Policy Strategies to Support Children's
Development, Health, and Wellbeing
Rep. Rosa DeLauro(D-CT-3)
Chair of the House Appropriations Committee and Chair of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee
On October 4, 2022, The National Prevention Science Coalition (NPSC) and the FRONTIER program at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) at UNC-Chapel Hill convened internationally recognized experts on child neurobiology. These experts presented their findings on the essential role of economic support for young families in promoting healthy child development.
Speakers discussed the science of early brain development, studies that examine how measures of brain function are indicators of improved academic social and self-regulation skills later in childhood, and the evidence for the positive effects of modest economic support for young families.
Children are our next generation of leaders and require the resources and tools to provide them with the best chances to thrive and succeed.
Research shows that family support policies have a positive impact on brain development in infancy and childhood. Such policies also reduce child maltreatment, one of the more extreme consequences of poverty, which is enormously costly in terms of government services expenditures, productivity losses, and increased child mortality, not to mention the human suffering.
Most rapid brain development occurs in the third trimester and the first 2 years of a child’s life. Early exposure to poverty affects the baby’s brain, adversely affecting parts of the brain that process information and holds connections between brain regions that are involved in regulation of behavior and emotion, learning ability, and stress management. A recent study that provided cash support to new mothers showed that at one year of age, their babies demonstrated higher levels of brain activity associated with improved learning and cognition.
New studies provide solid evidence that financial assistance to families positively affected children and families across the entire country, in both rural and urban settings, by giving parents the autonomy to use funds on what their families need the most, whether it is rent, healthier food choices, better childcare, or an enriched home environment. Increasing access to these resources in very low-income households appears to improve child development by directly impacting brain growth and functioning.
Expert Testimonies Included:
Dana Suskind, M.D.
Dana Suskind, M.D. a Professor of Surgery, Pediatrics, and Public Policy (affiliated) at the University of Chicago and Co-Director of the TMW Center for Early Learning + Public Health. Suskind has dedicated her research and clinical life to optimizing foundational brain development and preventing early cognitive disparities and their lifelong impact. In 2013, Dana and her team led the first-ever Bridging the Thirty Million Word Gap convening at the request of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. She is the author of Thirty Million Words: Building a Child’s Brain and of the New York Times bestselling book, Parent Nation: Unlocking Every Child's Potential, Fulfilling Society's Promise, which empowers parents to use developmental neuroscience to build a society that works for families, not against them.
Donald Shepard, Ph.D., M.P.P., B.A.
Donald Shepard, Ph.D., M.P.P., B.A. is Professor at the Schneider Institutes for Health Policy at the Heller School, Brandeis University. Director of the Institutes' group on cost and value, he is a health economist concerned with maintaining and improving health the United States and globally. His major concentrations are cost and cost-effectiveness analysis in health, health financing, and performance incentives. He co-authored the paper that created the term QALY (for quality-adjusted life year), a central concept in cost-effectiveness analysis in health Substantive areas concern malaria, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, HIV/AIDS, dengue, lymphatic filariasis, vaccines, measurement of the quality of life, and control of mosquitoes, oral health, and technology assessment.
Cynthia Rogers, M.D., a child psychiatrist and full professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at Washington University, co-directs the Washington University Neonatal Development Research (WUNDER) lab, a research group that conducts longitudinal studies to understand how adverse early environmental stressors like exposure to poverty and maternal depression affect infants and early childhood brain development and increase the risk for childhood psychiatric disorders.
Cynthia Rogers, M.D.,
Joan Luby, M.D.
Joan Luby, M.D., the Samuel and Mae S. Ludwig Professor of Psychiatry (Child) at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, is the founder and director of the Washington University School of Medicine Early Emotional Development Program (EEDP). Dr. Luby’s research focuses on the characterization of early childhood psychopathology, early behavioral and biological markers of risk, and associated alterations in brain and emotional development in early childhood. In addition, her program of research has highlighted the influence of the psychosocial environment on brain development, sensitive periods for these effects and implications for risk and early intervention for mental disorders.
Kimberly Noble, M.D., Ph.D., is a Professor of Neuroscience and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. As a neuroscientist and board-certified pediatrician, she studies how socioeconomic inequities relate to children’s cognitive and brain development. And Dr. Noble is one of the principal investigators of Baby’s First Years, the first clinical trial of poverty reduction in the first three years of life.
Kimberly Noble, M.D., Ph.D.
Watch the Replay!
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Zhang L, Simmel C, Nepomnyaschy L. Income inequality and child maltreatment rates in U.S. counties, 2009-2018. Child Abuse Negl. 2022 Aug;130(Pt 4):105328. Doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2021.105328. Epub 2021 Sep 16. PMID: 34538657.
Troller-Renfree, S. V., Costanzo, M. A., Duncan, G. J., Magnuson, K., Gennetian, L. A., Yoshikawa, H., Halpern-Meekin, S., et al. (2022). The impact of a poverty reduction intervention on infant brain activity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2022 Feb 01. https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.2115649119
Nicole L. Kovski, Heather D. Hill, Stephen J. Mooney, Frederick P. Rivara, Ali Rowhani-Rahbar; Short-Term Effects of Tax Credits on Rates of Child Maltreatment Reports in the United States. Pediatrics July 2022; 150 (1): e2021054939. 10.1542/peds.2021-054939
Brito, N.H., Werchan, D., Brandes‐Aitken, A., Yoshikawa, H., Greaves, A., Zhang, M., 2022. Paid maternal leave is associated with infant brain function at 3 months of age. Child Development. https://srcd.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cdev.13765
Troller-Renfree, S., Hart, E., Sperber, J., Fox, N., and Noble, K. (2022) Associations among stress and language and socioemotional development in a low-income sample. Development and Psychopathology, 1-9. Doi: 10.1017/S0954579421001759 [PDF]
Gennetian, Lisa A. and Duncan, Greg and Fox, Nathan and Magnuson, Katherine and Halpern-Meekin, Sarah and Noble, Kimberly and Yoshihawa, Hirokazu, Unconditional Cash and Family Investments in Infants: Evidence from a Large-Scale Cash Transfer Experiment in the U.S. (August 2022). NBER Working Paper No. w30379, Available at SSRN: https//ssrn.com/abstract=4203053.
Yoo, P.Y., Duncan, G.J., Magnuson, K., Fox, N.A., Yoshikawa, H., Halpern-Meekin, S., & Noble, K.N. (2022) Unconditional cash transfers and maternal substance use: findings from a randomized control trial of low-income mothers with infants in the U.S. BMC Public Health. doi: 10.1186/s12889-022-12989-1 [PDF]