Innovation in Action

Pediatric Innovation Initiative

Leveraging 21st-century science to transform health care for young children

In the crucial years between birth and age 3, most children will visit their pediatrician many times. From regular well-child check-ups for monitoring growth and administering immunizations to visits for the common illnesses of early childhood, pediatricians have unique, frequent access to young children and their families. This makes them the ideal practitioners for supporting healthy development, recognizing potential health risks, and providing supportive care and referral for additional services when needed. When viewed within the context of the Center’s mission to dramatically improve outcomes for children and families facing adversity through science-based innovation, it’s easy to see why engaging with the pediatric sector has become a high priority for our work.

Pediatric primary care is uniquely qualified to serve as a key test bed for translating 21st-century biology and new measures into more effective strategies for strengthening the foundations of early learning, adaptive behavior, and both physical and mental health.

What Is the Pediatric Innovation Initiative?

It began in 2015 with the creation of the JPB Research Network on Toxic Stress as an ambitious project to engage scientists, pediatricians, and community leaders as full partners in the development of new measures to identify young children who show signs of being more or less sensitive to adversity than others—and thus more or less likely to develop difficulties as well as respond to preventive interventions. Building on its initial focus on developing measures of stress and resilience, this effort has evolved into a national network of change agents committed to leveraging cutting-edge science, community-based wisdom, and clinical expertise to create the future of primary care pediatrics. Capitalizing on this unique opportunity at the intersection of measurement development and practice innovation, the Center’s Pediatric Innovation Initiative, which includes the JPB Research Network, Pediatric Innovation Cluster, and Community Leadership Council, aims to empower parents and pediatricians with information and tools that will strengthen the doctor-family relationship and promote the healthy development of all young children.

Current Activities

  • Developing a battery of biological measures of stress/resilience and behavioral measures of core capacities in young children to serve as objective indicators of individual variation in sensitivity to adversity and response to interventions.
  • Building a national Pediatric Innovation Cluster to deploy and refine new measures and incubate more effective, scalable interventions to reduce the effects of early hardship or threat on health and development.
  • Partnering with community leaders to co-create and implement a neighborhood-level action agenda to reduce stressors that impose significant burdens on families with young children.
  • Working closely with community-based services in multiple sectors of the early childhood ecosystem to enhance impacts of current best practices.

Future Directions

  • Educating pediatricians about the value and appropriate interpretation of biological indicators of stress effects and resilience, how to implement new measures with fidelity in their primary care practice, and the protections needed to prevent inappropriate labelling.
  • Empowering parents with knowledge and resources to understand how children vary in their sensitivity to adverse experiences and how excessive stress affects the developing brain and other biological systems—and to explore the promise of new measures to address their children’s needs.
  • Creating a cadre of academic medical centers to advance research on the science of adversity and resilience, develop strategies for incorporating this knowledge into medical education and pediatric training, and generate new approaches for organization of health services and reimbursement policies to better support breakthrough outcomes for children facing adversity.

Setting the Stage for Broader Implementation and Eventual Scaling

Beyond generating and documenting greater benefits for the children and families they serve, the Pediatric Innovation Initiative’s long-term goal is achieving greater impact at scale—that is, breakthrough improvements in outcomes at a population level. This will require working closely with:

  • existing delivery systems that already serve large numbers of children and parents, such as national home visiting programs, that have their own assessment protocols; and
  • institutional partners, such as medical centers and professional associations, that influence professional training and pediatric practice.

More information coming soon!

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