A convergent approach to early childhood development: Learnings from Maharashtra Aarambh programme
Adequate nutrition, access to healthcare, opportunities for early learning and responsive caregiving significantly contribute towards children attaining their full human potential as recognized by Government of India's POSHAN 2.0 and Saksham Anganwadi guidelines. Addressing these early childhood development (ECD) needs at scale requires comprehensive and integrated approaches. In this issue of PoshanWeekly, we are happy to share one such convergent Early Childhood Development (ECD) model, the Aarambh programme, implemented by the Government of Maharashtra’s Department of Women and Child Development, Health and Family Welfare Department and Rajmata Jijau Mother-Child Health & Nutrition Mission (RJMHNM), in collaboration with UNICEF Maharashtra and Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (Wardha). The statewide scale-up of the Aarambh programme by Anganwadi workers and ASHA workers focuses on empowering parents, caregivers and community members to promote responsive care, appropriate nutrition, health-seeking behaviours, hygiene practices, safe and stress-free environment, early stimulation (0-3 years) and early learning (3-6 years) opportunities at home for children aged 0-6 years. The Aarambh programme, uses four core approaches embedded into existing government programmes to empower families and communities on ECD:
- Customized messages for each child through home visits by Anganwadi workers and ASHA workers
- Peer-based approaches for empowerment during mothers and parents meeting
- Strengthening of growth monitoring and promotion sessions at ICDS, Village Health and Nutrition Day (VHND), and sick visits at health facilities
- Community-norm building through Palak Melawa (event dedicated to caregivers), other community-based platforms and forums (Panchayati Raj Institutions and Self-Help Groups)
The following strategies when integrated with routine programme activities helped frontline workers to adopt approaches that strengthened relationships with caregivers and community members. It further improved frontline workers’ skills and confidence to be positioned as ECD champions in the communities. Details of the Aarambh programme, guidebook for frontline workers, training videos, brain-building activities and other relevant materials are available in the resources section. We hope you find this useful in integrating responsive caregiving and early learning within existing health and nutrition services in your respective areas.