Research

The BetterStart group have research interests spanning health and development from the perinatal period into adolescence and adulthood.

Our researchers have expertise in public health practice, nutrition, psychology, medicine, epidemiology, biostatistics, criminology, paediatrics, and social work.

  • The South Australian Early Childhood Data Project

    The South Australian Early Childhood Data Project (SA ECDP) commenced in 2009, linking de-identified administrative data for all children born in South Australia from 1999 to 2013. In 2017, SA ECDP received ethical approval to extend the cohort from 1991 to 2016. Our goal is to improve services in health, early care and learning, and education to support healthy child development and learning for all children, disadvantaged children in particular. The SA ECDP is the most comprehensive early childhood administrative data resource in Australia. It contains information from more than 15 data sources spanning health, education and welfare services.

    The ‘joining’ up of this data across government agencies offers new opportunities for examining a broad range of child health and development outcomes. It is a public resource with trans-disciplinary and inter-sectoral research partners in academia and government.

  • Child health and development

    Perinatal

    Research covers:

    • gestational age and child development
    • effects of pregnancy complications on children's development
    • neonatal events and child development.

    Growth and weight

    Research covers:

    • weight gain in early life and child development
    • sequelae of thinness, overweight and obesity
    • longer-term effects of growth trajectories
    • stunting of children <5 years in low-middle income countries.

    Diet

    Research covers:

    • trajectories of diet in toddlerhood on risk factors for cardiovascular disease
    • food and beverage intake of Indigenous children
    • role of parenting in children's diets
    • effects of food advertising
    • television marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children in Australia: a review of published evidence.

    Self-regulation and executive function

    Research covers:

    • the role of self-regulatory skills (sustained attention, persistence, emotional regulation) in children's health and wellbeing
    • targeting self-regulation skills for intervention to reduce inequalities in children's educational achievement
    • systematic review on the effects of self-regulation in children <8 years
    • temperament, parenting and child development.

    Cognitive ability

    Research covers:

    • effects of poverty on cognitive ability.

    Mental health

    Research covers:

    • screening for mental health problems
    • predictors of mental health problems.

    Child care

    Research covers:

    • the quality, type and time spent in child care and children's cognitive and socio-emotional development at school entry.

    Preschool

    Research covers:

    • preschool attendance and health outcomes in childhood and adulthood.

    Type 1 Diabetes

    Research covers:

    • identifying perinatal and early life factors contributing to the increasing incidence of type 1 diabetes (T1D)
    • the effect of T1D on future hospitalisations, development and school outcomes.

    Child maltreatment

    Research covers:

    • predicting child maltreatment from characteristics measured in the perinatal period.

    Language acquisition

    Research covers:

    • use of speech recognition technology to examine language development.

    Immunisation

    Research covers:

    • barriers to childhood immunisation.

    Oral health

    Research covers:

    • oral health in Aboriginal children and their families (the Baby Teeth Talk trial)
    • effects of anaesthesia for dental procedures on child development
    • inequalities in oral health.

    Health care utilisation

    Research covers:

    • appropriate definitions for Potentially Preventable Hospitalisations (PPHs) in children
    • descriptive epidemiology of PPHs
    • frequent presenters to the hospital system.
  • Interventions

    Screening

    Research covers:

    • improving identification of vulnerable families eligible for intensive family support programs
    • examining the potential screening accuracy of information obtained from parents for the purpose of identifying children who have teacher-reported mental health problems when they enter school
    • developing a Clinical Support Measure to aid the clinical assessments made by nurses at Child and Family Health services (CaFHS) and enable them to better direct mothers to appropriate CaFHS services
    • characteristics of mothers who do not receive the Universal Contact Visit (an intervention during the first four weeks after birth), and their children's later health and development
    • whether linked data can help to better target family support programs for child health and development.

    eMums

    Research covers:

    • comparing the effectiveness of a nurse led group-based internet intervention when infants were aged 0-6 months versus standard care (a pragmatic preference randomised trial conducted in collaboration with Child and Family Health Services)

    Time investments

    Research covers:

    • how parents of different socioeconomic position invest towards their children's health and development from 0-13 years.

    Schools

    Research covers:

    • school-based interventions to improve healthy behaviours such as diet, physical activity and hand washing, and reduce multiple risk behaviours.
  • Equity and human capability formation

    Equity

    Research covers:

    • jurisdictional differences in child vulnerability
    • whether higher quality child care can reduce school readiness gaps for children from lower income families
    • inequalities in Indigenous health from infancy
    • decomposition of factors that contribute to inequality in child development in low-to-middle income countries
    • simulation of early childhood interventions to reduce inequalities in the development of children from low-to-middle income countries
    • Five by Five - a supporting systems framework for Child Health and Development.

    Human capability formation

    Research covers:

    • the role of cognitive versus "non-cognitive" (e.g. attention, self-regulation and executive function) factors in academic achievement
    • the timing and types of investments to improve children's life chances
    • the quality, type and time spent in child care and children's cognitive and socio-emotional development at school entry.
  • Innovative Epidemiological Methods

    Causal modelling

    • Application of potential outcomes (counterfactual) models
    • G-computation, marginal structural models, effect decomposition

    Mediation analysis

    • Causal effect decomposition
    • Multiple mediators

    Simulating interventions

    • Using estimates from trials in combination with observational cohort data to simulate the effect of interventions to reduce inequalities and improve children's health and development

    Risk prediction

    • Prediction of poor child health and development outcomes from characteristics measured in the perinatal period

    Multiple imputation

    • Multiple imputation for missing data (due to various mechanisms) including chained equations and multivariate normal methods
    • Developing novel imputation methods for skewed data

    Use of linked data

    • Properly accounting for uncertainty (i.e. potential linkage error) in linked data
    • Identification of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status in linked datasets
    • The South Australian Early Childhood Health and Development Data Linkage Project

    Random effects modelling

    • Random effects modelling for longitudinal data, geographically clustered data and mixed memberships

    Pragmatic trials

    • Interventions using a pragmatic approach to establish effectiveness in the 'real world'

    Cross-cohort comparisons

    • Triangulating evidence across different social and economic contexts

    Quasi-experimental work

    • Propensity score matching
  • Translation

    • Monitoring framework for South Australia's children and youth
    • Characteristics of boys and girls who are emotionally vulnerable
    • Television marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children in Australia: a review of published evidence
    • Five by Five - A supporting systems framework for Child Health and Development
    • The South Australian Early Childhood Data Project
    • Can linked data help to better target family support programs for child health and development?

If you are interested in any of our research projects, please email betterstart@adelaide.edu.au.