North Carolina Early Childhood Action Plan: Evidence-based Policy Solutions (2021-2022)


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 focused on food insecurity by collaborating with North Carolina Integrated Care for Kids (InCK) to decrease the percentage of children across the state living in food-insecure homes. 

The 2021-2022 team will focus on the goal of housing, specifically the intersections of structural racism, housing policy and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The team will also build on last year’s work by completing implementation research to inform policymakers and InCK.

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.

Learn more about this project team by viewing the team's video.

Anticipated Outputs

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


Summer 2021 – Summer 2022

  • Summer 2021 (optional): Work with InCK and DHHS to identify key housing questions
  • Fall 2021: 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 2022: Draft systematic review; develop policy briefs; present findings to the Council and other dissemination opportunities
  • Summer 2022 (optional): Revise research and policy memos; work with NC stakeholders to develop specific intervention proposals

See earlier related team, NC Early Childhood Action Plan: Achieving Goals with Innovative, Evidence-based Policy Solutions (2020-2021).


Image: Early Childhood Action Plan, courtesy of the 2019-2020 project team

Early Childhood Action Plan.

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
  • Gillian Sanders Schmidler, School of Medicine-Population Health Sciences|Margolis Center for Health Policy

/graduate Team Members

  • Laura Stilwell, Public Policy Studies-PHD

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Ainsley Buck, Neuroscience (BS)
  • Stephanie Green, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Sophie Johnson
  • Ruthie Kesri
  • Juliana Mayer, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Darshan Vijaykumar

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Marsha Basloe, Child Care Services Association
  • North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services
  • Dan Kimberg, Student U
  • Madlyn Morreale, North Carolina Medical Board
  • Karina Vasudeva, Undergraduate Student, UNC-Chapel Hill