Developing a knowledge laboratory of the early life-course using systematic reviews and meta analyses




Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment


Barry Milne, Jessica McLay, Nichola Shackleton, Kevin Chang


This study identified key determinants of child and adolescent outcomes, and integrated estimates from international systematic reviews and meta-analyses therefor into a microsimulation model of the early life-course (developed from our existing model for Modelling the Early Life-Course). This time we boasted full functionality as a “knowledge laboratory”. The aims were to:

  1. test the validity of the underlying behavioural equations and specific knowledge sources (meta-analyses, systematic reviews); and
  2. test policy scenarios by carrying out experiments on the 'virtual cohort' created by the working model.

The research plan involved:

  1. identifying published systematic reviews and meta-analyses on outcomes for children and adolescents (to age 18);
  2. integrating estimates from these studies into, and thus enhancing, our microsimulation model of the early life-course;
  3. validating the enhanced model, and thus published estimates, by comparing simulated results to published New Zealand benchmarks; and
  4. using the validated enhanced model to test the impact of various policies on key child and adolescent outcomes.

The final model is presented in fully interactive fashion through the magic of the R Shiny package:

A Knowledge Laboratory of the Early Life-Course


Other files


Shackleton N, Chang K, Lay-Yee R, D’Souza S, Davis P, Milne B (2019). Microsimulation model of child and adolescent overweight: making use of what we already know.
International Journal of Obesity 43, 2322–2332, doi:10.1038/s41366-019-0426-9.

Lay-Yee R, Milne B, Shackleton N, Chang K, Davis P (2018). Preventing youth depression: Simulating the impact of parenting interventions. Advances in Life Course Research 37: 15–22, doi:10.1016/j.alcr.2018.05.001.