Dr. Ramesh Raghavan Advises Council of Europe Member States on Implementing Child Well-Being Agenda
On March 30, 2023, Professor Ramesh Raghavan gave a keynote address at the high-level conference “Investing in Children – the Key to Prosperity,” hosted in Reykjavik by the Ministry of Education and Children of Iceland, and the Council of Europe (CoE). Attendees included the Icelandic Minister of Education and Children, Ásmundur Einar Daðason; the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence against Children, Najat Maalla M’jid; the UNICEF Head of Campaigns & Advocacy, Benjamin Perks; and civil society and government representatives from Iceland and other European nations.
Dr. Raghavan explained that the conference was “the beginning of a sustained program of work by CoE member states to invest in children’s well-being.” Icelandic Minister Ásmundur Daðason, who has made integrating services to provide holistic support for children the focus of his ministry, stated in opening remarks that “investing in children is the most profitable investment any society can make.” To help member states make such investments, staff from the UN Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children and the Government of Iceland are now drafting a report based on the conference that will provide an overview of the content discussed as well as an implementation toolkit.
In his keynote, titled “Investing in Upstream Strategies to Enhance Child Well-Being,” Dr. Ragavhan provided a definition of child well-being, which encompasses the development of “stage-appropriate (rather than age-appropriate) capacities that equip the child for a successful future, given their environment,” and the ability to “engage with the world in child-appropriate ways, for instance, with curiosity, exploration, spontaneity, and emotional security.”
Dr. Raghavan also illustrated the economic evidence behind some of the key strategies to enhance well-being, largely drawn from his forthcoming book with Professor Daniel Eisenberg of UCLA. The strategies he discussed are universally providing social and emotional learning programs in schools and the evidence-based Communities that Care prevention system in communities; selectively providing home visiting to parents; and, as indicated, providing parental capacity building programs to parents and multisystemic therapy to children with serious mental health needs.
Finally, Dr. Raghavan provided recommendations for implementing child well-being strategies. He explained that he and Dr. Eisenberg recommend “social vaccines,” i.e., “interventions that are preventative not curative, that can be directed towards populations rather than at individual children, and that address the determinants of disease rather than the disease itself.” Toward that end, he said, countries and municipalities should: identify which strategies produce desired outcomes to maximize “bang for the buck”; identify and assess “core components” of programs and adapt them to existing intervention efforts; procure technical support from organizations that help implement evidence-based interventions and broader technical support systems; encourage local adaptation of interventions; develop child and family well-being dashboards so providers and decision makers can track performance and quickly adjust if problems arise; and support implementation for sustainability, focusing less on the interventions and more on creating an environment in which children can flourish.
Video of the entire conference is available to stream online, with Dr. Raghavan’s keynote beginning at 2:15:00.