Large-scale implementation and evaluation of the Infant Program

The Research Project

To undertake a systematic evaluation of large-scale implementation and effectiveness of the Infant Program.  This translational research project is funded through the NHMRC Partnership Project Scheme (2019-2023), involving essential community, regional and state-wide partner organisations, researchers across several universities, and representatives from each Australian State/Territory.

Why this research is important

One in five Australian children are overweight or obese by age two. Early adiposity has lifelong health and economic consequences, and The World Health Organisation stresses that preventing obesity early in life is critical. This research will evaluate the real-world implementation of the previously trialled Infant Program, a Maternal and Child Health Nurse (MCHN) mediated program delivered in established first-time parent groups across the first 18 months of the infants’ life. The program aims to improve parents’ knowledge and skills around promoting optimal energy-balance behaviours that in turn influence children’s diet, activity and adiposity. The Infant Program randomised controlled trial demonstrated high uptake, utility and efficacy leading to substantial and ongoing engagement from partner organisations. Early, small-scale translation of the program provided proof of concept of the feasibility of implementing the program in routine practice, and insights for future community translation.

What this research will add

The aim of this research is to assess real-world implementation, effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of the Infant Program, utilising the well endorsed RE-AIM framework.

Specifically, we will assess program:

  • Reach including characteristics of parents participating in the program, program completion rates and sociodemographic predictors of completion
  • Effectiveness and cost effectiveness when delivered at scale to improve early childhood weight from 2-12months of age and to improve infant diet (fruit, vegetables, non-core drinks and snacks), time physically active, and time sedentary at age 12 months
  • Adoption by Local Government Areas and factors influencing program uptake
  • Implementation including program fidelity and adaptations, barriers and facilitators
  • Maintenance including the proportion of Local Government Areas continuing to implement the program after 2 years, and factors influencing sustained delivery

What this research means for policy/practice

Practice – This research will inform the enhancement of local systems to support the universal delivery of an early childhood intervention to support improved energy balance behaviours and reduce the risk for overweight and obesity in early childhood

Policy – This research will inform opportunities to embed universal delivery of an early childhood obesity prevention intervention into local and state government policy guidelines to support organisations in the self-management of program administration, delivery and evaluation to facilitate sustainable program delivery

Picture: Members of the NHMRC Infant Program Partnership Project

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