Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences is the premier publication of the Academy, offering review articles in topical areas and proceedings of conferences.
Fostering early childhood development
Globally, 250 million children fail to meet developmental potential in the first five years of life — 45 percent of all children under five. Young children require nurturing care in order to thrive and develop healthily. Yet, few programs that support development and enable nurturing actually reach young children and caregivers.
While a growing body of evidence describes what interventions work and show promise for supporting young children’s development, little exists on how to implement effective programs at scale.
A series of commissioned papers on implementation research and practice for early childhood development (ECD) was published in May 2018. The collection of 19 papers serve as a guide for better implementation research and practice, including improved reporting of implementation structures and processes of ECD programs. The special issue advances evidence on implementation to effectively scale-up high quality interventions for nurturing care that promote ECD, and calls for evidence on implementation of nurturing care interventions.
Authored by global researchers and practitioners — from academicians, funders, think tanks, UN agencies and non-government organizations — the papers relay experiences of adaptation of nurturing-care interventions and evaluation of implementation effectiveness trials of home visits as well as community-based and preschool interventions.
Other topics include costing and financing interventions that support ECD, shaping demand, supporting ECD in fragile contexts, capacity building and transitioning to scale. Global programmatic experiences include descriptions from trials in Australia, Brazil, Colombia, India, Jamaica, Malawi, Pakistan, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
The special issue is intended to serve as a guide for better implementation research and practice, including improved reporting of implementation structures and processes of ECD programs. There remains an urgent need to prioritize the improvement and expansion of evidence-based programs by examining how, for whom, and at what cost the programs are implemented across the different stages of scale.
Implementation Research and Practice for Early Childhood Development
Ann NY Acad Sci 1419: 1–271
Treating the destructive effects of metabolic syndrome
Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a group of various metabolic abnormalities including high blood sugar, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, abdominal obesity and high serum triglycerides that is linked to a much greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. MetS has become prevalent in recent decades due to rising obesity from the easy availability and overconsumption of high-calorie foods and an increasingly sedentary lifestyle; it is a major public health concern.
In an effort to treat MetS, researchers have been studying various compounds. Melatonin, a neurohormone known for regulating circadian rhythm and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects that can improve metabolic disorders.
Researchers previously showed that the drug ramelteon — a powerful and highly selective agonist of the high-affinity receptors for melatonin, which has the same antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects as melatonin — could improve the high blood pressure and weight gain in a rat model of hypertension. However, it was unclear what effects ramelteon would have on metabolic disorders such as MetS.
In Effects of ramelteon on cardiac injury and adipose tissue pathology in rats with metabolic syndrome, Kohzo Nagata and colleagues at Nagoya University demonstrate that ramelteon improves a number of the pathological features in a rat model of MetS.
Among the improvements, cardiac damage observed in MetS rats was reduced; the rats had less left ventricular fibrosis and cardiac oxidative stress, as well as less inflammation that appeared to be the result of antioxidative effects of ramelteon acting in the heart as a scavenger of free radicals that can induce cardiac injury.
Ramelteon also attenuated weight gain seen in the MetS rats. And while it did not reduce the mass of the problematic abdominal white adipose tissue, it did lessen the pathological inflammation seen in this tissue. Another positive effect of ramelteon was to prevent the pathological conversion of brown adipose tissue — which has the beneficial effect of burning fat to generate heat — to white adipose tissue.
Overall, these results suggest that ramelteon is promising for treating various aspects of MetS. The authors note, however, that further research will be necessary to characterize the molecular basis of the effects of ramelteon on MetS.
This original article from Nagata and colleagues is included among three review articles and five original articles in the June special issue Annals Reports.
Ann NY Acad Sci 1421: 1–109
Additional Recent Annals volumes
The Year in Neurology and Psychiatry
Ann NY Acad Sci 1420: 1–71
The Year in Evolutionary Biology
Ann NY Acad Sci 1422: 1–103
The Neurosciences and Music VI
Ann NY Acad Sci 1423: 1–446
Attention in Working Memory
Ann NY Acad Sci 1424: 1–177