Gross Developmental Potential (GDP2)

Project Overview:


The GDP2 Initiative was a partnership of the UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families & Communities, the RAND Corporation, and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Our goal was to create a developmentally driven, capability-based measure of human potential at the earliest phase of life, which can be used alongside more traditional measures of economic growth (like GDP) when charting society’s progress.

Thus far, the project has created a robust developmental capability-based conceptual framework on which the GDP2 measure can be constructed.  This framework has been validated through expert interviews, literature reviews, and community-based focused groups conducted by the project team. 


The project was originally conceived as part of ongoing funding from the federal Maternal and Child Health Bureau to support the MCH Life Course Research Network. A yearlong ideation process and set of small meetings with experts and government officials led to the initial formulation of the need to create a GDP2. 

The subsequent phase of the project was supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, with the goal of creating a prototype GDP2 measure and supporting research agenda.  Early in this project phase, it was determined that the model would benefit from incorporating insights from literature on the Capability Approach.  In response, the project’s focus shifted from creating a prototype measure, to enhancing and validating the conceptual framework, which the team developed over the following 18 months.


The initial 3 objectives were to: 1) Construct and evaluate a preliminary national measure of GDP2; 2) Develop a corresponding measurement research agenda; and 3) Construct and pilot a preliminary local measure of GDP2.

However, this set of goals was revised in response to input from the project advisory group and the project team’s decision to modify our approach and develop a conceptual framework merging our life course health development framework with one based on the Capability Approach. 

The revised project goals were to: 1) develop a conceptual framework for a preliminary measure of GDP2; 2) validate the framework through expert interviews and a literature review; 3) test the conceptual framework with three communities in the U.S.; and 4) create a mock-up dashboard for displaying the outputs of the GDP2 measure to community leaders and others.


The project created a developmental capability-based conceptual framework, aligning the measurement of healthy development, wellbeing, thriving, with a reconceptualization of human potential.   The team also created a set of core developmental capabilities based on this framework.  

The framework was validated through a series of expert interviews supported by extensive literature reviews on each of the seven identified core capabilities. The framework was further tested with focus groups of municipal and public health leaders in Long Beach, Pasadena, and San Antonio.

We were also able to assemble a mock-up of a potential GDP2 dashboard, to provide a glimpse of what a community level dashboard might look like, as well as a systems map built on the literature reviews for the developmental capabilities.

Future Vision

We plan to build on the progress made and lessons learned to develop community GDP2 indicators that will provide local leaders with the information necessary to make better long-term decisions regarding the health and development of their children, and the beginnings of a national measure with the potential to spark a cultural shift in the way we think about human development and economic and social “growth."

We will begin this new phase of the project by working with communities to construct GDP2 dashboards and other measures customized to their needs and goals. Based on this work, we can surface the common, core components for a national measure that we can begin to advance as a part of a national narrative. 


Network Partners

  • Engaging Inquiry

City Partners

  • Long Beach, CA
  • Pasadena, CA
  • San Antonio, TX

Research Partners

  • Jill Cannon, Ph.D., RAND Corporation
  • Anita Chandra, Dr.P.H., RAND Corporation
  • Christopher Forrest, MD, PhD, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
  • William Gardner, PhD, Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario

Funding Partners

  • The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
  • The Federal Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the Health Resources Services Administration (initial funding)

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Neal Halfon, MD, MPH
Principal Investigator / Project Director


GDP2 - Dashboard

GDP2 - Core Capabilities

GDP2 - Systems Map



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