North Carolina Early Childhood Action Plan: Evidence-based Policy Solutions (2020-2021)


In February 2019, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services released an Early Childhood Action Plan that documents ten goals related to improving outcomes for young children. The plan addresses physical health, social and emotional well-being, cognitive development, learning competencies and social environments.

While the research and evidence base available to policymakers for informing effective interventions is substantial, translation of research into practice has been limited. Innovative, practical and evidence-based policy solutions targeting the Early Childhood Action Plan’s identified goals are needed.

Project Description

This project aims to combine scientific and practical knowledge to inform North Carolina’s Early Childhood Councils on how the state can achieve and track its policy goals. The 2019-2020 team focused on researching one of the goals of the Early Childhood Action Plan that seeks to improve children’s social-emotional health and resilience. The 2020-2021 team’s research will focus either on the goal of “Food Security,” which aims to decrease the percentage of children living in food insecure-homes, or the goal of “Healthy Babies,” which seeks to lower the infant mortality disparity ratio.

Team members will conduct a review of factors influencing children’s health and development indicators, develop policy strategies that could be implemented by the state and explore potential barriers and facilitators to implementing such strategies. They will conduct a systematic review of the empirical literature, compile a review of policies and practices in North Carolina and other states and conduct interviews with key stakeholders. The team will identify and solicit feedback from stakeholders about identified target indicators and potential interventions through focus groups and semistructured interviews.

Anticipated Outputs

Literature review paper; policy brief; peer-reviewed journal article; conference presentations


Fall 2020 – Summer 2021

  • Fall 2020: Initiate project; conduct background literature review; identify and recruit key stakeholders; design and conduct interviews; summarize and discuss interview findings; develop targets for systematic review
  • Spring 2021: Draft systematic review; develop policy briefs; present findings to the Council
  • Summer 2021 (optional): Revise research and policy memos; work with N.C. stakeholders to develop specific intervention proposals

This Team in the News

Faculty Spotlight: Rushina Chloera, MD, PhD

See earlier related team, NC Early Childhood Action Plan: Achieving Goals with Innovative, Evidence-based Policy Solutions (2019-2020).


Image: Early childhood area, Greensboro Children's Museum, by Government & Heritage Library, State Library of NC, licensed under CC BY 2.0


Team Leaders

  • Rushina Cholera, School of Medicine-Pediatrics: Primary Care Pediatrics
  • Michelle Franklin, Margolis Center for Health Policy
  • Elizabeth Gifford, Sanford School of Public Policy-Center for Child and Family Policy
  • Wendy Lam, Clinical and Translational Science Institute
  • Gillian Sanders Schmidler, School of Medicine-Population Health Sciences|Margolis Center for Health Policy

/graduate Team Members

  • Elizabeth Jones, Masters of Public Policy
  • Lilianna Suarez, Medicine MD Third Year

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Ainsley Buck, Neuroscience (BS)
  • Emma Dries, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Emma Garman, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Sophie Hurewitz, Neuroscience (AB)
  • Reed Kenny, Public Policy Studies (AB), Global Health (AB2)
  • Erin Winslow, Public Policy Studies (AB)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Kelly Brownell, Sanford School of Public Policy
  • Anna Gassman-Pines, Sanford School of Public Policy
  • Eliana Perrin, School of Medicine-Pediatrics: Primary Care Pediatrics
  • Corinna Sorenson, School of Medicine-Population Health Sciences|Margolis Center for Health Policy
  • Mary Story, Duke Global Health Institute
  • Charlene Wong, School of Medicine-Pediatrics: Primary Care Pediatrics
  • Charles Wood, School of Medicine-Pediatrics: Primary Care Pediatrics

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Laura Benson, Partnership for Children
  • North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services
  • Drew Cummings, County Manager's Office
  • Ben Rose, Durham County Department of Social Services