To examine the evidence base for primary health care services promoting the optimal development of typically developing children aged birth to 3 years.
Peer-reviewed publications addressing clinical evaluations of primary care services from the MEDLINE and PsychINFO databases.
Criteria for selection were as follows: (1) publication between 1979 and 1999; (2) evaluation of efficacy or effectiveness of education, intervention, and care coordination services or validation of assessment approaches; (3) services applicable to an office practice setting; (4) target population including children aged birth to 3 years; and (5) publication in English.
A total of 312 publications were abstracted and reviewed by both of us; 47 were selected for inclusion.
Assessments of parental concerns and psychosocial risk factors using validated approaches seem to be more accurate in identifying developmental problems than clinicians' appraisals. In general, study results support the efficacy of (1) primary care educational efforts toward promoting optimal parent-child interaction, parents' understanding of child temperament, book-sharing activities, and approaches to healthy sleep habits and (2) office interventions such as counseling for the management of excessive infant crying and sleep problems.
The literature suggests that many primary care activities promoting the optimal development of children are efficacious. Evaluations of developmental assessment and services in primary care should be expanded in depth and breadth. The implications for clinical practice, training, and health care policy are discussed.