September 2020

Monthly updates on the latest content, events, and more from
the Center on the Developing Child

Making Connections: Early Childhood Experiences, Early Learning & Lifelong Health

We know that early experiences, relationships, and environments matter. The latest science shows us just how much: We now know more clearly than ever how the conditions and environments in which young children develop affect lifelong health as well as brain architecture and early learningPoor nutrition, exposure to pollutants, and high levels of family stress associated with poverty, racism, and other forms of economic or social marginalization can all have disruptive effects on the brain and immune, metabolic, and cardiovascular systems. Excessive inflammation in these systems can lead to adult health impairments like diabetes, heart disease, obesity, asthma, and even depression and dementia. We also know that these conditions and the resulting health problems are experienced disproportionately by families of color. The COVID-19 pandemic has made this even more obvious.

We believe the time has arrived for a mindset shift for the early childhood field as part of a broader movement for social change. The brain is indeed connected to the rest of the body—and early childhood policy in the 21st-century must focus on the overwhelming evidence that early experiences affect the foundations of both educational achievement and lifelong physical and mental health. Two recent presentations and a suite of resources from the Center can help you get informed and take action:
Leveraging Advances in Science to Strengthen the Early Foundations of Both Learning and Health

Hear the science straight from Center Director Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D., along with presentations from experts on birth disparities and early childhood policies, in three brief presentations at the inaugural National Prenatal-to-3 Research to Policy Summit. Also features a panel discussion among the experts and examples of different approaches from state policymakers.

View the Summit recording
Connecting Early Childhood Development and Lifelong Health in a COVID-19 World

View this "crash course" in 21st-century science and how it can help us understand the COVID-19 pandemic from Center Director Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D., given during the "Protecting Our Children: COVID-19’s Impact on Early Childhood and ACEs" webinar, presented by the National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation. Also features presentation and discussion with experts on community-driven ACEs initiatives and trauma-informed health care.

View the webinar recording
What Is Inflammation? And Why Does It Matter for Child Development? 

Inflammation is a critical part of our immune system's stress response, but what exactly is inflammation and what happens when it's persistent and ongoing? How does it impact child development? This infographic addresses these questions and provides steps we can take to improve children's lifelong health. 

View the infographic
Connecting the Brain to the Rest of the Body: Early Childhood Development and Lifelong Health Are Deeply Intertwined

The Center's latest Working Paper examines how developing biological systems in the body interact with each other and adapt to the contexts in which a child is developing—for better or for worse—with lifelong consequences for physical and mental health. 

Read the paper
Connecting the Brain to the Rest of the Body

If you need a quick summary of the Working Paper, this three-page InBrief highlights five key takeaways and provides implications for policymakers and practitioners.

Read the InBrief

Using Science to Improve Outcomes

Rethinking Business as Usual. Are We Even Starting in the Right Place? 
"As any number of Albert Einstein quotes will tell you, identifying the right question is a critical step toward finding the right solution. And for those seeking greater impacts for children and families, this may just be the big idea we have been looking for. That is, instead of asking 'Which program should we invest in?', perhaps we should be asking a different set of questions altogether."

In a new blog post for Capita, Hannah Barber, Project Manager at the Center on the Developing Child, challenges us to rethink how we improve child and family outcomes by asking the right questions and using science to design conditions and experiences that promote strong, healthy development.

Read the blog post

Website Updates

Current Frontiers of Innovation Projects
Frontiers of Innovation (FOI) is the Center's research and design platform. FOI drives science-based innovation by providing ongoing consultation to a diverse portfolio of on-the-ground projects that form a dynamic learning community committed to shared learning, cumulative knowledge, and transformative child outcomes at the population level. 

View the current FOI projects

New Translation

Attention: Harvard Students

The Center on the Developing Child's student opportunities prepare Harvard undergraduate, graduate students, and postdoctoral scholars to think differently, work differently, and drive innovation in research, policy, and practice to improve the well-being of vulnerable children.

Learn more about the Center's student programming

Media Coverage

When COVID-19 Pushes Your Company to Explore New Markets
EdWeek Market Brief | August 27, 2020

Adversity in Early Childhood: The Role of Policy in Creating and Addressing Adverse Childhood Experiences
Center for American Progress | August 27, 2020
What you need to know about infant mental health— and how COVID-19 factors in
Public Source | August 24, 2020

The Coronavirus Generation
The New York Times | August 22, 2020
Copyright © 2020 Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, All rights reserved.

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