As three retired pediatricians and an early childhood educator, to us, "PN to 3" means giving rural Minnesotans the help they need for healthy pregnancies and early bonding, nurturing, and teaching their very young children. Early childhood education is really part of health care. Health care experts and epidemiologists tell us that a better educated, more productive work force is healthier for workers and their families. It all starts in “PN to 3”.

We're contacting colleagues and friends, now a network of nearly 100, and encouraging them to contact their state representatives and senators, asking them for robust funding for ECE/PN to 3 programs. After years of inaction, the matter is truly urgent.

PN stands for prenatal care, during which parents-to-be learn the importance of good nutrition, avoiding toxins (illicit drugs, alcohol, tobacco and lead), and preparation for a new baby’s arrival.

“To 3” means birth to age 3 – that time when babies’ brains actively seek and acquire connections that last a lifetime. Early education for families, babies and toddlers, combined with quality child care, provides the tools parents seek and the developmental skills babies and toddlers need to become productive and healthy adults. Without a healthy PN-3, a life of struggle can result.

A mother needs 6-12 weeks of paid leave for her and her baby to build strong brain connections, which depend on stress-free nurturing and parent-infant bonding. That requires income security during these earliest weeks. This “great start” allows the strong, healthy development that then occurs in years 0 to 3.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Early childhood education is a public good, like public education. Public education (K-12) is free and provided by state and federal dollars at $10,000 per child per year. By comparison, early childhood education and quality child care public investment is only a few hundred dollars per baby-toddler per year. In Minnesota, as in most states, we invest the least when the investment returns the most.

Economists tell us that the return on investment for a healthy 0 to 3 is 10-16 times, and this return begins as early as the pre-K ages 4-5 years, and it continues thru K-12 and into the adult years.

Businesses depend on mothers returning to the workplace. Another reason why quality child care (which is not baby sitting!) and education are critically important. They involve the interactive responding around reading, play, and relating daily observations to babies and toddlers that lead to a brain’s connections that set it up for academic and social success in the school years and beyond.

Let your legislators know that rural areas cannot afford to be child care deserts. Funding for family, center and school-based staff and programs are in urgent need. The life of many rural communities and some urban neighborhoods literally depend on them. Lawmakers need to hear from their constituents that this is a real crisis. Without child care there can be no recovery!

Fortunately, the American Rescue Plan (ARP) also provides funding for early childhood. Please make it clear to legislators that “infrastructure help” in Early Childhood means funding for child care providers, their workers, and for families to afford childcare and early education – not just for “bricks and mortar”.

In addition, there will be $2.5 billion from ARP coming to Minnesota state government, which can be used for various purposes. We are told that 4-5 contacts to an elected official can be enough to have an effect. Go to gis.leg.mn for contact info for legislators.

Our group working on “PN to 3” funding, Doctors for Early Childhood: Dale Dobrin, MD, FAAP (Fellow American Academy of Pediatrics); Mary Meland, MD, FAAP; Roger Sheldon, MD, FAAP; Ada Alden, EdD