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Healthy Baby Healthy Brain Campaign


I Overview
II Background
III Key Messages and Strategies
IV Dissemination
V Development Process
VI How Service Providers Can Be Involved
VII References and Resources

--Submitted by Louise Choquette, Bilingual Health Promotion Consultant, Best Start Resource Centre, Health Nexus

I Overview

In an effort to respond to the needs of service providers across Ontario, the Best Start Resource Centre is implementing an awareness campaign on supporting early brain development through healthy child development. The focus of the campaign is to provide parents with practical ways to support their young child’s brain development.

The main component of this campaign is a website for parents: The website has 15 short videos on topics such as nutrition, sleep, play, literacy, physical activity, attachment, self-regulation, discipline, stress, etc. The website is for future parents and for parents of children aged zero to three. A French version of the website is also available at

All campaign strategies (see Key Campaign Messages and Strategies) direct parents to the website, which is a one-stop source of information and provides references to additional resources.

II Background

This website is based on the research done by the Best Start Resource Centre in early 2011 that included:

  • Key informant interviews with leading experts on early brain development.
  • An environmental scan of other early brain development campaigns and websites.
  • A parent survey done by Leger Marketing on early brain development with 512 parents. The survey examined the attitudes and knowledge of parents of children aged 0 – 6 years, the information sources they relied on, and the information and resources they would find most useful related to early brain development.

The results of the parent survey are contained in the report Early Brain Development, Parent Knowledge in Ontario.

The survey showed that parents know that babies have many skills to help them survive and thrive. They also know that young children learn through play.

Parents are sometimes unsure of how to interpret the needs of their baby. They want to know what activities they should do with their young child. Parents have many questions on which toys and foods to offer their babies for optimum brain development. In some cases, they also have misconceptions regarding the benefits of certain toys such as baby videos and flash cards. They have indicated that they would like recommendations based on research, as they receive strong influences from marketers for children’s products.

Parents like to receive parenting information through websites, in addition to friends, books and other parents.They also access parenting information through their healthcare providers and through programs for parents, such as Ontario Early Years Centres.

Experts encouraged the Best Start Resource Centre to link parents to existing resources and websites as much as possible, as there are many good sources of information already available. They also emphasized the importance of focusing on the parent-child relationship, as it is a key building block to brain development.

The pre-campaign research information was used to develop the campaign messages and strategies, and to define a dissemination plan.

III Key Messages and Strategies

The main component of the campaign is a website that provides parents with information on important actions they can take to foster their baby’s brain development ( These actions could include responding to their baby’s needs, playing with them, providing opportunities for learning through all their senses, etc.

The videos in the website emphasize the importance of attachment and relationships and encourage parents to interact often with their babies, in a positive way. The everyday situations depicted highlight the fact that all of the little things parents do with their baby impact on their baby`s development.

The website is organized using the following key messages:

  • Start early” outlines the importance of prenatal health and of early interaction with babies.
  • Love builds brains” focuses on attachment, on baby’s needs and on developing self-regulation in young children.
  • Playing builds brains” provides suggestions of ways to boost baby’s brain with everyday fun and games.
  • Health builds brains” offers health and wellness tips related to nutrition, physical activity and sleep.
  • Baby’s world matters” emphasizes the importance of creating good environments through routines, child-proofing and reducing stress for young children.

IV Dissemination

Since parents have indicated that they like to receive parenting information through healthcare providers and parenting programs such as Ontario Early Years Centres, efforts have been made to promote the website through these sources.

  • Magnets promoting the website have been sent to all Ontario Early Years Centres. They have also received a ready-to-use workshop designed for parents that contains videos which can be used in group sessions or one-on-one sessions with parents.
  • Tear-off pads promoting the website are being distributed at healthcare provider conferences and workshops. It is anticipated that healthcare providers will encourage parents to visit this website.
  • Web advertisements have been purchased to direct parents to the website. These are strategically placed on websites visited by parents.
  • Ads have been purchased in parenting magazines and healthcare provider journals to encourage a visit to the website.
  • A number of additional supports have been produced for service providers to promote the website through their networks, such as camera-ready ads, articles, web buttons, etc.

V Development Process

The following steps were followed to develop this campaign:

  • Pre-campaign research (see Background section above).
  • Formation of an Advisory Committee.
  • Development of key messages and strategies (see above).
  • Identification of a production company for the development of the videos and website.
  • Script-writing for the videos, including the identification of the scenes required to convey the key messages.
  • Identification of the families to be filmed.
  • Filming of family interactions, as per script requirements.
  • Filming of expert commentaries, based on the parent-child interactions.
  • Editing of videos and incorporation of narration, music, etc.
  • Finalization of web text and links.
  • Field-testing of website by parents. The parents were from a variety of socio-economic groups and provided a diverse geographic representation.
  • Final verification by content experts and final editing.
  • Production and distribution of promotional support materials, such as magnets, tear-off pads, articles, camera-ready ads, ready-to-use workshops for parents, web buttons, etc.
  • Training and information sharing for service providers working with families in Ontario. This was accomplished through regular electronic communication and webinars.
  • Launch of website (October 3, 2012).

VI How Service Providers Can Be Involved

There are many ways service providers can raise awareness on the topic of early brain development.

  • Visit the website at
  • Attend a webinar. A Fireside Chat is planned for October 24. It will provide information on the campaign. See events.
  • Order and distribute magnets or tear-off sheets.You can view and order materials at
  • Link our website to yours. Put one of our web buttons on your website to direct parents and future parents to
  • Promote through your local media. News articles, radio and television public service announcements have been sent to media outlets in Ontario. In addition to this, we encourage you to send camera-ready ads and articles to your local newspaper. Sample press releases are also available. These can be used in your own newsletters to parents, to reinforce the key messages and direct parents to the website.
  • Offer parent sessions. A ready-to-use workshop has been developed and it contains what you need to do a 1 – 2 hour workshop to parents on early brain development.This can be done in a group setting on a one-to-one basis if you are a home visitor or clinician.

More detailed information on the above is available at 

VII References and Resources


  • A webinar on the Healthy Baby Healthy Brain campaign is available through CHNET-Works’ Fireside Chats. Wednesday, October 24, 12:00 EDT.
  • Attachment Network of Manitoba. 10th Anniversary Cross-Canada Attachment Conference. November 20-21, Winnipeg.

Key Websites