Harnessing the health communication power of the early childhood sector

Harnessing the health communication power of the early childhood sector

About the project

A multidisciplinary team of internationally recognised early childhood, health and Indigenous education researchers, in partnership with influential early childhood education (ECE) and health organisations, was funded by the Medical Research Future Fund to undertake a research project exploring the experience of ECE services during the COVID-19 crisis.

The project, led by Professor Sheila Degotardi at Macquarie University, aimed to capitalise on learning derived from the experience of the early childhood education sector during the COVID-19 crisis. It developed a Best Practice Model of Health Communication to be used whenever population-level health information needs to be communicated rapidly, accurately and effectively to families of young children and their educators.

Dr Mary Dahm from ICH at ANU led the analysis of health information documents for the project. Her team analysed multimodal health communication data and records, including pandemic/disaster policy and communication guidelines produced by health and ECE peak organisations and used by the ECE sector during the pandemic.

Key findings

  • Australian COVID-19 health advice for early childhood education lacked clarity and simplicity.
  • Most documents exceeded recommended reading levels, with indirect language and mitigating hedges used frequently.
  • Numerical concepts were simple but lacked elaboration or objective interpretation.
  • Improving health literacy requires a more holistic approach to accessibility assessment.
  • Practitioners should prioritize clear communication and consider numerical presentation methods.

Publications and news

  • Wong, S., Sadow, L., Waniganayake, M., Zurynski, Y., Amin, J., Bull, R., Dahm, M. R.., … & Hadley, F. (forthcoming 2023). The leadership role of Australian early childhood organisations in communicating health information during COVID-19: Lessons from elite interviews. In Leadership, work and pedagogy in ECEC during times of crises. University of Helsinki.
  • Degotardi, S., Waniganayake, M., Bull, R., Wong, S., Dahm, M. R., Hadley, F., ... & Zurynski, Y. (2022). Using a multidisciplinary, multi-method and collaborative research design to investigate the health communication power of the early childhood sector. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 47(4), 245-259.  https://doi.org/10.1177/18369391221120958 (paywalled - please contact the project contact for a copy)

Project contact

Dr Mary Dahm

Updated:  19 April 2023/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications