Nov 15, 2023

TARGet Kids!’s new data platform is LIVE!

TARGet Kids! team

Photo: Dr. Catherine Birken (2nd from left) and members of the TARGet Kids! team at the Leong Centre Rounds – June 2023

What is TARGet Kids!?

The Applied Research Group for Kids (TARGet Kids!), co-led by Dr. Catherine Birken, inaugural Edwin S.H. Leong Chair in Child Health Intervention, is a multi-disciplinary practice-basedresearch network for children, youth, and families based out of SickKids and Unity Health Toronto. Since 2008, TARGet Kids!’s (TK!) mandate has been “Healthy Children Together” with a goal to prevent health, mental health, and learning problems in children. TK! collects information from children, parents, teachers and healthcare providers on child growth and development. Families with children under 6 years old are invited to join TK! during their regularly scheduled well-child visits with their healthcare providers and followed through to adulthood.

TARGet Kids! through the years

TK! enrolled its first child in March 2008 using paper forms to collect data. To follow children throughout their formative years, caregivers received age-specific surveys to complete at their well-child visits.

Over the past 15 years, TK! has grown to:

  • An open longitudinal cohort of over 12,000 children and their caregivers.
  • In multiple clinics in the Greater Toronto Area, Kingston, and Montreal.
  • Administering over 30 validated tools and a comprehensive Nutrition and Health Questionnaire.  
  • Conducting randomized controlled clinical trials.

As the network evolved, operational changes were needed for sustainability due to:

  • Huge volume of data.
  • Parents requests for digital surveys.
  • Inadequate IT infrastructure to support the depth and breadth of data such as linking data with healthcare use and school outcome data.

In 2020, the team began conceptualizing a new and more adaptable platform.

How will this new data platform benefit families?

On October 17, 2023, the new Research Electronic Data Capture platform was successfully launched. This data platform is set to improve the research experience, providing many benefits to families including:

  • Ease of use: user-friendly interface displays all surveys to be completed at any time point. Once completed, forms disappear from the list.
  • Safeguard against errors: built-in checks and balances to help families enter the correct information.
  • Reduced participant burden: a more integrated administration schedule.
  • Improved efficiency: easier completion of forms due to more targeted and interconnected survey instruments such as forms linking family members together.
  • Increased flexibility: surveys can be completed at any time.

How will the new data platform impact the research network?

This new platform is a major move forward for TK! and will help the network to:

  • Establish a more efficient and expansive database to answer impactful research questions on child health and development including recovery from COVID-19 and school success.
  • Enroll and follow-up participants remotely.
  • Pre-program survey send-out with reminders to prevent missed time points and reduce staff burden.
  • Collect data from multiple caregivers and siblings for a richer view of how family dynamics impact child health and development.

As TK! enters this new age, we are as dedicated as ever to improving the health of young children. This new platform is a pivotal step in furthering our mission of “Healthy Children Together”.