Dr Claire Blewitt honoured for her research in public health program delivery in early childhood

8 December 2021

Dr Claire BlewittDr Claire Blewitt, a postdoctoral research fellow in the HSCU, has been awarded the prestigious 2021 Sax Institute Research Action Award for her research in developing the SEED (Social-Emotional Engagement and Development) Program.

The SEED Program is a digital Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) intervention that supports early childhood educators to address social and emotional health needs of children with both low and high-risk profiles. SEED is delivered through a responsive remote delivery platform, providing tailored content that is relevant and meaningful across the complexity of each early childhood education and care room.

It includes 10 interactive modules:

1. Introduction

2. Social and emotional skills

3. Preschool environment

4. SEL strategies

5. Ongoing learning

6. Making play therapeutic

7. Working with caregivers

8. Supporting children with additional needs

9. Supporting young children with anxiety

10. Supporting young children with Autism

SEED has been commercialised and trademarked as a service offered by bestchance Child Family Care, in partnership with the Health and Social Care Unit, Monash University, and is being delivered in early learning settings through the Victorian Government Department of Education and Training (DET) School Readiness Funding Initiative. DET awarded SEED the highest ‘strength of evidence’ ratings of all programs included in the scheme. SEED is reaching a diverse, disperse and time-poor workforce through the DET scale-up across Victoria.

Watch the Award video here.

What is the benefit of taking a public health approach in the education and early childhood sectors?

Dr Claire Blewitt:

“I’m incredibly grateful for this award and feel very privileged to receive it in recognition of Professor Sonia Wutzke. I’d like to sincerely thank the Sax Institute for supporting researchers in this way. I’d also like to thank bestchance, my supervisor and mentor Professor Helen Skouteris, and my wonderful colleagues in the Health and Social Care Unit at Monash University, who have all contributed so much to this work.

I think drawing on a public health approach in education – and particularly early education – can play an important role in preventing and tackling some of the pervasive and complex challenges that impact children and their families.

We know that high quality early education and care can strengthen the social and emotional competencies that promote wellbeing and prevent chronic health problems. It also offers a pathway to reach children at a critical stage in their development.

And in several ways, the sector already draws on public health principles. For example, educators deliver pedagogy and programs that aim to benefit all children, but also tune into the experiences and needs of each child, so are in a good position to support early intervention when needed.

However, it’s a complex environment and there are barriers to implementing system-wide, multi-tiered approaches. There is a terrific opportunity to work in partnership with the early childhood field through more cross-disciplinary collaboration and research, that potentially can help to break down some of the silos that can exist between disciplines such as health and education.

But I think it’s also important to recognise what other sectors can learn from early education. They are really leading the way in areas such as child-centred practice, inclusivity, and holistic support of children and families within complex systems. So, I think the learning and benefits could potentially go both ways.

Thank you so much again for this award.”