Healthy development in the early years provides the building blocks for educational achievement, economic productivity, responsible citizenship, strong communities, and successful parenting of the next generation. By improving children’s environments, relationships, and experiences early in life, society can address many costly problems, including incarceration, homelessness, and the failure to complete high school. But if you’re a parent, caregiver, teacher, or someone who works with children every day, you may be wondering, “Where do I start?!” From brain architecture to toxic stress to serve and return, The Brain Architects, a new podcast from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, will explore what we can do during this incredibly important period to ensure that all children have a strong foundation for future development. Listen to the trailer, and subscribe now!
Connecting Health and Learning Part II: The Implications
How do we use the science of early childhood development to implement practical strategies and overcome longstanding barriers in the early childhood field? How can we ensure that families' voices are heard when we create policies or programs?
To kick off this episode, Center Director Dr. Jack Shonkoff describes what the science means for policymakers, system leaders, care providers, and caregivers. This is followed by a discussion among a distinguished panel of experts, including Cindy Mann (Manatt Health), Dr. Aaliyah Samuel (Northwest Evaluation Association), and Jane Witowski (Help Me Grow). The panelists discuss how we can break down the silos in the early childhood field, policies affecting prenatal-three, and how policies can change to address the stressors inflicted by poverty, community violence, and racism.
Connecting Health and Learning Part I: The Science
How do our biological systems work together to respond to chronic stress? What do these responses mean for early learning and lifelong health? And when we say that early experiences matter, what do we mean by early? In this episode of "The Brain Architects" podcast, Center Director Dr. Jack Shonkoff describes the body's stress response system, how our biological systems act as a team when responding to chronic stress, and the effects chronic stress can have on lifelong health.
This is followed by a discussion among a panel of scientists including Dr. Nicki Bush (University of California-San Francisco), Dr. Damien Fair (University of Minnesota), and Dr. Fernando Martinez (University of Arizona). The panelists discuss how our bodies respond to adversity, inflammation's role in the stress response system, the effects of stress during the prenatal period and first few years after birth, and how we can use this science to prevent long-term impacts on our health. Download and subscribe now!
COVID-19 Special Edition: Mental Health in a Locked-Down World
While some countries and U.S. states are beginning to reopen businesses and other gathering places, the pandemic is still very much with us. Physical distancing will likely be a way of life until a vaccine for COVID-19 is widely available. So much change, including the threat of illness, and grief of those who have lost loved ones, means that mental health is a great concern.
Fortunately, there are things we can do to support our mental health at this time, especially when caring for young children or other family members. In this episode of The Brain Architects, host Sally Pfitzer speaks with Dr. Karestan Koenen, Professor of Psychiatric Epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Dr. Archana Basu, Research Associate at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and a clinical psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital. They discuss what supporting your own mental health can look like, as well as ways to support children you care for at this time. They also talk about what mental health professionals all over the world are doing to help take care of our societies in the midst of the pandemic, and how they're preparing for the challenges that come next.
Domestic Violence and Shelter-In-Place
Shelter-in-place orders are meant to help protect our communities from the current coronavirus pandemic. But for some people, home isn't always a safe place. For those who are experiencing domestic violence, or believe they know someone one who is, what options are available to stay both physically healthy and safe from violence?
In this fourth episode of our COVID-19 series of The Brain Architects, host Sally Pfitzer speaks with Dr. Tien Ung, Program Director for Impact and Learning at FUTURES without Violence. Prior to her work at FUTURES, Tien spent five years as the Director of Leadership and Programs at the Center on the Developing Child.
Tien discusses important, practical steps those at home can take to keep themselves and their children safe, as well as strategies others can use if they think someone they know may be experiencing domestic violence. She also addresses the resilience of survivors, and what our communities can do both during and after COVID to listen to and engage in real responsive relationships with adults and children alike.
A note on this episode: If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
COVID-19 Special Edition: Creating Communities of Opportunity
While the current coronavirus pandemic is affecting all of us, it isn't affecting all of us equally. Some communities--especially communities of color--are feeling the brunt of the virus more than others, in terms of higher rates of infection, as well as economic fallout, among many others.
In this third special COVID-19 episode of The Brain Architects podcast, host Sally Pfitzer is joined by Dr. David Williams, the Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Professor of African and African American Studies, Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Williams discusses ways in which the coronavirus pandemic is affecting people of color in the U.S. particularly, and what that can mean for early childhood development. He also pinpoints the importance of creating "communities of opportunity" that will allow all families to thrive--both during and after this pandemic.
COVID-19 Special Edition: Self-Care Isn't Selfish
In the midst of a global pandemic, pediatricians are serving a unique role. While the coronavirus is generally showing milder effects on babies and children than on adults, there are still health concerns and considerations for infants in need of scheduled vaccinations, and kids who are home all day with parents who may be facing stressful situations.
In the second episode of our special COVID-19 series of The Brain Architects, host Sally Pfitzer speaks with Dr. Rahil Briggs, National Director of ZERO TO THREE's HealthySteps program, to discuss how pediatricians are serving their patients during the pandemic, including using telehealth; why caregiver health is child health; and what she hopes the healthcare system can learn as a result of the pandemic.