The Effects of Early Childhood Development Programs in International Development
Monday, June 13, 2016: 2:15 PM-3:45 PM
Clement House, 3rd Floor, Room 04 (London School of Economics)
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
Panel Organizer: Thomas De Hoop, American Institutes for Research
This session focuses on the effectiveness of international development programs that aim to improve early childhood development outcomes. Policy makers and researchers increasingly recognize that the first few years of life are strongly associated with education, health, and socioeconomic outcomes later in life, particularly in low-and middle-income countries. However, globally at least 200 million children younger than five years old are falling short of their potential for development and growth. Malnutrition during the first 1000 days of life, including iodine deficiency and inadequate vitamin intake, leads to decreased cognition because the development of the brain is vulnerable to inadequate nutrition (Almond & Currie, 2010; Bardham et al., 2013). Similarly, children with disadvantaged family and home environments are less successful in developing cognitive and non-cognitive skills (Heckman, 2006). However, the large majority of the evidence on how to improve early childhood outcomes in low-and middle-income countries is based on studies with small sample sizes that only focus on short-term outcomes (Gertler, 2013).
The papers in this session contribute to the literature by examining the effects of early childhood development programs in Bangladesh and Zambia on early childhood and nutrition outcomes. Each of the papers assesses the effects of an early childhood development program using either experimental or rigorous quasi-experimental methods. These methods allow for addressing counterfactual questions or in other words for determining what would have happened in the absence of the intervention.
The first study determines the effects of a early childhood program in Zambia using a cluster-randomized controlled trial. The program included biweekly visits from a local health worker who screened and referred children for management of infections and malnutrition, and an invitation to attend a biweekly mothers’ group meeting based on cognitive stimulation and play practices, child nutrition and cooking practices in Zambia. The study found a significant positive impact on parenting behavior.
The second study assesses the impact of a Bangladeshi program that seeks to improve child development by promoting positive early stimulation practices and maternal responsiveness to the emotional and physical needs of children up to three years old using a cluster-randomized controlled trial. The study team just completed the endline data collection and is in the process of analyzing the data.
The third study examines the impact of BRAC’s nutrition program on parenting and young child feeding practices and the likelihood of stunting and wasting in Bangladesh using a propensity score matching design. The paper focuses on a large-scale program that is designed to reduce malnutrition among pregnant-lactating women, and young children by building the capacity of community health workers, establishing an effective community based integration nutrition service delivery, and raising awareness and empowering communities to improve feeding practices. The preliminary findings suggest that the program had a significant positive impact on the likelihood and frequency of antenatal care visits.