A new platform to help transform traditional health check-ups into holistic care for every child   

UNICEF, WHO and ISSA join forces to enable all children in Europe and Central Asia region to develop their full potential  

05 December 2022

Geneva, 6 December 2022 – Today, UNICEF Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia, WHO Regional Office for Europe and the International Step by Step Association (ISSA) launched a new web platform Health systems for early childhood development. With the support from the European Union under the framework of the Regional project to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the lives of children and families in the Western Balkans and Turkey, the new initiative will serve thousands of policy makers, health workers and health care service planners in Europe and Central Asia in their mission to provide young children and their families with quality care that looks beyond the traditional approach of focusing on the physical health of the child. 

“We have achieved great progress in reducing young child mortality in the region, and now we need to work together to make sure that every child is able to thrive. One in five children in Europe and Central Asia are at risk of not developing their full potential due to lack of nurturing and stimulating care in the family, poverty or social exclusion or limited access to essential services. UNICEF calls for systemic change to address these inequities and will continue supporting health professionals and decision-makers to improve the healthcare for young children and families,” said Afshan Khan, UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia. 

The Health Systems for Early Child Development platform is a one-stop-shop for policy makers, service providers, and service planners, where they can access latest evidence-based guidance and resources on early childhood development policies and programmes that health care systems can incorporate and build on. It is also a learning community that enables discussions and knowledge exchange on building a responsive system that addresses the needs of young children and their families.  

“The foundations of lifelong health, well-being, and productivity are built during pregnancy and early childhood. This is when health systems play a crucial role in child development. We know that health professionals are highly trusted members of their communities, and in the first years of life, are in frequent contact with almost every pregnant woman, newborn, young child and their family. This makes them uniquely positioned to have a positive impact on the early years of child development, supporting a holistic approach to health and well-being that includes a child’s physical, socio-emotional, cognitive and language development,” said Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe. 

Family-centred and supportive healthcare policies, programmes, and services can empower parents and caregivers to provide young children with nurturing care. This includes creating a responsive, safe, and secure environment that ensures good health, adequate nutrition, and opportunities for early learning for every child.  

“We are delighted to be part of this important initiative, which aspires to change the perspective on the role and capacity of the health system to support Early Child Development (ECD). This is something that ISSA has invested in heavily over the years, by supporting professionals bringing ECD into health systems in Europe and Central Asia. Through the Health Systems for Early Child Development initiative, we believe we can make a definite and long-lasting impact.” said ISSA’s Executive Director, Liana Ghent. 

Health workers usually are the first to meet children with complex needs such as chronic medical conditions, disabilities, and children at risk of developmental delays caused by various environmental factors, including poverty, exposure to violence and abuse, or parental mental health issues. Through the initiative health workers will be able to strengthen support across sectors that children with complex needs require. 

Media contacts

Iryna Mazur
Regional Chief of Communication
UNICEF Europe and Central Asia


UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

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