Research priority setting for integrated early child development and violence prevention (ECD+) in low and middle income countries: An expert opinion exercise
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Child development in low and middle income countries (LMIC) is compromised by multiple risk factors. Reducing children's exposure to harmful events is essential for early childhood development (ECD). In particular, preventing violence against children - a highly prevalent risk factor that negatively affects optimal child development - should be an intervention priority. We used the Child Health and Nutrition Initiative (CHNRI) method for the setting of research priorities in integrated Early Childhood Development and violence prevention programs (ECD+). An expert group was identified and invited to systematically list and score research questions. A total of 186 stakeholders were asked to contribute five research questions each, and contributions were received from 81 respondents. These were subsequently evaluated using a set of five criteria: answerability; effectiveness; feasibility and/or affordability; applicability and impact; and equity. Of the 400 questions generated, a composite group of 50 were scored by 55 respondents. The highest scoring research questions related to the training of Community Health Workers (CHW's) to deliver ECD+ interventions effectively and whether ECD+ interventions could be integrated within existing delivery platforms such as HIV, nutrition or mental health platforms. The priority research questions can direct new research initiatives, mainly in focusing on the effectiveness of an ECD+ approach, as well as on service delivery questions. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first systematic exercise of its kind in the field of ECD+. The findings from this research priority setting exercise can help guide donors and other development actors towards funding priorities for important future research related to ECD and violence prevention.
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