Outreach is one of many strategies to facilitate parental engagement in early childhood services. The role of outreach in improving child health and education outcomes is not well known.
A systematic review of the effectiveness of outreach activities in improving child health and education outcomes aimed at families with children aged 0-8 years was conducted. Nine databases (Medline, Embase, PsycInfo, CINAHL, Sociological Abstracts, ERIC, Lowitja Institute, Scopus, Primary Health Care Research and Information Service) were searched in December 2017. Studies were included if outreach strategies facilitated access to universal early education, care and health services for families with children aged 0-8 years and showed evidence of impact on child health or education outcomes. A narrative approach was used to synthesise the results.
39 studies were included in the review. Almost three quarters of studies were conducted in the USA, and almost all studies had primary outcomes relating to either childhood vaccination or immunisations rates. No studies reported primary outcomes relating to developmental or education outcomes. The majority of studies found that any type of outreach strategy had a positive impact on immunisation uptake, and clinic attendance, although to varying degrees.
The scarcity of studies reporting on the effectiveness of outreach activities to improve child outcomes in the early years education sector is an important finding of this review and highlights the challenges in measuring the impact of outreach strategies to engage families in early childhood services.