Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Translating Research into Policy: Early Childhood Development

A recent study, "Science Does Not Speak for Itself: Translating Child Development Research for the Public and Its Policymakers", describes a multi-year project to translate the complex scientific concepts of child development research into policy and practice. A cross-discipline group developed 8 key concepts grounded in the research:
  1. Child development is a foundation for community development and economic development.
  2. Brain architecture is constructed through an ongoing process that begins before birth and continues into adulthood.
  3. Brains are built from the bottom up. 
  4. The interaction of genes and experience shapes the developing brain.
  5. Learning, behavior, and both physical and mental health are highly interrelated.
  6. Toxic stress in the early years (e.g., from severe poverty, serious parental mental health impairment such as maternal depression, child maltreatment, and ⁄ or family violence) can damage the developing brain. 
  7. Early healthy development is less costly, to society and to individuals, than trying to fix it later.
  8. Effective early childhood programs can be measured and can inform wise investments.
But making the research accessible was only the first step. Until this information was made widely available the general public believed that early childhood development was both the responsibility and problem of individual families. The policy shift began to occur as the research connection between the value of early childhood development to society writ large, the collective achievement, became known.

For state policies to improve early childhood development. 

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