A panel of experts convened by Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges to find ways to ensure that more babies and young children get a healthy start in life will deliver its recommendations later this year.

The mayor joined some of her 27-member Cradle to K Cabinet on Thursday to share updates from the group’s first five months of work. They included leaders of local nonprofit groups, a University of Minnesota economist and north Minneapolis mother of four, one of the panel’s handful of parent representatives.

All said they have spent the past several months analyzing how well current efforts on health, housing and early childhood education are working — and figuring out which need more funding or a broader focus to serve more kids.

Hodges and the group members said there is clear evidence that children who are healthy and provided with good child care do better throughout their lives. They pointed to the high cost of incarceration for juvenile offenders, compared with the smaller cost of early education that might put young people on the right track.

“This is the first opportunity gap a kid faces that has an impact on their educational outcomes, which has an impact on their workforce outcomes,” the mayor said. “So this is crucial to the future of our city, that we get this right for these kids.”

Hodges said it is still not clear how much of a financial investment the city — or other public and private groups — will need to make.

But members of the advisory group said there are specific programs that could benefit from more funding.

Gretchen Musicant, commissioner of Minneapolis Health Department, pointed to a nurse home-visiting program that she said has been shown to have a big effect on parents and children. She said the program focuses on high-risk groups, such as teenage mothers, first-time mothers and poor families, but can’t reach everyone who needs support.

“There is some funding,” she said, “but not enough to meet the entire need.”

The group is to deliver a report of its findings that will include recommendations for local policy changes and potential legislative action, both next year and in the future. The report will be shared with the public in early January.