2010 RTOI: Narrowing Gaps in Early Identification Among Underserved Population Groups

August 17, 2010

Two Years

$100,000 per year

Project Description:

The "Learn the Signs. Act Early." Campaign (LTSAE) is a health communication campaign that aims to educate parents about developmental milestones and early warning signs of developmental delay and autism spectrum disorders.  The campaign provides bilingual materials (both in English and Spanish) about early child development and has funded outreach efforts to underserved groups, including Hispanic populations through work with Promatoras and African-American communities through collaboration with mega-churches. 

Research has demonstrated that children of minority groups and those who experience health disparities due to factors such as poverty, low parental education, and others, are often diagnosed with developmental disability at later ages than other children. Children who are diagnosed earlier and receive appropriate early intervention services are more likely to have better outcomes than those identified later.

PURPOSE:  The purpose of the study is to improve understanding of the awareness, knowledge, and behavior of parents of young children (children 4 years of age and younger) within underserved population groups regarding early child development and to develop strategies to facilitate parents' role in getting children with developmental delays identified and connected to appropriate intervention services as early as possible.

The study should aim to explore and characterize knowledge, awareness, and behaviors related to early child development (developmental milestones, developmental delays/disabilities, and taking action on concerns about development) among parents of young children within underserved population groups, test LTSAE materials with the targeted group(s), and make recommendations for the improvement of existing materials or development of new materials to meet identified needs.  In addition, strategies for how best to address the population group's awareness, knowledge and behavioral barriers related to early identification and taking early action on concerns about development and reach the underserved population(s) with health communication messages should be identified or developed.  Special consideration will be given to projects that demonstrate established collaboration with key stakeholders across multiple systems serving the population groups of interest.  The applicant should choose one or two groups of interest.

Specific population groups of interest are:
1. African-American communities of low SES
2. American Indian/Alaska Native communities
3. People with limited or low literacy skills
4. Rural communities
5. Urban communities of low SES

Successful applications will include the following:
1. Plans to establish collaborative relationships with involved stakeholders, including those representing the population groups of interest
2. A description of known gaps in awareness and knowledge of developmental milestones and services related to early identification and early intervention
3. Plans for testing LTSAE materials with target audiences
4. A clear description of the purpose of the project in the population, research and analytic plan, which includes
a. Timeline of activities
b. Description of benefits and barriers of identifying subjects and collecting data
c. Strategies to develop appropriate research methods (such as surveys and/or design focus groups) with stakeholders
d. Methods for collection and analysis of local and/or state data to assess the rates of identification, screening and early intervention entry after intervention
e. Anticipated participation rates for completion of research methods
f. Protection of human subjects
5. Plans for submission of progress and final reports, and dissemination of findings
6. Detailed budget

Preferences will be given to applicants who:
1. Demonstrate knowledge of and experiences with disability research, especially related to the chosen population group of interest
2. Have prior experience in understanding barriers and opportunities with early intervention systems
3. Demonstrate expertise in dissemination of public health campaigns to underserved populations
4. Have prior experience in conducting evaluation and using mixed research methods

Study Focus:

The Letter of Intent (LOI) should demonstrate the researchers have an understanding of the issues surrounding early identification of and early intervention for young children with ASD and related disabilities in underserved populations. The LOI should convey an understanding of systems-related issues in early identification, diagnosis and intervention with children with autism spectrum disorders and related developmental delays and how these may need to be modified to address the specific needs of the underserved populations.  The letter should also convey how these issues relate to more general issues in public health, and the impact of racial, ethnic and other disparities in the provision of health and education services.

The research proposal should describe how the study will explore and characterize awareness, knowledge, and behaviors related to early child development, how materials will be tested with the population group(s) of interest, and how health communication strategies will be identified or developed to improve awareness, knowledge and behaviors among these groups. If the researchers plan to collaborate with other partners, such as state agencies, the letter should indicate that these partners are willing to participate.

The letter should:

  • provide an overview of the proposed research design and analytic plan,
  • clearly indicate the demonstrated experience in research design and analysis,
  • provide evidence of experience in recruitment of subjects (especially among the population group of interest), and
  • provide clear evidence of prior success collaborating with public health and other agencies.

Evaluation Criteria:
1. Provides evidence of knowledge of developmental disabilities, such as early warning signs of autism spectrum disorders and related developmental disabilities; early intervention and special education systems and barriers to identification and diagnosis.
2. Outlines ideas for exploring and characterizing awareness, knowledge, and behaviors related to early child development and testing campaign materials in a specific audience(s).
3. Outlines methods for developing recommendations for dissemination of materials in the target population(s).
4. Specifies key stakeholders necessary for successful implementation and evaluation.
5. Outlines chosen research methods necessary for the project.
6. Demonstrates experience in conducting disability research, including questionnaire design and survey implementation
7. Have established physical resources and personnel to successfully conduct the research
8. Demonstrated experiencing addressing racial, ethic and/or other disparities.
9. Have a reasonable timeline for each phase of the project.