Healthy Early Childhood Development Lab

Focus on Healthy Early Childhood Development (2013-2014)

TRI-Lab was piloted in academic year 2013-14 with a focus on healthy early childhood development, co-chaired by Stephen Buka, Professor and Chair of the Department of Epidemiology, and Elizabeth Burke Bryant, Executive Director of RI Kids Count. This TRI-Lab led to new questions and interventions related to early education, home visiting, policy, legislation, cultural and language barriers, resource allocation, technology, behavioral economics, health communication, data access and usage, and more.

It is widely accepted that much of the adult disparities in health and wellbeing originate during early childhood, the most sensitive period of a human's development. Children most at risk of not achieving their full physical, social, academic and emotional potential are those living in poverty. There are over 77,500 Rhode Island children under age five. One in five RI children under age six lives in a family with income below the federal poverty threshold of $15,219 for a family of four with two children. ("Successful Start", RI Kids Count, 2005) This initiative placed a high priority on children living in poverty, but was not limited to this group. The goal was to identify new ideas and approaches that can benefit all families with young children, with a particular emphasis on those with greatest need.

The problems facing Rhode Island's most vulnerable and youngest children can be generalized throughout the nation, but our state's size, scale and spirit of cooperation around this issue are unique. Rhode Island has a longstanding community of interest around this topic including state agencies that administer programs for young children, community-based agencies, child care providers, education, health care and mental health professionals, child advocates, and parents. The TRI-Lab integrated this existing community of interest with Brown's expertise, research and scholarship around early childhood development from fields including public policy, health, education, neuroscience, economics, and more. 


Anna Aizer -- Associate Professor, Economics and Public Policy
Stephen Buka -- Professor and Chair, Epidemiology
Patrick Vivier -- Associate Professor of Health Services, Policy & Practice and Associate Professor of Pediatrics

Community Partners
Elizabeth Burke Bryant -- Executive Director, RI KIDS COUNT
Leanne Barrett -- Senior Policy Analyst, RI KIDS COUNT
Kristine Campagna -- Manager, Home Visiting and Early Childhood Development Screening and Follow-Up Programs, Rhode Island Department of Health
Leslie Gell -- Executive Director, Ready 2 Learn Providence
Aimee Mitchell -- Senior Vice President Programs and Operations/Head Start Director, Children's Friend

Emily Davis '15, Cognitive Science
Research question: How does early childhood language development affect later school performance? What early interventions are most successful in improving the academic achievement of children who have speech and language disorders or are English Language Learners?

Nicole DellaRocco '14, Master's degree, Urban Education Policy
Research question: How can educational theory be operationalized in the classroom, and can theory and practice be connected to improve student achievement, particularly for innovations that foster socio-economic growth in young children to provide core competencies needed to excel in elementary school?

Hasina Maredia '14, Health and Human Biology
Research question: What are the disparities in child development within Rhode Island? What governmental programs are in place to reduce disparities and how effective are these programs?

John Molina '14, Doctorate in Medicine candidate at Warren Alpert Medical School
Research question: How does socio-economic status affect maternal health outcomes and in utero exposures and how do differences shape early childhood health and education outcomes? What early childhood interventions are most successful for closing the SES gradient for education attainment, and what inputs have a causal effect on improved outcomes?

Kate Nussenbaum '15, Cognitive Neuroscience, and Science and Society
Research question: How can cognitive neuroscience research on attention and learning be harnessed to help alleviate the socio-economic divide in cognitive growth?

Natalie Posever '14, Anthropology
Research question: Given that fetal development is influenced by a mother's biological and social environment, how can we reduce the number of low birth weight babies?

Evelyn Sanchez '14, American Studies and Anthropology
Research question: How does involvement in the public child welfare system affect the development of children's mental, emotional and physical well-being?

Rachel Scagos '14 Master's degree, Public Health
Research question: How can data from the MIECHV program inform perinatal health and early childhood outcomes?

Alexandra Urban '15, Educational Neuroscience
Research question: How can we support healthy brain development? Can we stimulate strong neural growth through pre-schooling as well as classroom instruction?

Allison Wong '14, Dual degree candidate; Brown: Urban Studies, RISD: Fine Arts, Industrial Design
Research question: How can we create opportunities to help children develop confidence and build skills that transfer to other contexts?