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The association of a novel digital tool for assessment of early childhood cognitive development, ‘DEvelopmental assessment on an E-Platform (DEEP)’, with growth in rural India: A proof of concept study

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Sunil BhopalORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


© 2021 The Author(s)Background: There is an urgent need to fill the gap of scalable cognitive assessment tools for preschool children to enable identification of children at-risk of sub-optimal development and to support their timely referral into interventions. We present the associations between growth in early childhood, a well-established marker of cognitive development, and scores on a novel digital cognitive assessment tool called DEvelopmental Assessment on an E-Platform (DEEP) on a sample of 3-year old pre-schoolers from a rural region in north India. Methods: Between February 2018 and March 2019, 1359 children from the Sustainable Programme Incorporating Nutrition and Games (SPRING) programme were followed up at 3-years age and data on DEEP, anthropometry and a clinical developmental assessment, the Bayley's Scale of Infant and Toddler Development, 3rd edition (BSID-III) was collected. DEEP data from 200 children was used to train a machine learning algorithm to predict their score on the cognitive domain of BSID-III. The DEEP score of the remaining 1159 children was then predicted using this algorithm to examine the cross-sectional and prospective association of growth with the DEEP score. Findings: The magnitude of the concurrent positive association between height-for-age and cognitive z-scores in 3-year olds was similar when cognition was measured by BSID-III (0.20 standard deviations increase for every unit change in specifically age-adjusted height (HAZ), 95% CI = 0.06–0.35) and DEEP (0.26 CI, 0.11–0.41). A similar positive prospective relationship was found between growth at 18 (0.21 CI, 0.17–0.26) and 12-months (0.18 CI, 0.13–0.23) and DEEP score measured at 3-years. Additionally, the relationship between growth and cognitive development was found to be dependant on socioeconomic status (SES). Interpretation: In this study, we suggest the utility of DEEP, a scalable, digital cognitive assessment tool, to measure cognition in preschool children. Further validation in different and larger datasets is necessary to confirm our findings. Funding: The SPRING Programme was funded through a Wellcome Trust programme grant and the follow-up study by the Corporate Social Responsibility initiative grant from Madura Microfinance Ltd.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Bhavnani S, Mukherjee D, Bhopal S, Sharma KK, Dasgupta J, Divan G, Soremekun S, Roy R, Kirkwood B, Patel V

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: EClinicalMedicine

Year: 2021

Volume: 37

Print publication date: 01/07/2021

Online publication date: 18/06/2021

Acceptance date: 28/05/2021

Date deposited: 19/07/2021

ISSN (electronic): 2589-5370

Publisher: Lancet Publishing Group


DOI: 10.1016/j.eclinm.2021.100964


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