Brief evidence-based interventions for universal child health services: A restricted evidence assessment of the literature

James J. Newham, Karen McLean, Samuel Ginja, Lisa Hurt, Carly Molloy, Raghu Lingam*, Sharon Goldfeld*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Background: Universal child health services (UCHS) provide an important pragmatic platform for the delivery of universal and targeted interventions to support families and optimize child health outcomes. We aimed to identify brief, evidence-based interventions for common health and developmental problems that could be potentially implemented in UCHS. Methods: A restricted evidence assessment (REA) of electronic databases and grey literature was undertaken covering January 2006 to August 2019. Studies were eligible if (i) outcomes related to one or more of four areas: child social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB), infant sleep, home learning environment or parent mental health, (ii) a comparison group was used, (iii) universal or targeted intervention were delivered in non-tertiary settings, (iv) interventions did not last more than 4 sessions, and (v) children were aged between 2 weeks postpartum and 5 years at baseline. Results: Seventeen studies met the eligibility criteria. Of these, three interventions could possibly be implemented at scale within UCHS platforms: (1) a universal child behavioural intervention which did not affect its primary outcome of infant sleep but improved parental mental health, (2) a universal screening programme which improved maternal mental health, and (3) a targeted child behavioural intervention which improved parent-reported infant sleep problems and parental mental health. Key lessons learnt include: (1) Interventions should impart the maximal amount of information within an initial session with future sessions reinforcing key messages, (2) Interventions should see the family as a holistic unit by considering the needs of parents with an emphasis on identification, triage and referral, and (3) Brief interventions may be more acceptable for stigmatized topics, but still entail considerable barriers that deter the most vulnerable. Conclusions: Delivery and evaluation of brief evidence-based interventions from a UCHS could lead to improved maternal and child health outcomes through a more responsive and equitable service. We recommend three interventions that meet our criteria of "best bet"interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number993
Number of pages16
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jun 2020


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