The Impact of Early Childhood Development Interventions on Children’s Health in Developing Countries: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Investing in a child’s early years reduces incidences of stunting, wasting, worm infections, and anemia among young children. Yet, 250 million children are at risk of not reaching their full development potential in low-and-middle income countries (LMIC) due to inadequate nutrition and lack of early stimulation. Multiple early childhood health interventions such as growth monitoring, nutrition supplementation, cash transfers, handwashing, and deworming have been tested to evaluate their impact on improving child health outcomes in LMIC. However, there is limited evidence assessing the relative benefits of implementing one type of intervention over another. This review is among the first to identify the interventions which have comparatively outperformed others in improving children’s physical health since the year 2000 and the gaps in the quality of existing evidence. Upon a comprehensive review of the impact from 39 early childhood interventions, we find that interventions including nutrition or cash based assistance outperform interventions offering information based support or growth monitoring. Further examination of the long term impacts, cost-effectiveness, and extended exposure of these interventions is needed to understand what works in improving child health during early years.