“Watch Me Grow- Electronic (WMG-E)” surveillance approach to identify and address child development, parental mental health, and psychosocial needs: Study protocol

V. Eapen, S. Woolfenden, V. Schmied, B. Jalaludin, K. Lawson, S. T. Liaw, R. Lingam, A. Page, S. Cibralic, T. Winata, A. Mendoza Diaz, C. Lam-Cassettari, J. Burley, K. Boydell, P. Lin, A. Masi, I. Katz, A. Dadich, J. Preddy, J. BruceS. Raman, J. Kohlhoff, J. Descallar, L. Karlov, C. Kaplun, A. Arora, B. Di Mento, M. Smead, K. Doyle, R. Grace, T. McClean, V. Blight, A. Wood, K. Hazell Raine

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Background: The COVID-19 pandemic and the associated economic recession has increased parental psychosocial stress and mental health challenges. This has adversely impacted child development and wellbeing, particularly for children from priority populations (culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) and rural/regional communities) who are at an already increased risk of health inequality. The increased mental health and psychosocial needs were compounded by the closure of in-person preventive and health promotion programs resulting in health organisations embracing technology and online services. Watch Me Grow- Electronic (WMG-E) – developmental surveillance platform- exemplifies one such service. WMG-E was developed to monitor child development and guide parents towards more detailed assessments when risk is identified. This Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) aims to expand WMG-E as a digital navigation tool by also incorporating parents’ mental health and psychosocial needs. Children and families needing additional assessments and supports will be electronically directed to relevant resources in the ‘care-as-usual’ group. In contrast, the intervention group will receive continuity of care, with additional in-person assessment and ‘warm hand over’ by a ‘service navigator’ to ensure their needs are met. Methods: Using an RCT we will determine: (1) parental engagement with developmental surveillance; (2) access to services for those with mental health and social care needs; and (3) uptake of service recommendations. Three hundred parents/carers of children aged 6 months to 3 years (recruited from a culturally diverse, or rural/regional site) will be randomly allocated to the ‘care-as-usual’ or ‘intervention’ group. A mixed methods implementation evaluation will be completed, with semi-structured interviews to ascertain the acceptability, feasibility and impact of the WMG-E platform and service navigator. Conclusions: Using WMG-E is expected to: normalise and de-stigmatise mental health and psychosocial screening; increase parental engagement and service use; and result in the early identification and management of child developmental needs, parental mental health, and family psychosocial needs. If effective, digital solutions such as WMG-E to engage and empower parents alongside a service navigator for vulnerable families needing additional support, will have significant practice and policy implications in the pandemic/post pandemic period. Trial registration: The trial (Protocol No. 1.0, Version 3.1) was registered with ANZCTR (registration number: ACTRN12621000766819) on July 21st, 2021 and reporting of the trial results will be according to recommendations in the CONSORT Statement.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1240
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


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