Mobile crèches in India, nutrition lessons for parents in Colombia, and mental health support for families in the Congo are just a few of the projects a Melbourne researcher has studied, while looking at how to deliver early child development programs to the world's preschoolers.

Paediatrician Kate Milner from the Murdoch Children's Research Institute is a lead author in a new series, examining child development projects across 23 low-and middle-income countries in Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and South-East.

"We want to better understand how to support under-fives children's play, learning and development in diverse settings," said Dr Milner, who this week travelled from Melbourne to the Panama in Central America for the launch of the research at the International Paediatric Association congress.

The five papers, published in the latest 'Archives of Disease in Childhood' was produced by more than 20 authors from around the world, and coordinated by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Hygiene.

"A large, well-established body of research tells us that children's early life experiences have a profound impact on their learning, health and well-being," Dr Milner said.

"The projects we look at were varied, including mobile crèches that travelled to regional areas in India, nutrition lessons delivered in groups in Colombia and mental health support for mothers identified as at risk in the Congo.

"We even examined low-cost childcare for families in Kenya and fathers' groups in Vietnam."

Dr Milner said the majority of the world's children live in low-and middle-income countries and the research looked at how to reach large numbers of children and support them to reach their potential.

"Such children often face a double disadvantage of being exposed to challenges such as extreme poverty, hunger and exposure to conflict without their families having the extra support they need to enable their children to flourish," she said.

Dr Milner said that while there was an international push through the United Nations and other international organisations, to better support young children, so far, few low-and-middle income countries had large scale initiatives for pre-schoolers.

"Many countries are looking for guidance on how to help more children thrive but there is an evidence gap about how best to do this," she said. "The next steps for many countries are identifying which programs work best and how and then rolling them out on a bigger scale."

Read the full series here

The research papers led by Dr Milner in 'Archives of Disease in Childhood' were supported by funding from the Bernard van Leer Foundation and Grand Challenges Canada.

Available for interview:

  • Paediatrician Dr Kate Milner

Media Contact

Bridie Byrne - MCRI communications specialist (media/PR)

+613 9936 6211 / 0403 664 416