Sophie Naudeau
Naoko Kataoka
Alexandria Valerio
Michelle J. Neuman
Leslie Kennedy Elder
Publication Date
January 1, 2011

The World Bank

The World Bank created this early childhood development (ECD) guide in response to growing demand from project managers for advice and support to facilitate the policy dialogue on the topic of ECD and to help organisations make and implement relevant choices on how to best invest in ECD in the context of their country’s economy and national priorities. The guide is based upon distilled studies that assess the impact of interventions, studies that focus on measuring outcomes, and studies that describe the results of rigorous impact evaluations, large-scale cohort studies, or process evaluations. 

The guide is divided into four sections:

  • Section 1: Initiating the policy dialogue on investing in ECD, including “Why invest in ECD”: the economic arguments, the survival and health arguments, and the school readiness arguments.
  • Section 2: Assessing needs, measuring outcomes, and establishing policy frameworks.
  • Section 3: Strategic entry points for ECD investments.
    • Centre-based ECD programmes with a focus on school readiness.
    • Home-based ECD programmes for behaviour change in health, nutrition, and parenting.
    • Communication and media campaigns for families and young children.
  • Section 4: Costing and financing.

On communication and media campaigns for families and young children, the document notes the assessment challenges of measuring the effects of communication campaigns and mentions finding only one study that used an experimental design for assessment of relevant outcomes at the child and family levels, suggesting a need for more research on outcomes. The notes included in this section provide general principles in planning a communication campaign, several case studies, and lessons learned. [Footnotes have been removed by the editor throughout.]

Planning a communication campaign: Two kinds of campaigns, the upstream and the downstream, are described. A downstream campaign might be for specific populations whose behaviours and practices are considered in need of change. Examples include: "increasing the length of breastfeeding, improving the family’s hygiene (safe cooking practices, hand washing, and so on), alerting parents to the importance and availability of specific services within their community (immunization, vitamin A supplementation, iodine-fortified salt), reducing the incidence of corporal punishment and child abuse and neglect, informing parents about the key developmental milestones that their children should be going through (for example, children should start walking between 8 and 18 months), and providing parents with quick tips for ensuring the safety and stimulating the overall development of their children (for example, 'never leave an infant alone on an elevated surface,' 'talk/sing to your children')."

The second type of campaign is an upstream campaign, usually focusing on a larger audience and seeking to generate public and political support for policies and funding and to construct common interests and a community in favour of a specific cause. "In practice, upstream communication campaigns include activities intended to influence the government and elected officials directly through advocacy or indirectly by changing public will to persuade them to take policy action."

Media options include television (public service ads, soap operas, documentaries); radio (thematic programming and talkshows); printed publications (newspapers, magazines, brochures/flyers, immunisation cards); billboards, wall drawings, and posters; special events (fairs, plays, concerts, video shows); and information and communication technology (web-based, short message services [SMS] or cell-phone-based text messages).  The private sector may be a partner, but potential conflicts of interest need to be identified.

Several case studies highlight these kinds of campaigns:

  1. Uganda Nutrition and Early Child Development Project - an integrated childcare package intended to mobilise groups of parents and caregivers at the community level: Child fairs facilitated by “animateurs” (local workers) were held every six months as a delivery channel for behaviour change message communication and integrated health and nutrition services. Strategies included education, communication, and advocacy at the national level for children’s rights and ECD curriculum development. "The program design used a combination of media, and specific messages were crafted for different audiences. For example, new mothers, pregnant women, and grandmothers received messages, targeted specifically to each group, on the ideal timing for starting complementary feeding through counseling, radio, theater, print materials, and posters....Different messages and sometimes different media were used for different audiences such as mothers of children aged 6 month and above. Similarly, messages on the causes and consequences of worms and prevention strategies were communicated to children’s parents and guardians through home visits, meetings, rural video showings, a child’s day, and the radio.

    Communication activities were conducted in two phases: the first phase (sensitization) raised awareness of the long-term negative effects of stunting and malnutrition, while the second phase (motivation/adoption) promoted and encouraged the adoption of positive behaviors among families and communities....The communication strategy [focused on] different audiences, and the team produced different communication materials accordingly. These included (1) building a network of parliamentarians supporting the cause, organizing study tours and field visits, and producing audio tapes to advocate and promote awareness among upstream stakeholders (for example, parliamentarians); and conducting a six-week distance learning course on strategic communication to sensitize the media; (2) brochures, inserts in newspapers, local workshops, radio spots, and education-entertainment road-shows to increase grassroots sensitization; and (3) posters, newspaper ads, brochures, radio spots, community events (that is, child’s day and education-entertainment road-shows), and interpersonal services such as nutrition counseling and home visits, to promote behavioral change among parents of young children....

    A series of impact evaluations found that this project resulted in higher weight-for-age among participating children under the age of 12 months, compared to children in the randomly selected control communities, and in improved breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices."

  2. Cambodia Mother and Child Health Campaign - This campaign, implemented starting in 2003 by BBC World Service Trust (now BBC Media Action), used multiple media channels to deliver a wide range of messages for families with young children, including information on child and maternal health, HIV/AIDS, and sexual and reproductive health. "It consisted of the following interventions: 100 episodes of Cambodia’s first television soap opera taking place in a hospital setting ('Taste of Life'); a photo strip magazine on the TV program; three types of radio phone-in programs targeting youth, men, and young couples and parents with small children; and 23 television spots and 22 radio spots..."
  3. First Steps Program in the Maldives - This year-long First Steps Program, initiated by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in 1999, involved capacity-building to foster print, radio, and television media for and about ECD, beginning with a baseline survey, a series of workshops, and field visits to formulate 12 core messages on nurturing very young children. A multimedia campaign included weekly radio and television spots on issues related to early childhood care and development.

Lessons learned include:

  • Use formative research, including participatory research, for developing communication projects and choosing messages and media.
  • Reinforce messages through interpersonal communications, including the value added of personal contacts and built-in feedback mechanisms.
  • Demonstrate explicit project outcomes linked to the messages conveyed by the campaign.
  • Engage all relevant stakeholders.
  • Choose accessible and popular relevant communication channels.
Early Childhood Development Guide for Policy Dialogue