Thrive by Five International Program (Research)

The Youth Mental Health and Technology Team from the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre is leading the co-design, development and evaluation of evidence-informed content for Minderoo Foundation’s Thrive by Five International Program. Thrive by Five aims to empower parents and other caregivers with the knowledge they need to support the healthy development of children from birth to age 5. The program seeks to ensure universal access to this valuable childrearing information regardless of region, socioeconomic status, literacy, gender, or alternate barriers such as digital literacy. The Thrive by Five app is the flagship product of the program; however, alternate means of content dissemination such as print and radio are also provided based on local, contextual requirements. The Thrive by Five International Program is being co-designed for and implemented in a range of low- and middle-income countries and is currently available in Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Namibia, Kenya, Cameroon, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  

Before beginning the content development process, the research team, in collaboration with other University of Sydney academics with country-specific knowledge, conducts a comprehensive literature review to understand the cultural, anthropological, historical, social, economic, political and gender-based factors that impact on childrearing to develop an understanding of the sociocultural context in each country in which the program will be implemented. Examples of local songs, dances, children’s storybooks and authors, festivals and foods are also collected to adapt the content to the local sociocultural context.

All of the content is underpinned by a scientific framework that highlights key neurobiological systems that are critical to healthy development in the early years, such as the oxytocin system which is important for bonding and social development, and the circadian system which is critical for maintaining healthy body clocks. The Thrive by Five content is designed to target these systems behaviourally to support healthy development in early childhood. Specifically, the content includes a library of ‘Collective Actions’ comprised of scientific information about the principles of healthy early childhood development as well as childrearing activities for parents, extended family, and trusted members of the community to engage in with children to support their socioemotional and cognitive development.

Using an iterative co-design process, the content is actively developed, tested and refined in collaboration with local subject matter experts, parents and caregivers prior to being finalised for implementation. A mixed methods study is now being conducted to evaluate the impact of the Thrive by Five app and its content on parent and caregiver knowledge, behaviours, attitudes and confidence with regards to childrearing, and the connection between children and their parents, family, community, and culture. Secondary aims include the evaluation of cultural and contextual factors influencing engagement with the content and how content engagement influences relationships at the parental, familial and community level.


Designing an App for Parents and Caregivers to Promote Cognitive and Socioemotional Development and Well-being Among Children Aged 0 to 5 Years in Diverse Cultural Settings: Scientific Framework

This paper describes the scientific framework that underpins the research team’s approach to content development for the Thrive by Five International Program. Importantly, the content is codesigned and iteratively refined in collaboration with local parents, caregivers, and subject matter experts to be culturally informed and inclusive of place-based traditions, beliefs, values, stories, songs, dances, and festivals. This paper discusses: 

  • The five domains used to organise the program’s content and goals (Connect, Talk, Play, Community and Healthy Home);
  • Five of the key neurobiological systems relevant to early childhood development and how they can be targeted behaviourally to influence social, emotional and cognitive development;
  • The anthropological and cultural framework for learning about local contexts and appreciating decolonisation perspectives; and
  • The approach to adapting the content to local contexts, which includes collaboration with in-country partner organisations and local and international subject matter experts in early childhood development and anthropology.
Developing a Parenting App to Support Young Children’s Socioemotional and Cognitive Development in Culturally Diverse Low- and Middle-Income Countries: Protocol for a Co-design Study

This paper describes the iterative co-design process that underpins the development and refinement of Thrive by Five’s features, functions, and content. The content, referred to as Collective Actions, is comprised of scientific information about early childhood development coupled with one or more childrearing activities that parents, extended family members, and trusted members of the community can engage in with the child to support their development. The initial content is designed and iteratively refined in collaboration with a subject matter expert group from each country in which the program is being implemented. This content is then configured into a test app to allow local parents and caregivers as well as experts to test out the content in a real-world context. These participants are then invited to provide their feedback and suggestions for improvements in and additions to the app content, features, and functions. For maximum impact, it is critically important to ensure that mobile health programs are designed in collaboration with the target audience to support the alignment of content with parents’ cultural values and traditions and its relevance to their needs and circumstances.


App Fly Through

Research Program Overview

Scientific Framework

Cultural Framework


Content Development