Israel has the highest poverty rates in the OECD, with almost 22% of the population living in poverty. Of nearly 2.8 million children under the age of 17, including approximately 530,000 children under the age of three, 31% live below the poverty line (compared to the OECD average of 13.7%). Research identifies the ‘first one thousand days’ – from the beginning of pregnancy to age two – as the critical stage when skills and abilities are shaped for life due to rapid brain development. Infants living in poverty are at greater risk of being deprived of a nurturing environment, and of developing more slowly.
Making use of Israel’s extensive system of Well-Baby Clinics (WBCs) established in the 1920s, Yad Hanadiv is working with the Ministry of Health to transform the Well-Baby Clinics into a comprehensive platform. Even today, every neighbourhood and town in Israel has a well-baby clinic (over 1,000 in total), offering service to all, free of charge, without the stigma of being a service ‘for the poor’. Clinics are, in fact, the only place where the system interfaces with parents and their infants on a regular basis from birth to two years – reaching some 97% of them. The initiative is: 1) expanding the variety of services currently offered; 2) fostering the clinics’ capacity to support, guide and help parents navigate the range of services; 3) developing a network of doctors, social workers and caregivers so the clinics can serve as an effective referral agent for other services
The role of WBC nurses is being redefined and appropriate training and professional development programmes are revitalizing the status of the clinics and their staff.