Objective: To conduct a process and impact evaluation of a multifaceted education-based pilot program targeting correct use of age-appropriate restraints in a regional setting with a high proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families.
Methods: The program was delivered in 2010 in 3 early learning centers where 31 percent of the children were of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent. Each component of the program was assessed for message consistency and uptake. To measure program effectiveness, participating children were matched 1:1 by age, language spoken at home, and annual household income with 71 children from the control arm of a contemporaneous trial. The outcome measure in the control and program centers (a 4-category ordinal scale of restraint use) was compared using ordinal logistic regression accounting for age of the parent.
Results: Process evaluation found that though program components were delivered with a consistency of message, uptake was affected by turnover of all staff at one center and by parents experiencing difficulty in paying for subsidized restraints at each of the centers. Impact evaluation found that children from the centers receiving the program had nearly twice the odds of being in a better restraint category than children matched from the control group (adjusted odds ratio [ORadj] = 2.06, 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.09-3.90).
Conclusions: This was a pragmatic study reflecting the real-life issues of implementing a program in preschools where 57 percent of families had a low income and turnover of staff was high. Despite these issues, impact evaluation showed that the integrated educational program showed promise in increasing correct use of age-appropriate restraints. The findings from this pilot study support the use of an integrated educational program that includes access to subsidized restraints to promote best practice child restraint use among communities that include a high proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families in New South Wales. Future trials in similar settings should consider offering more support in centers with high turnover of staff and offering alternative methods of payment when families experience financial difficulties in purchasing the subsidized restraints. If proven in larger trials, this approach could reduce death and injuries in child passengers in this vulnerable group.