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The health effects of early interventions: evidence from Sure Start

Researchers: Dr Gabriella Conti | Sarah Cattan ...

Project overview

The aim of this project is to understand whether and to what extent Sure Start has been a cost-effective means to promote health.

Sure Start is a major area-based early education initiative in the UK. It was introduced as Sure Start Local Programmes in 1998 with the aim of providing quality services for the under-fives in disadvantaged areas. It then underwent a major change in 2003, to evolve into a nation-wide network of 3,600 Sure Start Children’s Centres providing a range of services spanning early education, childcare, health, and job search assistance.

The research will estimate the causal impact of access to, and use of, Sure Start services on children’s and their families’ health. It will consider a range of physical and mental health outcomes, and draw on a rich combination of administrative records, self-reports and objectively measured outcomes at various ages from different data sources. While in addition, it will include a detailed cost-benefit analysis.

It adds to existing evaluations of Sure Start by evaluating both phases of the initiative with a common methodology; considering children’s outcomes beyond age seven, up to adolescence, including better controls for unobservable characteristics and cohort effects; and looking at availability, as well as take-up, of Sure Start Children’s Centre services.


  • Dr Gabriella Conti
    Institute for Fiscal Studies
  • Sarah Cattan
    Institute for Fiscal Studies
  • Rita Ginja
    Uppsala University and Institute for Fiscal Studies

  • Programme Head, Education
    Nuffield Foundation
  • Director, Education
    Nuffield Foundation

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We aim to improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

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