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Nurturing the Next Generation (NTNG)

Research

To maximize the quality of the research being undertaken, Peel Public Health has taken the novel approach of developing working partnerships with a team of researchers well versed in early child development.

A Nurturing the Next Generation Advisory Group was assembled. This Advisory Group was comprised of experts from Trent University, York University, McMaster University and the University of Calgary along with Peel Public Health staff and advisors. In 2010, we were awarded a Canadian Institutes of Health Research's (CIHR) Knowledge Synthesis Grant. The grant allowed the research team to conduct a realist synthesis of the current literature on population level interventions that optimize early child development.

The review looked at what research evidence existed that could influence a plan for early child development interventions in the following domains: parent education, social connectivity and social marketing.

Additionally, Peel Public Health commissioned a literature review on early child development theories with the intention that a suitable theory would be identified to provide the underpinnings for our strategic priority. The concepts within an appropriate theory would be used to build a framework to develop population level health promotion strategies for families in Peel. As a result of this literature review, "The Foundations of Lifelong Health," a theoretical framework from Harvard University's Center on the Developing Child was selected. This framework will serve as a foundational guide for the work being done and clearly articulates what we understand to be the key factors influencing early child development. It highlights the benefits of promoting positive parent-child attachment relationships, safe and supportive environments and sound and appropriate nutrition.

In conjunction with the research activities, Peel Public Health has formed a dedicated team of staff to work on various aspects of the Nurturing the Next Generation project.

Situational Assessment:

In 2012, the Nurturing the Next Generation (NTNG) Project Team initiated a comprehensive Situational Assessment of the early childhood environment for Peel families from preconception to the end of the second year of life. This Situational Assessment consisted of three components: The Data Story & the development of the Conceptual Model, the Environmental Scan, and the Parent Experience Study. The following research question guided each of the three components of the Situational Assessment:

What is the state of the early child development (preconception to 2 years) environment in the Region of Peel, with respect to strengths and deficiencies, health status and disparities, data needs, service availability and accessibility, and community capacity?

The Data Story & Development of the Conceptual Model

Description:

The Data Story involved a critical examination of existing, accessible and high quality data most relevant to the health of families and children in Peel. A Conceptual Model was adapted from the Biodevelopmental Framework with the addition of the fourth foundation, health and development.
It was used to:

  • examine data most relevant to the health of families and children in Peel
  • identify gaps related to key factors influencing early child development
  • develop recommendations for future data collection and surveillance
  • organize health status data according to influencing factors and outcomes

Main Findings:

Existing health status reports such as Born in Peel and Growing up in Peel, summarize what is currently known about the health of children and families in Peel. Little is known about the quality of early child relationships in Peel and few data sources are specific to children from birth to 6 years old and their families. More information is needed about the environments in which children are raised. Existing data could be enhanced with potential sources of new information such as the Integrated Services for Children Information System (ISCIS).

The Environmental Scan

Description:

The Environmental Scan included a comprehensive assessment of the early years' service sector in Peel Region. Its purpose was to identify the strengths, gaps, challenges and opportunities for partnerships essential to informing the NTNG priority.

Main Findings:

Although the Early Child Development service sector has many strengths, gaps were identified in promotion of healthy relationships, mental health services for children and adults, early identification of developmental delays, and children's physical activity.

Within the region, organizations look to Peel Public Health for quality information regarding nutrition. However, it is believed that there is a gap in nutrition education and supports for families with young children.

Parent Experience Study

Description:

The Parent Experience Study was a qualitative research study that explored the early experiences of parents in Peel, specifically from the time of their child's birth until the end of the second year of life.

Main Findings:

Parents identified both positive and challenging experiences. Becoming a parent is a significant life transition. They identified that the most challenging times were in early postpartum and at the end of parental leave. How well Peel parents make this transition to parenthood depends on their personal and social supports, as well as the resources they can access in their community. While participants said they loved being parents, they also experienced challenges. These challenges were mitigated when mothers and fathers had good connections to other parents and had access to helpful child development resources.

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Nurturing the Next Generation