This article, published in the Annual Review of Public Health, presents a framework for addressing multiple dimensions of the public health challenge—including institutional/structural racism, cultural racism, and interpersonal discrimination—and concludes with the compelling need to protect the developing brain and other biological systems from the physiological disruptions of toxic stress that can undermine the building blocks of optimal health and development in the early childhood period.
Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D., is the Julius B. Richmond FAMRI Professor of Child Health and Development at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Graduate School of Education; Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital; Research Staff at Massachusetts General Hospital; and Director of the university-wide Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. He currently chairs the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, whose mission is to bring credible science to bear on public policy affecting children and families, and The JPB Research Network on Toxic Stress, which is developing new measures of stress effects and resilience in young children.
Under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Shonkoff served as Chair of the Board on Children, Youth, and Families from 1997 to 2000, and led a blue-ribbon committee that produced the landmark report in 2000, From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development. In 2011, he launched Frontiers of Innovation, a multi-sectoral, science-based R&D platform committed to achieving breakthrough outcomes at scale for young children facing adversity.
Dr. Shonkoff has received multiple professional honors, including elected membership in the National Academy of Medicine, the C. Anderson Aldrich Award in Child Development from the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Distinguished Contributions to Social Policy Award from the Society for Research in Child Development. He has authored more than 150 publications and has been a visiting professor or delivered named lectureships at more than 35 universities in the United States and around the world.
Dr. Shonkoff completed his undergraduate studies at Cornell University, medical education at New York University School of Medicine, pediatric training at Bronx Municipal Hospital Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and fellowship in developmental pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital. Prior to assuming his current position, he was the Samuel F. and Rose B. Gingold Professor of Human Development and Social Policy and Dean of The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University.