Illustrative photo. (Source: VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) – A workshop took place in Hanoi on December 13 to seek ways to expand learning clubs promoting childcare in the first 1,000 days which, according to the UNICEF, is important to children’s future health and development.

The workshop “Learning clubs to improve infants’ health and development in Vietnam: Report on progress” was co-held by the Ministry of Health, the Research and Training Centre for Community Development (RTCCD), and Australia’s University of Melbourne and Monash University.

The event introduced the “learning clubs” and promoted benefits of integrating the “learning clubs” into national programmes and expanding the clubs nationwide.

The “learning clubs” have been piloted in the northern province of Ha Nam since 2014 with support from the Grand Challenges Canada, the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia, the Embassy of Australia in Vietnam, the RTCCD, the Ha Nam Department of Health and Australian universities.

The aims of the “learning clubs” are to improve women’s health and infants’ health and development and to ensure children receive comprehensive and responsive care to optimize their development in terms of physical health, language, intellectual, cognitive, emotional, motor and social interaction skills in the first two years of life.

They also act as a forum for fathers and grandparents to attend and learn how to play active roles in maternal and child care.

The learning clubs have been piloted in two phases – from 2014 – 2015 and 2018 – 2019, said RTCCD Deputy Director Tran Thi Thu Ha. The second phase intends to evaluate the effectiveness of the learning clubs and identify barriers and enablers for scaling up and sustainability of the programme.

It focuses on improving cognitive development of children and reducing the number of children suffering from malnutrition at two years of age. Additionally, it expects the learning clubs will be integrated into national programmes and non-governmental projects in Vietnam, she noted.

So far, the learning clubs have attracted over 4,360 participants, including 3,449 pregnant women, 612 fathers and 302 grandparents. They have been provided with basic knowledge on child’s primary care and then able to instruct other family members to adopt these practices.

The first 1,000 days of life – from conception to age two – open a golden window of opportunity. During this period, children’s brains can form 1,000 neural connections every second – a once in a lifetime pace – constituting the building blocks of every child’s future, according to the UNICEF in Vietnam.

The science is clear about what a young brain needs to make those connections – healthy nutrition, good stimulation and good parenting. Yet in Vietnam, close to 25 percent of children under five in Vietnam suffer from stunted growth, only one in four children under five has at least three books at home, and more than two-thirds of children are negatively affected by violence at home. –VNA