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MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and Children's National Health System Receive $6 Million from The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation to Launch Early Childhood Innovation Network

Children's National Health System and MedStar Georgetown University Hospital/Georgetown University Medical Center have announced a new collaborative effort focused on transforming the lives of young children in the District of Columbia. Thanks to a $6 million, five-year commitment from The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation, clinicians and researchers from these institutions will launch the Early Childhood Innovation Network (ECIN) in 2016.

The goal of the ECIN is to eliminate or decrease the impacts of toxic stresses on young children in Washington, D.C.—building a strong foundation that will last for a lifetime. This funding will help support a comprehensive and integrated approach to the implementation of innovative interventions aimed at children from birth to age five, as well as their parents and families. Examples of these interventions will include pre-school-based programs to promote emotional regulation and self-control in three and four year-old children; professional training within primary care physicians' offices to assist pediatric providers' capacities to identify children and families experiencing toxic stress; teaching positive parenting skills to parents who have experienced trauma; and working with families in social services settings like shelters and food pantries to promote improved parent-child interactions.

The ECIN will be led by Lee Savio Beers, MD, a general pediatrician and the Medical Director for Municipal and Regional Affairs at Children's National Health System, and Matthew Biel, MD, MSc, a child psychiatrist and Division Chief of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at MedStar Georgetown/Georgetown University Medical Center.

"More than half of the children in Washington, DC experience significant adversity before the age of five," said Dr. Biel. "We use the term 'toxic stress' to refer to sustained exposure to extreme stress early in life. We know that toxic stress is linked to the onset of significant problems later in life, including addiction, depression, obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer and premature mortality. We need to develop and deploy high-quality, coordinated resources to help families in these situations. This is where the ECIN comes in. We will use evidence-based strategies to promote better public health starting early in children's lives here in the nation's capital."

Dr. Beers describes the network as a comprehensive approach to early intervention: "The interventions within the network have four pillars: pediatric primary care for medical visits; early childhood education; family supports in the home and community; and research and evaluation to assess the impact of our efforts across sectors and measure outcomes. Taking this broad-reaching and comprehensive approach will allow us to reach children and families where they are every day, and break down the silos that get in the way of providing the best support we can to families. By moving upstream through thinking preventatively and advocating for improved systems, children in Washington, DC will have a stronger start."

In 2012 MedStar Georgetown and Children's National joined forces to spearhead the DC Collaborative for Mental Health in Pediatric Primary Care, which united primary care providers across the District with government public health officials, community health organizations, and insurers to change the way the city approaches pediatric mental health.

"We feel the Early Childhood Innovation Network is the logical next step as these two proven institutions work together to expand on the successes they've achieved in just the last three years," said Anne Gunsteens, Executive Director of The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation. "We're excited to be a part of this ground-breaking collaboration that will create a systemic and transformative approach to improving the long-term health and well-being of children and families in Washington, DC"

"Neuroscience evidence shows that key cognitive and emotional skills are rooted in early brain development," said Dr. Biel. "Providing strategies to the parents, physicians, educators, and community members who interact with these young children when their brains are in a critical stage of formation will help ensure bright futures for the children in Washington, D.C., and will give future generations in every ward of our city an enduring foundation."ght futures for the children in Washington, DC, and will give future generations in every ward of our city an enduring foundation."

Contact: Emily Hartman at 202-476-4500.


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