Published: February 12, 2020

While outreach is an important strategy to engage parents in early childhood services, its impact in improving child health and education outcomes is not well known.

This is the main finding of a systematic review on outreach in early years’ services that has been published as a Life Course Centre Working Paper. The paper is authored by Dr Paula Wyndow, Joel Stafford, and Professor Catherine Taylor, all researchers at the Telethon Kids Institute and The University of Western Australia.

The authors conducted a systematic review of the effectiveness of outreach activities in improving child health and education outcomes aimed at families with children aged 0-8 years. A total of 39 studies were included in the review, almost three quarters of which were in the USA. Almost all studies had primary outcomes relating to either childhood vaccination or immunisations rates. No studies reported primary outcomes relating to developmental or education outcomes. The majority of studies found that any type of outreach strategy had a positive impact on immunisation uptake and clinic attendance, although to varying degrees.

This systematic review highlights the scarcity of studies reporting on the effectiveness of outreach activities to improve child outcomes in the early years’ education sector. It also highlights the challenges in measuring the impact of outreach strategies to engage families in universal services beyond the health sector. Future research related to outreach in early years’ services may benefit from this finding by examining the extent to which services are appropriate for outreach activities.

You can read the full Working Paper, ‘Outreach in early years’ services: A systematic review’, here.