First 1,000 days of child’s life are the most important

by Anthony Lake, Executive Director, UNICEF

Stimulation, nutrition, protection from violence and pollution, all shape a child’s future. Image: REUTERS/James Akena

At last year’s World Economic Forum, young children’s health was a part of the agenda, because the first 1000 days are most important to children’s development and our collective economic success. This article, part of the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting, explains why.

What’s the most important thing a child has? It’s their brain. And yet, we’re not caring for children’s brains the way we care for their bodies. This should concern all of us – including business leaders.

The first 1,000 days of life – from conception to age three – open a critical and singular window of opportunity. During this period, children’s brains can form 1,000 neural connections every second. A three-year-old’s brain is twice as active as that of an adult and the connections their brain makes are the building blocks of their future.