In resource-limited settings such as Southern Africa, malnutrition and infectious diseases need to be an integral part of thinking about early childhood interventions. We conducted a cluster-randomized trial to test the feasibility and preliminary impact of a package of community-based early childhood services in a rural area of Southern Province, Zambia.
As part of the trial, 500 households in communities randomized to the intervention group received two main services: 1) biweekly visits from a local health worker who screened and referred children for management of infections and malnutrition; and 2) an invitation to attend a biweekly mothers’ group meeting based on cognitive stimulation and play practices, child nutrition and cooking practices. Groups self-organized and elected a mother volunteer who was mentored by the community health worker on the curriculum and its implementation. The study is led by Boston University in collaboration with ZCAHRD and AIR, and it was extended for one more year through a Policy Research Fund DFID grant to evaluate the longer term impacts of mother groups on child development.