The June 25 editorial (“Our View: Child well-being in Maine headed in wrong direction”) is one that could have been written four or even 10 years ago. Maine has lagged behind many other states with similar demographics. While the problem is clear, just as clear is the long-term solution.

In 2000, the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine initiated a broad-based review of scientific knowledge on early childhood. Findings were unequivocal: Child development can be favorably affected when well-resourced interventions change the balance between risk and protections.

The two-decade-long Adverse Childhood Experiences research provides similar evidence on the enduring impact of poverty, violence and trauma on lifelong health outcomes and their influence on chronic illness in adulthood and lower socioeconomic conditions.

Mounting evidence builds a strong scientific case as well as an economic argument for lawmakers to implement policies that provide up-front costs for early intervention to generate strong returns on investment. Early experiences determine a child’s brain architecture, setting the stage for future success or failure.

Interventions such as routine access to basic medical care, environmental reduction in levels of neurotoxins and, for those experiencing significant adversity, intensive early childhood programs staffed by qualified personnel can change lives for children and families.

Realization of positive outcomes, however, takes time and patience. Conversely, programs designed for cost-saving purposes alone will not be effective.

There is no mystery about what needs to be done – there is decades’ worth of evidence to support the benefits of early intervention. The question is whether elected officials have the moral courage to sidestep politics and use science to halt troubling trends and intervene in health care and education in meaningful and sustainable ways. Once scientific solutions and recommendations are fully embraced, then real change will be realized.

Shelley Cohen-Konrad and Thomas Chalmers-McLaughlin


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