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Brazilian Center for Early Child Development

Abstract

This proposal aims to launch the Brazilian Center for Early Child Development (BCECD) that will: i) carry out original research in the area of measurement of early child development (ECD); ii), develop an application (app) to integrate and store data on child development from different sources; iii), disseminate the app among public sector workers and iv) organize e-learning courses and workshops to public sector professionals, students (from high school to PhD levels) and parents regarding the crucial role of ECD on later life outcomes. The research component will focus on different forms of ECD measurement to improve the efficacy of home visiting programs and the evaluation of interventions aimed at improving parental skills to promote nurturing care. We will start with a pilot in one municipality for the first three years, where we will combine existing instruments, such as those of the Children Health Booklet (CHB), with administrative health and education data. The data platform with individual-level data from these different sources will be accessible to all public sector workers implementing home visiting programs in Brazil to help increase the impact and enhance child development at scale, with a focus on promoting equity. The BCECD will follow a new cohort of children born in the municipality using the new official national identification number (the tax payers' identification number - CPF) to evaluate the effects of monitoring the development of these children while simultaneously empowering health workers to access this individual-level data on child health and education indicators. The impact of these actions on child development will be evaluated using a synthetic difference-in-differences methodology, comparing differences in health and education outcomes across cohorts born before and after the intervention in the municipality, with the same differences in the synthetic control group of municipalities. The BCECD will also collect biological measures, such as measurements of sleep patterns, functional neural networks, polygenic risk scores and epigenetic markers, such as the age acceleration clock, to examine their correlation with the CHB measures and its evolution over the life cycle. After the principal intervention, we will also implement specific, complementary interventions to improve the skills of parents and professionals of different sectors that are close to families during these sensitive periods of brain development (from prenatal to 6 years old). Specially, we will target the Community Health Agents, and evaluate the impact of these interventions on the ECD measures using randomized controlled trials. We will also assess the quality of daycare centers in the municipality and of the public environment near these centers and examine their impact on ECD. (AU)

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