An Innovative Approach to Early Childhood Public Health and Education
What We Do
Spotlight the urgent neurodevelopmental needs of children during their earliest year of life
Show how these responsive moments occur universally, in every language, every culture, and every socio-economic context
Showcase everyday practices of responsive caregiver-child interaction that occur naturally, in every cultural context and language
Connect practice to science, increasing caregiver confidence in their unique abilities to protect and nurture their child's brain development
Collaborate with existing programs around the world that seek to empower caregivers and communities to nourish their children's neurodevelopmental potential
Our Guiding Principles
Universal Baby (UB) is a scalable technology platform. UB consists of short, culturally-appropriate videos to promote parenting behaviors by highlighting everyday interactions captured in naturalistic video segments of local children and caregivers. UB was developed with the goal of reaching mass viewers in diverse communities with scarce health care infrastructure. The videos are designed to overcome logistical and cost barriers with diverse dissemination potential, including social support services, health care delivery systems, public health campaigns, and media/internet outlets. As a coaching tool, CHWs can use UB to virtually engage far more individuals than in-person outreach, even under pandemic conditions. UB has been used in Uganda, Cherokee Nation, Zambia, South Africa, and Peru. At the global launch of the NCF in 2019, UB was selected by WHO as a scalable ‘innovation’ approach for disseminating child development knowledge and encouraging responsive caregiving in different global contexts.
Typical parenting videos rely on staged, literacy-dependent, generic content that can be biased in the direction of Western, middle/upper-class settings and childrearing routines. In contrast, UB innovates by using naturally occurring, unrehearsed moments of ‘locally-sourced’ caregiver-child interaction. Videos feature evidence-based messages while celebrating and promoting strengths of local culture, environments, and people.
Grounded in Social Learning Theory
Within this framework, UB views learning as a cognitive process shaped by individual experience, behavioral modeling, and environmental factors. Each video has a standard format that incorporates the four mediational processes of observational learning: attention, retention, reproduction, and motivation. UB combines three messages to reinforce social learning processes: social norming within the local context, information to provide a cognitive understanding of positive behavior and its impact on healthy pregnancy and child development, and motivational encouragement to practice behaviors.
The video production process is community-led and scalable. The UB team has successfully trained local, in-country teams to create UB videos that are community-led and hyper-local, including at Partners in Health in Peru (Socios en Salud). Using cloud-based, globally accessible technology that is free or very low cost, local staff can upload and share footage with international partners to view footage together and decide on narration details. Local footage is interwoven into educational montages to maximize relevance and appeal for local viewers. Narrators can upload mobile phone recordings for the same script in different languages or dialects, further enhancing dissemination in multi-lingual populations.
What We Are Learning from Caregivers and Service Providers
Caregivers get used to the camera
Caregivers want to share the video of themselves with others
Recomend videos to other mothers
Videos captured ‘normal’ things done with children in the community
Caregivers want to be in the videos
Wanted to watch more videos
Brain development was new information
Paying attention to baby’s signals new
“I’m excited because other mothers do what I do with my children and we need to pay more attention to our children”
Cultural, technical: We were able to produce 6 Universal Baby videos with culturally-customized content featuring local parents and children and using an international collaboration model that is low cost and efficient.
Stand alone, impact: Locally-sourced videos of key parent-child interactions combined with clear educational messaging about brain development in relation to parenting behaviors, are novel, effective and potentially scalable tools for enhancing parenting and improving the lives of children and families across the globe.
Appeal: CHWs and parents were engaged by the process of making and viewing videos. Qualitative data support the appeal and dissemination potential, via mobile technology and social media, of this innovative approach.