The Jamaican Home Visiting intervention strengthens parents’ abilities to use responsive interactions and play to help their children develop well. The intervention has substantial benefits to children’s development and is the first early childhood stimulation program in low and middle-income countries to show long term benefits of play for adult education, income, and well-being. The intervention is an effective way to build parents’ skills to support their children’s development, but there is a great need to better understand how to implement it more widely.
Reach Up is based on the Jamaica Home visiting intervention. The goal is to help to build capacity of governments and organizations to provide early childhood parenting programs, so that more children and families can be reached. The program has now been used in 14 countries including several in Latin America, such as Brazil, Colombia and Guatemala. Although small scale studies in Jamaica demonstrated that the intervention can be delivered by staff employed in the government primary health system, Reach Up has not previously been used widely in Jamaica. But that is changing! The Jamaica Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) has decided to implement Reach Up as a national home-visiting program. Managed by the Family Health Unit within the MOHW, the program is delivered by staff in health centers. Home visits are conducted by community health workers and supervision by nurses, health educators and nutritionists. Phased roll out has begun in one health district in each parish.
This highly successful parenting intervention will now be taken to scale nationally in the country where it was developed, in 2021. With the support of the IDB and the ECD Innovation Fund, we will evaluate the initial phase to improve the continued expansion of the program and to see the impact of the intervention on children’s development and parenting attitudes and practices when provided through primary health services across Jamaica.
This is also a valuable opportunity to understand how to integrate successfully and sustainably in Jamaica and elsewhere. Learning about the quality of implementation and what staff characteristics are linked to quality is important for strengthening the program as roll out continues. Focus groups and interviews conducted with the health team will help to understand program strengths, facilitators and challenges. The evaluation will provide much needed knowledge on what works when integrating an early childhood development program within the government health service.
Parents who have taken part in Reach Up often say they never understood the importance of play at such an early age. They report that having been in the program they now spend more time talking, singing and playing together with their children. They speak about their child learning new things everyday, talking more, and being smart and ready for preschool. With the national program, many more parents and children in Jamaica will play, interact, talk and learn together.
If you have been part of a parenting program, what did you think made it work? If you would like to learn more about Reach Up visit www.reachupandlearn.com, or contact the team at firstname.lastname@example.org