Panel: Interdisciplinary Approaches for Promoting Children’s Development in Sub-Saharan Africa: Insights for Intervention, Evaluation, & Policy
(Family and Child Policy)

Saturday, November 8, 2014: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
Nambe (Convention Center)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Organizers:  Dana Charles McCoy, Harvard University and Edward Seidman, New York University
Panel Chairs:  Candace Miller, Mathematica Policy Research
Discussants:  Candace Miller, Mathematica Policy Research

An Intervention to Improve Preschool Quality in Ghana: Testing Demand- and Supply-Side Strategies to Improve Preschool Choice and Quality in Peri-Urban Accra
Sharon Wolf1, Alice Wuermli2, J. Lawrence Aber3, Jere Behrman4, Sarah Kabay3, Dana Charles McCoy5, Loic Watine6 and Chase Stafford6, (1)University of Wisconsin - Madison, (2)University of California, Davis, (3)New York University, (4)University of Pennsylvania, (5)Harvard University, (6)Innovations for Poverty Action

Assessing Population-Level Early Child Development in Low-Resourced Settings: The Saving Brains Measure of Early Child Development
Dana Charles McCoy, Günther Fink, Christopher Sudfeld and Wafaie Fawzi, Harvard University

A number of interventions in the United States have shown promise for improving children’s developmental outcomes through intervening at the level of their homes, schools, and communities (e.g., Jones, Brown, & Aber, 2011; Katz, Kling, & Leibman, 2001). Despite a growing interest in creating similar programs globally, many researchers and policy makers have struggled to develop and implement effective settings-level interventions on the ground, particularly in contexts where infrastructure is limited and resources are spread thin. Given that an estimated 219 million children worldwide are failing to meet their developmental potential (Grantham-McGregor et al., 2007), novel approaches to developing and field-testing policy-relevant interventions with sustainable and scalable impacts are desperately needed. The present panel highlights a range of strategies for developing and assessing settings-level interventions to promote children's well-being in resource-limited contexts. Although each paper focuses on a different stage of intervention design and evaluation (moving from preliminary identification of specific “levers” of intervention to measuring impacts at scale), they are tied together through their common goal of promoting children’s development using creative, theoretically-sound, and culturally-appropriate settings-level methodologies. In addition to presenting novel frameworks for intervention, each paper includes empirical data from a different country as an exemplar for how such approaches can be effectively operationalized and assessed. Beginning with the problem identification stage, Paper 1 highlights the results of a “scoping study” of early education programs in peri-urban Accra, Ghana, and how these data were used to inform the development of a preschool quality initiative that involves direct intervention with both families and schools. Moving to intervention development, Paper 2 presents a theoretically-based framework for identifying “key ingredients” in effective intervention design in low-income, crisis-affected settings, including informant interviews and the application of this knowledge to a school quality intervention in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. On the evaluation side, Paper 3 presents a bioecological framework for testing differential effectiveness of settings-level interventions based on individual differences in children’s biological profiles (e.g., stress physiology) and demonstrates how physiological profiles can be constructed using longitudinal data. Finishing with approaches to scalability and long-term progress monitoring, Paper 4 proposes a framework for measuring child outcomes at the population level, including results of an extensive measurement validation study conducted in rural Tanzania. The discussant, a well-regarded expert with decades of experience in intervention and settings-level theory, will conclude the panel session with a summary statement including future directions for research and overall policy implications. Collectively, these papers build the field’s knowledge regarding "best practices" in settings-level intervention design and measurement for low- and middle-income country contexts. In keeping with APPAM’s goals to promote diversity, these papers include approaches for different phases of intervention design and use a broad range of methodologies (e.g., randomized control trials, informant interviews, longitudinal modeling, psychometric evaluation). In addition, presenters come from multiple institutions (including academic and government-based organizations) and disciplines (e.g., psychology, human development, public health, education), with co-authors representing multiple organizations from both high- and low-income nations.
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