Caregivers' estimate of early childhood developmental status in rural Uganda: A cross-sectional study

Emmanuel Bonney, Michele Villalobos, Jed Elison, Sooyeon Sung, Adaeze Wosu, Charles Ssemugabo, George Pariyo, Dan Kajungu, Elizeus Rutebemberwa, Adnan A. Hyder, Dustin Gibson

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Objective To characterise developmental milestones among young children living in rural communities in Uganda. Design Cross-sectional study. Setting Iganga-Mayuge Health and Demographic Surveillance Site in rural eastern Uganda. Participants A total of 720 caregivers of children aged 3-4 years old from a health and demographic surveillance site in rural eastern Uganda were recruited into this study. Caregivers reported on their child's developmental skills and behaviours using the 10-item Early Childhood Development Index (ECDI) developed by UNICEF. Childhood development was characterised based on the ECDI's four domains: literacy-numeracy, learning/cognition, physical and socioemotional development. As an exploratory analysis, we implemented a hierarchical agglomerative cluster analysis to identify homogenous subgroups of children based on the features assessed. The cluster analysis was performed to identify potential subgroups of children who may be at risk of developmental problems. Results Between November 2017 and June 2018, 720 caregivers of children aged 3-4 years completed the ECDI. The proportions of children at risk of delay in each domain were as follows: literacy-numeracy: 75% (n=538); socioemotional development: 22% (n=157); physical: 3% (n=22); and cognitive: 4% (n=32). The cluster analysis revealed a three-cluster solution that included 93% of children assigned to a low-risk group, 4% assigned to a moderate-risk group and 3% assigned to a high-risk group characterised by low scores in almost all domains. Conclusion The findings suggest that a high proportion of children in rural eastern Uganda demonstrate poor literacy-numeracy skills. These results underscore the need to improve population-based screening and intervention efforts to improve early childhood developmental outcomes, particularly in literacy and socioemotional domains, in low-income and middle-income countries such as Uganda.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere044708
JournalBMJ open
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 22 2021

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  • epidemiology
  • paediatric neurology
  • paediatrics
  • public health


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