Briefing paper
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Describes the extent to which interventions for parents and families can improve child physical health and wellbeing outcomes.

Parents and the family and home environment play a central role in the early learning and development of infants and children. A range of interventions exist to support parents and families, particularly in situations where the family is vulnerable and/or where the infant or child may be at risk of delays in learning or development. The first five years of life present a critical window of opportunity for learning and development and they lay the foundation for learning and readiness for school.

This Evidence Brief focuses on outcomes defined in the Australian Early Development Census, which collects data about key areas of early childhood development (known as ‘domains’).  The Physical Health and Wellbeing domain includes physical readiness for school day (dressed inappropriately, arriving late, hungry or tired), physical independence (independence regarding own needs, hand preference and co-ordination), and gross and fine motor skills.

The Evidence Brief summarises the findings of a review of systematic reviews. Only a limited number of systematic reviews reported physical outcomes. Of those that did, the majority were home visiting programs that included an evaluation of fine and gross motor skills in infants and toddlers and these reviews showed no improvement in these outcomes. No systematic reviews were identified that reported for the AEDC categories of physical readiness for the school day or physical independence. It is worth noting there may be other interventions not identified that focus on improving physical health that fall outside the scope of this project.

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