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Foundations for participation: the first 1000 days of life

David Ellwood writes in the ‘Machinery of Government’ blog (8.1.18) about how evidence-backed health policy and targeted health services during pregnancy and the early infant years can improve maternal care and increase positive social outcomes for children and families.

‘Every Queenslander deserves a healthy start to life. The first 1000 days signifies the critical time from conception to the end of the first two years of a child’s life. Much scientific research over the last two or three decades has underscored the importance of this time for an individual’s long term social, psychological and physical wellbeing.

‘Our recent understanding of the developmental origins of health and disease has emphasised how events around the time of birth and in the early neonatal period can program an individual for a life of health or disease. Hypertension, diabetes, obesity and other chronic diseases can all have their origins in the perinatal period, and getting all children off to the best possible start should greatly reduce this burden of disease later in life, for individuals and the community. This critical time is an essential period, which lays the foundations for participation in all of the activities of an inclusive and prosperous society.

‘Health policy can have a significant impact on women’s use of maternity and early childhood services, maternal satisfaction with care, and the outcomes of pregnancy and infancy. Women need to be able to access culturally safe, and woman-centred care and the available evidence show that the best way to do this is with continuity of midwifery care. Pregnancy and birth outcomes are better if women feel supported, and managed with care and compassion by someone they trust.

‘… Investing in the future of this state is a vital function of government and there can be no more important investment than in the future of its people’s health and wellbeing. There are many areas of public health policy, which can impact on the health of families and their children, some of which can have life-long impacts on the next generation. Ensuring that women and their families have timely, affordable and equitable access to health services is an essential responsibility of government. This starts with the first 1000 days, and ensuring that all women and their babies get the best possible start to life, lays the foundations for participation in all that Queensland has to offer.’

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