Australia: What is the ‘neighbourhood influence’ on early childhood development?
Researchers in the Australian state of Victoria have received funding to look further into how where a child lives and plays can have an impact on their future health and wellbeing.
The team at the Centre for Urban Research at Melbourne’s RMIT University hope to show further evidence of how certain ‘neighbourhood features’ contribute to equitable early development.
The project, led by Professor Hannah Badland, the centre’s deputy director, has been awarded a VicHealth Impact Research Grant, a government-led health improvement project in Victoria.
Prof Badland said: “There is emerging evidence that where children live and play can interrupt the pathways of disadvantage. We need to understand which local area factors should be prioritised to promote health in children in established areas and urban growth corridors.”
The project will use what the team describes as a ‘world-first’ dataset of spatial neighbourhood-built-environment indicators linked with data for early childhood development in Australian cities to understand the connection between neighbourhoods and child development.
Using ‘innovative participatory research methods’, the team will investigate these associations to identify ‘what works’ for families living in diverse neighbourhoods.
The RMIT project team includes Dr Karen Vilaneuva and A/Prof Melanie Davern, Director of the Australian Urban Observatory (AUO). Other research partner organisations are the Royal Children’s Hospital (Prof Sharon Goldfield), Telethon Kids Institute (Prof Sally Brinkman), and the University of Montreal (Prof Lise Gauvin).
The AUO will eventually host the data and visualisations of the indicators established by the project. The new indicators will contribute to the various data already available through the AUO which is being used by local governments and other organisations to inform policies for building health-promoting environments.
In partnership with Jesuit Social Services, Cardinia, City of Port Phillip, and Mitchell Shire, this practice-focused project aims to provide national to local evidence for supporting urban and social decision-making and advocacy.
The VicHealth Impact Research Grants fund research that considers the bigger picture in health. Prof Badland added: “Ultimately, this project aims to generate evidence to create long-lasting, more equitable urban environments that support child development and wellbeing in Victoria.”