Effectiveness of an integrated multilevel early child development intervention on caregiver knowledge and behavior: a quasi-experimental evaluation of the Malezi program in Tanzania

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



BMC public health








Caregiver; Community health workers; Early child development; Media intervention; Parenting; Program evaluation


BACKGROUND: The quality of caregiving and the parent-child relationship is critical for early child development (ECD) and has been shown to be modifiable. This study evaluated an ECD project in Tanzania, assessing the effectiveness of radio messaging (RM) alone and a combined radio messaging/video job aids/ECD (RMV-ECD) intervention. METHODS: This two-arm pre-post evaluation study enrolled a cohort of caregivers of children 0-24 months in four districts of Tabora region, following them for 9 months. ECD radio messages were broadcast on popular stations at least 10 times/day reaching all study districts. In two districts, community health workers (CHW), trained in UNICEF's Care for Child Development package, used ECD videos in home- and facility-based sessions with caregivers. We used McNemar's testing (pre-post pairs) within intervention group to describe how the intervention was associated with change in five outcomes: ECD knowledge, early stimulation, father engagement, responsive care, and environment safety. Logistic regression was used to describe the relative benefits of the combined intervention package (RMV-ECD) compared to radio messaging (RM). RESULTS: In the RMV-ECD arm, all outcomes at endline except environment safety significantly improved after the intervention with the largest change seen in ECD knowledge (35.8% increase, p < .0001) and the smallest in father engagement (6.7%, p = .015). In the RM arm, ECD knowledge (5.7%, p = .031) and environment safety (18.1%, p = <.0001) improved. High measures of parenting stress were associated with lower likelihood of having good ECD knowledge (AOR 0.50, 95%CI: 0.35, 0.71), father engagement (AOR 0.72, 95%CI: 0.52, 0.99) and responsive care (AOR 0.31, 95%CI: 0.18, 0.54). CONCLUSIONS: An intervention that includes mass media, educational video content and CHWs who counsel caregivers in their homes and health facilities was associated with significant improvements in ECD parenting knowledge and behaviors but a relationship with responsive care could not be established. The less costly mass media-only intervention was associated with improved parenting knowledge and household environment safety. Parenting interventions targeting young children could be improved by incorporating more messaging and caregiver coaching in managing parental stress. TRIAL REGISTRATION: NCT05244161 (17/02/2022); retrospectively registered with the US National Institutes of Health ClinicalTrials.gov.


Biostatistics and Bioinformatics