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Data initiative seeks to improve early childhood development in Brazil

December 04, 2020

A new initiative, the result of the joint work of researchers from Yale University in the United States, and University of Brasilia (UnB) and the Federal University of Bahia (UFBA) in Brazil, has created a unique indicator that maps and allows a comparison of the conditions offered by each municipality in the country for the development of children from 0 to 6 years old. Released in June 2020, the Early Childhood Friendly Municipality Index (IMAPI in Portuguese) provides a detailed ranking of the performance of the 5,570 Brazilian municipalities, according to the Nurturing Care Framework, recommended by UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the World Bank.

The classification took into consideration 31 performance indicators, divided into five domains of the Nurturing Care Framework: good health, adequate nutrition, responsive caregiving, early learning, and safety and protection. The evaluated places received scores from 0 (worst performance) to 100 (best performance) based on the analysis of indicators identified in Brazilian databases related to the provision of public policies, actions, services and practices in these areas. According to their scores, the municipalities were classified in thirds (high, medium and low) regarding their performance in providing an environment favorable to integral development in early childhood.

"IMAPI was built to offer, in a simple, accessible and integrated way, an index capable of revealing a full view of the situation of early childhood in the country and at the same time allowing the analysis of detailed data of each locality", explained one of the creators of the index, Gabriela Buccini, Associate Research Scientist at the Yale School of Public Health (YSPH).

"IMAPI allows the state administration to improve public policies for early childhood and increase their assertiveness, prioritizing certain actions, optimizing time management and focus on intersectionality. On the other hand, the availability of data to the public allows the society to monitor the allocation of the efforts of the public authorities", added the researcher. The launch of the index has even greater relevance in the context of 2020, year of municipal elections, because it allows the population to engage more effectively in a discussion of the theme based on data.

Coronel Barros, in Rio Grande do Sul is the best municipality with the highest score in the general ranking of IMAPI, with an average of 74 points (out of 100). At the other end is Fernando Falcão, in the state of Maranhão, that scored only 22 points. Among the state capitals, Vitória, in Espírito Santo, is on the top of the list with 60 points, and Macapá, in Amapá, is the last one, scoring 38 points. The country’s average is 41 points.

According to another creator of the project, Professor Muriel Gubert, the coordinator of the Center for Epidemiological Studies in Health and Nutrition (Nenust in Portuguese) at UnB, the intention of the research group is to update the IMAPI annually and also provide the historical evolution of the data. "We have a structure that allows us to keep feeding our database with information in order to enable increasingly global analyses," he said.

To that end, the team is looking for additional sponsors. The first edition of IMAPI was made possible through “Grand Challenges Explorations: Data Science Approaches to Improve Maternal and Child Health in Brazil” funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Ministry of Health, the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development, and the Federal District Research Support Foundation

Besides Buccini and Gubert, IMAPI also had as a principal investigator Professor Marcos Ennes Barreto from Federal University of Bahia. Professor Rafael Pérez-Escamilla, from YSPH, was a senior advisor on the project.

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To learn more about the Yale and Brazil initiatives, visit the Yale and the World website at: world.yale.edu

To learn more about the project, visit the IMAPI website at: https://www.imapi.org/

Submitted by Sheila McCreven on December 04, 2020