Paul, Member (Health & Nutrition), NITI Aayog, shared: “Ensuring the cognitive, behavioural, sensory and social development of our children is of paramount importance. Apart from reducing the child mortality rate, the time has now come to prioritise healthy nutrition and optimum achievement by way of development. 80% of the brain is developed by 2 years of age, and our children’s potential needs to be developed fully, for which a people’s movement needs to be created. Being a paediatrician and policy enabler, ECD is very close to my heart and I am humbled to be a part of this great initiative.”
Rushda Majeed, India Representative, Bernard van Leer Foundation said, “The first few years, and particularly the first 1000 days is a crucial period for every child’s development, which also impacts a child’s future life as an adult. The Paalan 1000 Campaign and the Parenting App will equip parents and caregivers of young children with the necessary information and support for their child’s brain development as well as holistic growth. We are elated about the successful launch and thankful for the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s commitment to the campaign and app, which aim to provide ECD-related information and services to the maximum number of families across India.”
The ECD conclave also highlighted the work undertaken by Meghalaya, Jammu & Kashmir, Assam, Maharashtra, Delhi, Gujarat, Kerala, Telangana, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu.
The launch was followed by a series of discussions between multi-laterals, community organisations, health professionals and ECD experts on both days. Luigi D’Aquino, UNICEF; Dr Pushpa Chowdary, WHO India; James Cairns (Harvard Centre on the Developing Child), Andrea Torres (BvLF), Tinni Sawhney (AKF), Ashfaq Bhat (NIPI), Dr Sachin Gupta (USAID), Dr Rajan Shukla (PHFI), Uttara Bharat-Kumar (John Hopkins Centre for Communications Change), Ruba Samain (The Queen Rania Foundation), and Dr Vibha Krishnamurthy (Ummeed), were among the dignitaries who attended the conclave.