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The value of investment in the early years



The value of investment in the early years

Other title

Balancing costs of childhood services


Menzies School of Health Research

Sponsored by

Northern Territory. Department of Education and Training


E-Publications; PublicationNT; E-Books; Early Childhood Series




This publication was produced on behalf of the Department of Education and Training by the Menzies School of Health Research.; Robinson G, Silburn, SR, Arney F, 2011. The value of investment in the early years: Balancing costs of childhood services. Topical paper commissioned for the public consultations on the Northern Territory Early Childhood Plan. Darwin: Northern Territory Government.; Made available via the Publications (Legal Deposit) Act 2004 (NT).




Child development; Early childhood educaton; Northern Territory

Publisher name

Northern Territory Government

Place of publication



Early Childhood Series


No. 4 2011




Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

Copyright owner

Northern Territory Government



Parent handle


Citation address


Page content

4 THE VALUE OF INVESTMENT IN THE EARLY YEARS: BALANCING COSTS OF CHILDHOOD SERVICES Applied implementation research involves empirical evaluation of new interventions tested in the field. This generally begins with small scale trials of the efficacy of a program delivered under optimal or experimentally controlled conditions. If effective, the next step is usually a larger-scale pragmatic trial of its effectiveness under real world conditions to establish the implementation costs and whether the programs benefits are sufficient to justify its wider implementation at scale. This of course should also be the sequence followed for most medical treatments but in many areas of health care practice, as well as in health promotion, educational or behavioural interventions, the development of new interventions has sometimes followed a reverse path whereby the general effectiveness of an approach may be demonstrated in the course of service development to a point at which an efficacy trial is warranted to verify and further specify the treatment mechanisms involved. For accountability purposes, program evaluation should always include evidence of the program outcomes and the costs to achieve these outcomes. Program outcomes and costs are also important to measure in order to identify and improve the various factors that influence the quality of implementation and those that shape their outcomes. However, in the NT context there have been relatively few evaluations of early childhood services and programs which have included systematic evaluation of the quality of program/service delivery and/or their costs and effectiveness in improving developmental outcomes. This has occurred in both the evaluation of large-scale complex programs consisting of multiple components as well as in more purpose-specific locally developed administrative arrangement and initiatives with multiple stakeholder inputs. Where whole community (or regional) initiatives involving several service components are evaluated, obtaining high quality evidence about outcomes can be difficult to achieve and to weighup. This makes the relatively small number of whole community programs which have demonstrated strong evidence of efficacy all the more important. Nevertheless, current public policy and service planning is increasingly emphasising the need for monitoring and accountability processes, both to maintain the quality of program delivery and to ensure that evaluation of outcomes are properly documented to justify on-going program funding.