Building a strong foundation for healthy development in the early years of life is a prerequisite for individual well-being, economic productivity, and harmonious societies around the world. Growing scientific evidence also demonstrates that social and physical environments that threaten human development (because of scarcity, stress, or instability) can lead to short-term physiologic and psychological adjustments that are necessary for immediate survival and adaptation, but which may come at a significant cost to long-term outcomes in learning, behavior, health, and longevity. Generally speaking, ministries of health prioritize child survival and physical well-being, ministries of education focus on schooling, ministries of finance promote economic development, and ministries of welfare address breakdowns across multiple domains of function. Advances in the biological and social sciences offer a unifying framework for generating significant societal benefits by catalyzing greater synergy across these policy sectors. This synergy could inform more effective and efficient investments both to increase the survival of children born under adverse circumstances and to improve life outcomes for those who live beyond the early childhood period yet face high risks for diminished life prospects.

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