The J Willard and Alice S Marriott Foundation Pledges $6 Million Commitment to Launch Early Childhood Innovation Network

The J Willard and Alice S Marriott Foundation Pledges $6 Million Commitment to Launch Early Childhood Innovation Network

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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 stressors on young children in Washington, D.C.,—building a strong foundation that will last a lifetime. This funding will support the implementation of innovative interventions aimed at children from birth to age five, as well as their parents and families. 

Examples of these interventions include:

  • Preschool-based programs to promote emotional regulation and self-control in three- and four-year old children
  • Professional training within primary care physicians’ offices to help them identify children and families experiencing toxic stress
  • Teaching positive parenting skills to parents who have experienced trauma
  • Working with families in social services settings such as shelters and food pantries to promote improved parent-child interactions.

The ECIN will be led by Lee Savio Beers, MD, a general pediatrician and medical director for municipal and regional affairs at Children’s National Health System, and Matthew Biel, MD, MSc, a child psychiatrist and chief of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at MedStar Georgetown/Georgetown University Medical Center. “More than half of the children in Washington, D.C., experience significant adversity before the age of five,” says Dr. Biel. “This sustained exposure early in life to extreme stress or what we call ‘toxic stress,’ is linked to the onset of significant problems later, including addiction, depression, obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer and premature mortality. We need to develop evidence-based strategies and deploy high-quality, coordinated resources to help families in these situations. This is where the ECIN comes in.”

Dr. Beers describes comprehensive approach to early intervention. “The interventions within the network include: 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,” she says. “Taking this broad-reaching and comprehensive approach will allow us to reach children and families where they are every day. By thinking preventatively and advocating for improved systems, children in Washington, D.C., 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, uniting primary care providers and government public health officials, community health organizations and insurers across the District 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,” says Anne Gunsteens, executive director of the J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation. “We’re excited to be a part of this groundbreaking collaboration that will create a systemic and transformative approach to improving the long-term health and well-being of children and families in Washington, D.C.,”

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