Saving Brains Study

Research Team: Sapna Nair, Rathish Sekar, Harish Kumar
LEAD Centre: Centre for Development Finance (CDF)
Focus Area: Parenting, Cognitive development, Nutrition
Project Geography: Districts of Madurai & Dindigul, Tamil Nadu
Partner: BMRF
Status: Ongoing


The proposed project seeks to generate an innovative model to promote overall development of a child including both cognitive and nutritional development by two methods. The first method is using information technology to disseminate information to parents through the network of Anganwadi workers. This will happen through door to door outreach as well as messaging on phone, giving out targeted information on early stimulation, involvement of fathers in child care as well as nutritional information to parents. The second method is increasing the involvement of the fathers in child care through non-monetary incentives, involving role models selected from among fathers and norm challenging messaging.

The project seeks to evaluate the overall effect in the growth and mental & physical health of children in the age group of zero to three years as a result of addition of these two new components to the existing outreach model. The intervention will be implemented within a Randomised Control Trial – a nested qualitative longitudinal case study in order to gain an in-depth understanding of the impact of the intervention and the path to change. The overall goal is to integrate the learnings to scale up at the state level (Tamil Nadu) and to promote policy advocacy at the Central Government level. The widespread presence of Anganwadis as a part of The Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) all over India makes the large scale implementation of these interventions highly possible. The results will provide insights on improving early childhood development in India and other Low and Middle Income Countries.


The study is taking place in the form of a mix methods implemented in the districts of Madurai and Dindigul, Tamil Nadu. The study is implemented in the form of a randomised control trial with intervention areas getting information on proper child rearing practices and importance of early stimulation and learning, and control areas having access to regular outreach.

The project aims to impact child development through awareness and behaviour change among parents on child rearing practices, as well as early stimulation and learning. Along with this, measuring differences in pre and post intervention anthropometric measurements of children is on agenda, which includes height-for-age (haz), weight-for-age (waz), and mid upper arm circumference.

Key Findings

The endline survey will be rolled out during January – February 2019 on the same study participants using the same tools. Standard evaluation methods will be applied to measure the impact of the intervention. However, evidence till dare indicates that scaling up would result in impact reaching out to all 54439 Anganwadis in the state and provide replicable models for the ICDS programme in the country.