A version of this story appeared in the February 3 edition of CNN's Royal News, a weekly dispatch bringing you the inside track on Britain's royal family. Sign up here.
(CNN)There had been rumblings and whispers of something big coming from Kensington Palace. This week we finally found out exactly what's been in the works when Catherine, Princess of Wales unveiled a major new public awareness campaign centered around the importance of early childhood.
Called "Shaping Us," the princess' new initiative is intended to improve our collective understanding of how critical the first five years of life are in shaping the adults we grow up to be. The aim is to move the subject out of the realm of scientific research and recast it as "one of the most strategically important topics of our time."
"The way we develop, through our experiences, relationships, and surroundings during our early childhood, fundamentally shapes our whole lives. It affects everything from our ability to form relationships and thrive at work, to our mental and physical well-being as adults and the way we parent our own children," Kate said as the campaign launched on Tuesday.
"By focusing our collective time, energy, and resources to build a supportive, nurturing world around the youngest members of our society and those caring for them, we can make a huge difference to the health and happiness of generations to come."
To ensure that the conversation reaches a broad spectrum of society, the 41-year-old mom of three has enlisted several British celebrities to support the push for greater awareness. The campaign also features a 90-second animation that illustrates how babies and young children are the product of their earliest interactions and surrounding environment. You can check it out here, but it's also being screened at theaters around the UK from Friday and appears on electronic billboards in the heart of London at Piccadilly Circus.
Over the course of the week, the drive to increase public understanding around the topic has seen Kate undertake engagements in London and Leeds, speak with students about the campaign's short film, launch a dedicated Instagram account to continue the conversation online and more.
The campaign coincides with new research from the Royal Foundation's Centre for Early Childhood that showed a shortfall in public understanding of child development. The new data reinforced the work of the public comms drive as it revealed that around one in three adults reports knowing just a little or nothing about how children develop in the first five years.
The princess has been working closely with Centre for Early Childhood's Advisory Group, which provides strategic advice and oversight on how to bring about lasting change.
Eamon McCrory, professor of developmental neuroscience and psychopathology at University College London, said our earliest years are when "more than a million connections between the nerve cells in our brain are formed every second -- faster than at any other time in our lives."
"These connections drive our development, building the foundations for all future learning, behaviour, and health," continued McCrory, who is also one of the advisory group members. "By ensuring children and parents are supported during this critical period we -- as individuals and a society -- can positively influence the lives of the next generation for decades to come."
Carey Oppenheim, another member of the advisory group and early childhood lead at the Nuffield Foundation, added that "parents and carers cannot do this alone." She says families should be supported, whether that's through individual efforts from neighbors and friends or t