Through a child's eyes: Technological solutions to improve early child development in low resource settings
Early childhood is a critical period in human development. 1 Delayed or interrupted early development resulting from impoverished nutritional, educational, emotional and cognitive environments results in risks for diminished human capital, ill health, and psychosocial maladjustment in adulthood. 2-5 Evidence suggests that caregivers' behaviours can lead to differential neurocognitive development early in life with large differences in language and memory development evident before two years of age. 5 For example, differences in patterns of speech between mother and child can result in a cascade of effects that are directly relevant to a child's cortical development during early life. 6,7 Early childhood deprivation in these domains is most prevalent in low- and middle-income countries. 4,5
We hypothesize that by providing caregivers in low-resource settings with insight into the world as seen through the eyes of their children that caregiver investment can be enhanced in activities predictive of linguistic and cognitive development. Providing this insight for caregivers will be based on leveraging environmental and activity sensing technology to obtain behavioural data on caregiver-child interaction and monitoring parameters in the child's environment - an approach that contrasts with traditional methods relying predominantly on limited observational and self-report data. 8,9 We envision collecting data with low-cost sensing equipment, such as activity bracelets or audio sensing, that can be introduced unobtrusively into the child's environment.
By harnessing technology as a tool to increase caregiver insight into a child's world, we hope to enhance caregiver investment to offset the environmental adversity to which children growing up in low resource environments are exposed.
The project will result in guidelines for community health workers to implement mHealth technologies.