Urban environmental aspects key to early childhood development: Study

By Shilpa Annie Joseph, Official Reporter
  • Follow author on
Early childhood development
Rep. Image | Courtesy: Joshua Choate @ Pixabay

According to new research, air and noise pollution, overcrowding and limited green space are some of the key areas of environmental exposure in early life that can impact development.

The study, led by the University of Technology Sydney, Australia, has highlighted such key aspects of environmental exposure in childhood influencing growth.

Researchers have analyzed 235 research articles from across 41 countries for the study. The first 2000 days of life (0-5 years) are recognized as a critical period impacting physical, cognitive, social, and emotional health outcomes in later life.

Other exposure factors crucial to child development include atmosphere, chemical and metal exposure, neighborhood-built features, community support, and residential living environment, the researchers said in their study published in the journal Public Health Research and Practice.

The team said that “the findings help understand the health risks of urban living, which can further inform the design and planning of urban environments to improve these outcomes, as it is expected that by 2030, more than 60 percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas.”

Lead researcher, Ms. Erica McIntyre from the Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney, noted that “Urban planners and policymakers need to recognize the role that everyday urban environments provide as a foundation for health and wellbeing.”

One of the concerns around urban living that the study investigated the most was that of air pollution. The researchers found that exposure to pollutants like particulate matter and toxins emitted from vehicles and industry can have long-term consequences on neurological development, in addition to leading to respiratory problems such as asthma.

They also found that lack of access to parks, gardens, and natural surroundings can deprive young children of crucial sensory experiences and opportunities for exploration, thus impacting physical and cognitive development.

The team said “the findings highlighted the need to better understand aspects of urban design – such as access to green space – that can promote mental health, given that these issues are increasing in prevalence in children and teenagers.”

“Incorporating child-friendly designs, advocating for more green spaces, noise and pollution-reduction measures, and walkable neighborhoods that encourage physical activity are just some of the measures that help create environments conducive to healthy child development,” said Ms. McIntyre.

The lead researcher also emphasized the need for further research, policy advocacy, and community involvement to address the challenges of raising children in urban settings.

Trending | Exposure to household chemicals may reduce pregnancy chances: Study