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Project Information

Project Information

Applying Neurobiological and Socio-behavioral Sciences from Prenatal through Early Childhood Development: A Health Equity Approach

Project Scope:

Neurobiological and socio-behavioral research indicate that early life conditions, including social supports (e.g., supportive relationships) and adversity (e.g., chronic stress), shape prenatal and early childhood development. These exposures unfold through the social determinants of health (e.g., education, housing, physical and social environment, etc.). Programs and policies designed to mitigate these adverse conditions, however, have not always had the positive effects intended for the majority of recipients of these programs.  Scientific evidence can be used more effectively to understand subgroup differences in response to early life conditions and to better inform efforts to advance health equity through policy actions, program development, practice changes, systems reform, and research. 
Building on the science base described in the 2000 NRC and IOM report From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development and the concepts in the 2017 National Academies report Communities in Action: Pathways to Health Equity, and drawing upon new insights from 21st century science in the neurobiological and socio-behavioral fields in the prenatal to early childhood period, an ad hoc committee will:

1. Provide a brief overview of:

  • The key stressors that affect brain development and health outcomes during this period (e.g., structural inequities, income, housing, employment, access to health care, transportation, and others).
  • The biological and environmental factors that lead to disparities in health and disease outcomes for subgroups of individuals, and the pathways by which biological factors interact with and are influenced by sociocultural factors. 
2. Identify promising models and opportunities for translation of the science to action and the intervention points during the prenatal and early childhood periods that will yield the greatest impact with a focus on practice-based changes and the goal of facilitating broader systems change and alignment based on the science. The committee will draw from international examples as appropriate.

3. Identify the specific outcome measures needed to enable subgroup analyses based on the biological dynamics of the social determinants of health, and identify methods to continuously collect data on both successes and failures to enhance the knowledge base in the future.

4. Based on its review of the evidence and committee expertise, develop a roadmap to systematically apply the science to inform tailored interventions (i.e., policies, programs, or system changes) based on biological, social, environmental, economic, and cultural needs. The roadmap will identify pathways to implement the science in practice and policy. 

5. Provide recommendations in the areas above as well as recommendations on how systems can better align to advance health equity and identify specific research needs, as deemed appropriate based on its review of the evidence and its collective expertise. 

Status: Current

PIN: HMD-BPH-18-04

Project Duration (months): 18 month(s)

RSO: Geller, Amy


Behavioral and Social Sciences
Environment and Environmental Studies
Health and Medicine

Committee Membership

Committee Post Date: 05/24/2018

Dr. Jennifer E. DeVoe - (Chair)
Jennifer E. DeVoe, M.D., D.Phil, is Chair of and Saultz Endowed Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU). As a practicing family physician and doctorally trained health services researcher, Dr. DeVoe studies access to health care, disparities in care, and the impact of practice and policy interventions on vulnerable populations. Her research portfolio spans both OHSU Family Medicine and OCHIN, Inc., a national community health information network based in Portland, OR. Dr. DeVoe leads a multidisciplinary research team with expertise in informatics, sociology, epidemiology, biostatistics, economics, primary care, mental health, health-services research, clinical medicine, health-care disparities and anthropology. Dr. DeVoe is Senior Research Advisor at OCHIN where she previously served as Chief Research Officer and as Executive Director of the OCHIN practice-based research network of community health centers from 2010-2016. Dr. DeVoe serves as a Principal Investigator (PI) or co-Investigator on numerous research studies funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI); the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; and the National Cancer Institute and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, with nearly $20 million in active grant funding. She also serves as co-PI of the ADVANCE Clinical Data Research Network, part of PCORnet, which is 'horizontally' integrating electronic health record data, creating a unique community laboratory for including disadvantaged and vulnerable patients across the country. She holds joint appointments in the OHSU Department of Medical Informatics and Clinical Epidemiology and at Kaiser Permanente Northwest Center for Health Research. She also serves on the National Core Team for Family Medicine for America's Health Board of Directors and is past president of the North American Primary Care Research Group. She was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2014. Dr. DeVoe served as a NAM Puffer/ABFM Anniversary fellow from 2012-2014, and she served on the National Academies Committee on Accessible and Affordable Hearing Health Care for Adults from 2015–2016. Dr. DeVoe earned her MD from Harvard Medical School in 1999. Selected as a Rhodes Scholar in 1996, she also earned an MPhil and DPhil from Oxford University in 1998 and 2001, respectively. She completed her family medicine residency at OHSU in 2004 and earned an MCR from OHSU in 2010.
Dr. Nadine Burke Harris
Nadine Burke Harris, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP, is the CEO of the Center for Youth Wellness. She is a pioneer in the field of medicine, dedicated to changing the way society responds to one of the most serious, expensive, and widespread public health crises of our time: childhood trauma. As founder and CEO of the Center, Dr. Burke Harris has brought this critical work to stages at the Mayo Clinic, American Academy of Pediatrics, Aspen Institute, and the Partnership for a Healthier America. Her TED Talk, “How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime,” has been viewed more than 3.8 million times. Her work has been profiled in best-selling books including “How Children Succeed” by Paul Tough and “Hillbilly Elegy” by J.D. Vance, as well as in Jamie Redford’s feature film, “Resilience.” It has also been featured on CNN and Fox News, and in USA Today, NPR, and the New York Times. Dr. Burke Harris recently wrote a book on the issue of childhood adversity and health called “The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity” that was released in January 2018. Dr. Burke Harris is the recipient of the Arnold P. Gold Foundation Humanism in Medicine Award presented by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Heinz Award for the Human Condition. Additionally, she serves as an expert advisor to the Too Small to Fail initiative, and as a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics National Advisory Board for Screening.
Dr. Elizabeth E. Davis
Elizabeth E. Davis, Ph.D., is a Professor of Applied Economics at the University of Minnesota and recently served as a member of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Committee on Financing Early Care and Education with a Highly Qualified Workforce. Dr. Davis conducts research in economics and public policy related to low-income families, child care and early education, and low-wage and rural labor markets in the U.S. Her recent research has focused on disparities in access to high-quality child care, including development of new measures of access that are family-centered and take cost, proximity and quality into account. Other studies on early childhood topics have examined the role of child care subsidies in families’ decisions about employment and the type, quality and stability of child care arrangements. In related work, she has examined the dynamics of participation in the child care subsidy programs in Maryland, Minnesota and Oregon and advised state and federal agencies on child care subsidy policy. Other research has examined the impact of local competition on wages and job turnover in the retail food industry, income equality, and the relationship between local labor market conditions and employment outcomes for disadvantaged workers. Dr. Davis earned her Ph.D. and M.A. in Economics from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
Dr. Cynthia Garcia Coll
Cynthia Garcia Coll, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Clinical Ph.D. program and Associate Director of the Institutional Center for Scientific Research at Albizu University in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Prior to that she was the Charles Pitts Robinson and John Palmer Barstow Professor at Brown University. Her research focuses on the interplay of sociocultural and biological influences on child development, with particular emphasis on at-risk and minority populations.She received her PhD in Personality and Developmental Psychology from Harvard University. Dr. García Coll has served on the editorial boards of leading academic journals, including been the senior editor of Child Development and Developmental Psychology. .She is a fellow of the American Psychological Association and has received awards from Tufts and Brown University, the Society for Research on Developmental Pediatrics, the Association of Psychologists of Puerto Rico and SRCD. She has been on the governing boards of SRCD, the Society for the Study of Human Development and the Foundation of Child Development, and served as member and chair of the Scholars program at the WT Grant Foundation. Her research has been funded by NIH, the McArthur Foundation, the WT Grant Foundation and Spencer Foundation.
Dr. Iheoma U. Iruka
Iheoma U. Iruka, Ph.D., is the Chief Research Innovation Officer and Director of The Center for Early Education Research and Evaluation at HighScope Educational Research Foundation. Prior to joining HighScope, she was at the Buffet Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska and the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Dr. Iruka’s research focuses on determining how early experiences impact poor and ethnic minority children’s learning and development, and the role of the family and education environments and systems. She is engaged in projects and initiatives focused on how evidence-informed policies, systems, and practices in early education can support the optimal development and experiences of low-income, ethnic minority, and immigrant children, such as through family engagement and support, quality rating and improvement systems, and early care and education systems and programs. She is co-PI for the IES-funded Early Learning Network, Nebraska Site, a large scale and far reaching study aimed at identifying malleable factors that support early learning in preschool through Grade 3, and may be effective at closing the achievement gap for students who are disadvantaged. In particular, she has been engaged in addressing how best to ensure excellence for young diverse learners, especially Black children, such as through development of a classroom observation measure, public policies, and publications geared towards early education practitioners and policymakers. She has served on numerous national boards and committee, including the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council’s Committee on Supporting Parents of Young Children and the National Research Conference on Early Childhood. Dr. Iruka has a B.A. in psychology from Temple University, M.A. in psychology from Boston University, and Ph.D. in applied developmental psychology from the University of Miami, Florida.
Dr. Pat R. Levitt
Pat Levitt, Ph.D., is Professor of Pediatrics, Simms/Mann Chair in Developmental Neurogenetics at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, the W.M. Keck Provost Professor in Neurogenetic at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California. He is the Chief Scientific Officer for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Dr. Levitt has held leadership positions at University of Pittsburgh, Vanderbilt University, and the University of Southern California. In 2013, Dr. Levitt was elected to the National Academy of Medicine. Named a McKnight Foundation Scholar in 2002, Dr. Levitt also was a MERIT awardee from the National Institute of Mental Health and served as a member of the National Advisory Mental Health Council for the National Institute of Mental Health. He is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), serving as the Neuroscience Section Chair in 2015-2015, and an elected member of the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives. He is a Senior Fellow at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, and serves as Co-Scientific Director of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, a policy council that brings the best research from child development and neuroscience to assist policy makers and business leaders in making wise program investment decisions. He is a member of scientific advisory boards for several foundations and university programs, and currently serves as editor-in-chief of Mind, Brain and Education, and on several editorial boards. Dr. Levitt’s research program includes basic and clinical studies to identify the genetic and environmental factors that assure healthy development of brain architecture that controls learning, emotional and social behavior. His clinical research studies address how toxic stress responses in infants and toddlers may be detected as early as possible for promoting resilience and better prevention and intervention, and studies of children with autism who also have co-occurring medical conditions, such as gastrointestinal disorders. Dr. Levitt has published 295 scientific papers and hundreds of academic and public presentations. Dr. Levitt received his B.A. in Biological Sciences from the University of Chicago, Ph.D. in Neuroscience at the University of California, San Diego. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Neuroscience at Yale University.
Dr. Michael C. Lu
Michael C. Lu, M.D., M.S., M.P.H., is Professor and Senior Associate Dean for Academic, Student, and Faculty Affairs at George Washington (GW) University Milken Institute School of Public Health. Prior to joining GW, Dr. Lu was the Director of the Maternal and Child Health Bureau for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from 2012 to 2017. During his tenure, Dr. Lu transformed key federal programs in maternal and child health, launched major initiatives to reduce maternal, infant, and child mortality in the U.S., and was awarded the prestigious Herbert H. Humphrey Award for Service to America. Dr. Lu joined the federal government from UCLA Schools of Medicine and Public Health, where he held a joint faculty appointment in obstetrics-gynecology and community health sciences for nearly 15 years. He was best known for his research on racial-ethnic disparities in birth outcomes, and his leadership in developing, testing, and translating a theory on the origins of maternal and child health disparities based on the life course perspective. Dr. Lu has served on two National Academies committees (when it was formerly the Institute of Medicine): the Committee to Reexamine IOM Pregnancy Weight Guidelines and the Committee on Understanding Premature Birth and Assuring Health Outcomes. Dr. Lu received his bachelor’s degrees in political science and human biology from Stanford University, master’s degrees in health and medical sciences and public health from UC Berkeley, medical degree from UC San Francisco, and residency training in obstetrics and gynecology from UC Irvine.
Dr. Suniya S. Luthar
Suniya S. Luthar, Ph.D., is Foundation Professor of Psychology at Arizona State University and Professor Emerita, Columbia University’s Teachers College. Dr. Luthar's research involves vulnerability and resilience among various populations including youth in poverty, families affected by mental illness, mothers under stress, and teens in high-achieving, affluent communities (who reflect high rates of symptoms relative to national norms). Previously, she served on the faculty of the Department of Psychiatry and the Child Study Center at Yale University. Between 1997 and 2013, she was Professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College, where she also served as Senior Advisor to the Provost (2011-2013). Dr. Luthar has served as Associate Editor of Developmental Psychology and Development and Psychopathology, as Chair of a grant review study section at the National Institutes of Health and member of the Governing Council of the Society for Research on Child Development. At the American Psychological Association (APA), she has served on the Committee on Socioeconomic Status and its Council of Representatives, and is currently President Elect of Division 7 (Developmental). Dr. Luthar received both her B.S. and M.S. from Lady Irwin College at Delhi University in 1978 and 1980 respectively, and her Ph.D. (Distinction) in Developmental/Clinical Psychology from Yale University in 1990.
Ms. Amy R. McGee
Amy Rohling McGee, M.S.W., has served as the president of the Health Policy Institute of Ohio (HPIO), a nonpartisan, independent nonprofit organization that provides information and analysis to state policymakers, since 2010. Her prior public sector experience includes work in the executive branch of state government focused on policy related to issues such as health insurance, health system improvement, health information technology, and Medicaid; and service in the state legislature as a Legislative Service Commission intern in the mid-1990s. Private sector experience includes five years as the executive director of the Ohio Association of Free Clinics, representing health clinics that served the uninsured, primarily through volunteers, and several years in a management position at FIRSTLINK (now HandsOn Central Ohio). Ms. McGee earned her bachelor's and master's degrees from The Ohio State University. She has received the Business First “Forty Under Forty” award and The Ohio State University Alumni Association William Oxley Thompson award.
Dr. Myra Parker
Myra Parker, Ph.D., J.D., (Mandan-Hidatsa-Cree) is an assistant professor in the Center for the Studies of Health and Risk Behavior in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, in the University of Washington School of Medicine. She also works at the Indigenous Wellness Research Institute at the University of Washington School of Social Work. Dr. Parker has worked for over ten years on tribal public health program implementation, and coordination with tribal communities in Arizona, Idaho, and Washington, as well as with tribal colleges and universities across the United States. She has over five years experience in tribal public health research. Prior to embarking on a career in research, Dr. Parker worked for five years in the policy arena within Arizona state government, in tribal governments, and with tribal working groups at the state and national level. Her research experience in public health involves community based participatory research, cultural adaptation of evidence-based interventions, and disparities research. She received a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation New Connections Junior Investigator grant in 2011, one year into her post-doctoral fellowship. Dr. Parker’s research in this project focused on alcohol related fatalities and tribal cross-jurisdictional agreements with local non-Native communities. She has provided trainings to tribal health department staff, tribal research teams, and urban Indian service delivery teams. She has also provided indigenous health research training to University of Washington students from undergraduates through PhD students. As an enrolled member of the Mandan and Hidatsa tribes, she is aware of the historical health practices and misconduct perpetuated on tribes in the United States, as well as other minority and disenfranchised populations. Her background in law and policy has informed a broader understanding of the principles of ethics as well as honed her skills in identifying methods to address the disparities in research control and access through the use of formalized agreements. She has experience in working with tribes in their ongoing efforts to balance the collective rights of communities and individuals. Dr. Parker received her bachelor’s degree in human biology from Stanford University. She received a J.D. from the James E. Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona in 2001, with an emphasis in federal Indian law. She received her master’s degree in public health from the Mel and Enid Zuckerman School of Public Health at the University of Arizona in 2002. Dr. Parker graduated with a doctorate in health services from the University of Washington School of Public Health in 2010.
Dr. James M. Perrin
James M. Perrin, M.D., is professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and former director of the Division of General Pediatrics at the MassGeneral Hospital for Children and associate chair of pediatrics for research at MGH. His research has examined asthma, middle ear disease, children’s hospitalization, health insurance, and childhood chronic illness and disabilities, with recent emphases on epidemiology of childhood chronic illness and organization of services for the care of children and adolescents with chronic health conditions. Dr. Perrin holds the John C. Robinson Chair in Pediatrics and founded the MGH Center for Child and Adolescent Health Policy, a multidisciplinary research and training center with an active fellowship program in general pediatrics, and directed the center for over 15 years. He is former president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, former chair of its Committee on Children with Disabilities, past president of the Ambulatory (Academic) Pediatric Association, and founding editor-in-chief of its journal, Academic Pediatrics. He also directed the Evidence Working Group reporting to the Maternal and Child Health Bureau for the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Heritable Disorders and Genetic Diseases in Newborns and Children. Dr. Perrin was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2016. He currently serves on the Board on Children, Youth, and Families and has previously served on the National Academies Committee on Improving Health Outcomes for Children with Disabilities and the Committee to Evaluate Supplemental Security Income Disability Program for Children with Mental Disorders. Dr. Perrin earned his A.B. from Harvard College and his M.D. from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. He had his residency and fellowship training at the University of Rochester.
Ms. Natalie Slopen
Natalie Slopen, Sc.D., M.A., is Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Maryland, College Park School of Public Health. Dr. Slopen’s research focuses on social influences on health, health disparities, and psychological and biological mechanisms through which childhood experiences are embedded to increase risk for later chronic diseases. The overarching goal of her research is to identify processes and conditions that can be targeted by interventions in order to reduce health disparities and promote health over the life course. Dr. Slopen completed her Master of Arts in Social Sciences at the University of Chicago, her Doctorate of Science in Social Epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and her postdoctoral fellowship training at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.
Mr. Albert Wat
Albert Wat, M.A., is a Senior Policy Director at the Alliance for Early Success, where he supports the organization’s strategy and goals for early education, including increasing access to high-quality pre-k, improving the early learning workforce, and enhancing alignment with K-12 policies. Before joining the Alliance, Albert was a Senior Policy Analyst in the Education Division of the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, where he helped governors’ staff and advisors improve their early care and education policies, from early childhood through third grade. Before NGA, Albert was the Research Manager at Pre-K Now, an advocacy campaign at the Pew Center on the States, where he authored a number of policy reports, managed research activities for the initiative, and provided analysis and information about the latest pre-k and early education research and policy developments to Pre-K Now staff and its network of state partners. In 2014, Albert served on the committee of the Institute of Medicine’s study on The Science of Children Birth to Age 8: Deepening and Broadening the Foundation for Success, which released the report, Transforming the Workforce for Children Birth Through Age 8: A Unifying Foundation in April 2015. He also serves on the board of the Council for Professional Recognition. Albert has worked with schools, school reform nonprofits, and community-based organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area, southeastern Michigan, and Washington, DC. He holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in education from Stanford University and a master’s in education policy from George Washington University.

Dr. Bill J. Wright
Bill J. Wright, Ph.D., is Director of the Center for Outcomes Research and Education (CORE), an organization devoted to conducting innovative health policy and health services research in support of health care transformation, with an emphasis on the social determinants of health. A sociologist whose primary emphasis in in longitudinal survey research in vulnerable or underserved populations, Dr. Wright has led the design and implementation of a numerous panel studies assessing the impacts of health systems and policy changes on historically underserved or excluded communities. Dr. Wright was a Principal Investigator on the Oregon Health Insurance Experiment, the first randomized trial assessing the impacts of health insurance expansion, and currently oversees a portfolio of research on the impact of social needs and adversity on health and health care outcomes in vulnerable populations. He received his Ph.D. in sociology from South Dakota State University.

Committee Membership Roster Comments

Committee membership was first posted on May 18. 2018. On May 24, 2018 committee member Natalie Slopen, Sc.D., M.A. was added.



Keck Center
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Registration for in Person Attendance :   

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Contact Name:  Anna Martin
Contact Email:
Contact Phone:  2023342388

Is it a Closed Session Event?


Virtual Meeting via Zoom Conferencing
Event Type :  

Registration for Online Attendance :   

Registration for in Person Attendance :   

If you would like to attend the sessions of this event that are open to the public or need more information please contact

Contact Name:  Anna Martin
Contact Email:
Contact Phone:  202/334-2388


Jennifer DeVoe
Committee Chair

11:35 – 12:15
Presentation of the Statement of Task, Background, and Discussion
Dwayne Proctor
Senior Adviser to the President
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation


This will be a virtual meeting using Zoom Conferencing. You can register to attend this virtual meeting by following this link:

Please note that this meeting is virtual ONLY, so you will join through Zoom. Zoom information will be sent in your confirmation email.
Is it a Closed Session Event?

Closed Session Summary Posted After the Event

The following committee members were present at the closed sessions of the event:

Jennifer DeVoe
Cynthia Garcia Coll
Elizabeth Davis
Nadine Burke Harris
Iheoma Iruka
Pat Levitt
Michael Lu
Suniya Luthar
Amy Rohling McGee
Myra Parker
James Perrin
Natalie Slopen
Albert Wat (11:30-1:00 only)
Bill Wright

The following topics were discussed in the closed sessions:

The committee underwent a bias and conflict of interest discussion per National Academies procedures

The committee discussed the following:
-approach to committee statement of task
-overview of the study process
-committee work plan and project timeline
-potential speakers and topics for future meetings

The following materials (written documents) were made available to the committee in the closed sessions:

-list of potential speakers and topics for future meetings (staff generated)

Date of posting of Closed Session Summary:
June 08, 2018


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