"Are you available for the next 18 months?"-methods and aims of a longitudinal birth cohort study investigating a universal developmental surveillance program: the 'Watch Me Grow' study
BACKGROUND:Universal developmental surveillance programs aimed at early identification and targeted early intervention significantly improve short- and long-term outcomes in children at risk of developmental disorders. However, a significant challenge remains in providing sufficiently rigorous research and robust evidence to inform policy and service delivery. This paper describes the methods of the 'Watch Me Grow' study that aims to maximise accurate early detection of children with developmental disorders through a partnership formed between policy makers, service providers and researchers. METHODS/DESIGN:A mixed methods study design was developed consisting of: (1) a qualitative study of parents and health service providers to investigate barriers and enablers of developmental surveillance; (2) recruitment of a birth cohort and their longitudinal follow-up to 18 months of age to: a) assess risk factors for not accessing existing developmental surveillance programs and b) estimate the prevalence of children identified with developmental risk; (3) comparison of surveillance outcomes with a reference standard at 18 months of age to assess the diagnostic test accuracy of existing and alternative developmental surveillance tools; and (4) comparison of developmental surveillance models to inform policy recommendations. Data linkage will be used to determine the uptake and representativeness of the study participant group versus non-participants. DISCUSSION:The Watch Me Grow study is expected to provide a collaborative opportunity to enhance universal developmental surveillance for early accurate identification of developmental risk. This will also provide quality evidence about identification of developmental risk and access to services to be embedded in existing practice with linkages to policy development.