Child Development Study

Malawian kid© Is­abel Cor­thi­er

The fu­ture of a child in a de­vel­op­ing coun­try is shaped by many fac­tors - liv­ing con­di­tions, ill­ness­es, nu­tri­tion, ear­ly stim­u­la­tion, ed­u­ca­tion and vi­o­lence against chil­dren. Ide­al­ly, pro­grams tar­get­ing chil­dren in such con­texts would mon­i­tor all of these fac­tors at high fre­quen­cy, such that the needs of each child may be ad­dressed at the right time. In de­vel­op­ing coun­tries like Malawi, this could not be fur­ther from re­al­i­ty. Data on child and youth de­vel­op­ment is scarce and of­ten avail­able only at large in­ter­vals, forc­ing Gov­ern­ment and in­ter­na­tion­al or­ga­ni­za­tions to “fly blind” in their ef­forts to help such coun­tries to­wards a bet­ter fu­ture.

Break the loop
The Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals of this Pro­ject
no povertygood health and well-beeinggender equalityclean water and sanitationindustry, innovation and infrastructurereduced inequalitiespartnership for the goals

The Child De­vel­op­ment Study (CDS) com­bines a num­ber of tech­nolo­gies to track in­for­ma­tion about chil­dren and youth de­vel­op­ment. Each of these tech­nolo­gies are tai­lored to de­vel­op­ing coun­try set­tings such as that of Malawi, col­lect­ing week­ly in­for­ma­tion across mul­ti­ple di­men­sions. For in­stance, phone sur­veys are used to track health symp­toms, wear­able sen­sors are em­ployed to track con­tacts and lan­guage in­ter­ac­tions be­tween chil­dren and care­givers, and oth­er wear­able de­vices are used to col­lect non-in­va­sive bio-mark­ers such as brain waves and heart rates, which can help to pre­dict cog­ni­tive and non-cog­ni­tive de­vel­op­ment in re­sponse to cer­tain stim­uli.

Such data has the po­ten­tial to shed light on the de­vel­op­men­tal tra­jec­to­ries of Malaw­ian chil­dren and youth, in­clud­ing the crit­i­cal in­flec­tion points at which var­i­ous in­ter­ven­tions are cru­cial. The data also has the po­ten­tial to sup­port the Malaw­ian pub­lic health sys­tem in swift­ly de­tect­ing the threat of an epi­dem­ic, be it from malar­ia to mal­nu­tri­tion, and trig­ger ear­ly warn­ing sys­tems to mo­bi­lize scarce re­sources where they are need­ed most.

Im­por­tant­ly, the CDS will be car­ried out in vil­lages served by ear­ly child­hood de­vel­op­ment (ECD) cen­ters in the con­text of the School Readi­ness Ini­tia­tive of the Roger Fed­er­er Foun­da­tion. The data streams gen­er­at­ed by CDS, to­geth­er with ran­dom­ized in­ter­ven­tions, will al­low for a deep un­der­stand­ing of the im­pacts of var­i­ous ECD in­ter­ven­tions on chil­dren of dif­fer­ent ages.

Com­bined with rig­or­ous pol­i­cy eval­u­a­tion, this wealth of data will not only in­form the scale-up of suc­cess­ful and re­design of un­suc­cess­ful projects, but ul­ti­mate­ly will al­low for the cus­tomiza­tion of in­ter­ven­tions to the needs of each child and ado­les­cent, not only in Malawi but in oth­er de­vel­op­ing coun­tries af­fect­ed by sim­i­lar chal­lenges and con­straints.

The loop: child and ado­les­cent un­der-de­vel­op­ment, as ex­ist­ing pro­grams strug­gle to de­liv­er the right in­ter­ven­tion at the right time.

Break­ing the loop: high-fre­quen­cy data on child and youth de­vel­op­ment aid­ed by cus­tomized tech­nolo­gies to in­form time­ly re­spons­es, tai­lored to the needs of each child and ado­les­cent.

Child De­vel­op­ment Study

High-qual­i­ty data on child de­vel­op­ment is es­sen­tial to choose and im­ple­ment cost-ef­fec­tive in­ter­ven­tions that have the great­est ben­e­fits for child de­vel­op­ment with lim­it­ed re­sources. When data is col­lect­ed and up­dat­ed fre­quent­ly, the ben­e­fits are mul­ti­plied.

  • Sta­tusOn­go­ing
  • Coun­tryMalawi
  • Pro­gram areaNo Pover­ty, Health Well­be­ing, In­dus­try In­no­va­tion In­fra­struc­ture, Re­duced In­equal­i­ties, Part­ner­ships
  • Top­icsChild De­vel­op­ment, Parental Be­hav­ior
  • Part­nersNa­tion­al Com­mit­tee for UNICEF Switzer­land and Liecht­en­stein, UNICEF Malawi, Ka­muzu Uni­ver­si­ty of Health Sci­ences, In­sti­tute for Sci­en­tif­ic In­ter­change
  • Time­line1st phase: 2019
    2nd phase: 2020 – 2022
  • Study typePan­el study, Ran­dom­ized eval­u­a­tion, Bio-mark­ers
  • Sam­ple size10,000 house­holds

Re­search Team

Michelle Bosquet Enlow

Harvard University

Ciro Cattuto

ISI Foundation, University of Torino

John Phuka

Kamuzu University of Health Sciences

Daniela Paolotti

ISI Foundation

Daniel Robles

University of Alberta

Adriana Weisleder

Northwestern University

Paola Garcia

John Hopkins University

Casey Lew-Williams

Princeton University

Alister Munthali

Center for Social Research Malawi

Alexandra Carstensen

University of Stanford

Asana Okocha

Princeton University

Jessica Kosie

Princeton University

Ad­vi­so­ry Board

Susanna Lemann

Roger Federer Foundation, Lemann Foundation

Daniel Frey

UNICEF Foundation Switzerland

James Leckman

Yale Child Study Center