The burden of disease is borne disproportionately by the poor. In addition, the impact of disease on education is greatest for the poor. In the preceding review we saw examples where lack of breast feeding, or otitis media infection led to cognitive impairments only for children of the least educated mothers. There are also examples where the impact of one condition is greater for children suffering from other problems of health or nutrition [105, 106]. Conversely, preschool health interventions tend to provide the greatest benefit to disadvantaged children. For example, long-term educational benefits of a nutritional supplementation program in Guatemala were found only for those children of low socio-economic status. Many other examples exist in the literature on school-age children. For example, giving breakfast to children in Jamaican schools improved cognitive function on the same day to a greater extent for children with chronic malnutrition . Similarly, gender differences in the effect of interventions favor girls. For example, iron supplementation is found to improve preschool attendance for girls more than boys , and malaria prevention increases enrolment for girls but not boys .
Health and nutrition interventions therefore offer a way of promoting equity in education and by benefiting vulnerable children to the greatest extent. If ECD health and nutrition projects are explicitly targeted at the poorest in society (or at least ensure that coverage extends to the rural poor and other hard-to-reach group), the impact of equity will be all the greater.
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For many years, scientists have been playing out the ingredients that make breast milk the perfect food for babies. They've discovered to day over 200 close compounds to fight infection, help the immune system mature, aid in digestion, and support brain growth - nature made properties that science simply cannot copy. The important long term benefits of breast feeding include reduced risk of asthma, allergies, obesity, and some forms of childhood cancer. The more that scientists continue to learn, the better breast milk looks.