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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Linking Developmental Science and Prevention Research to Intervene MoreEffectively in Child Development - Theresa Betancourt

Theresa Betancourt is from Harvard University and is an Associate Professor of Child Health and Human Rights as well as the Director of the Research Program on Children and Global Adversity. For many years Theresa has been working in Rwanda and Sierra Leone as a means to study war-affected you and family strengthening intervention. In the 5 minutes I have to write this post, I will be able to make the slightest dent in the complexities that are involved in these two projects so please visit to read her abstract and find out a bit more about her.

Theresa begins by highlighting the fact that 1/3 of children under the age of 5 are failing to fulfil their developmental potential which is problematic because as we know, childhood adversity often leads to adult chronic health problems. To create effective interventions, Theresa argues that we need to consider both risk and protective factors but from a collaborative approach. There are programmes that already work with families, but we need to come together to include what we know about protective factors across the sector. 

Theresa mentions 'silo-busting' which the need to develop a holistic approach to child health. Part of this approach includes a rights based model called SAFE which is about Safety, Access to physiological care, Family, and Education. We need to use SAFE to create a basic safety net for children because "a weakness or a threat in one domain can have cascading effects on other domains". 

Later in her presentation, Theresa mentions the importants of stress receptors in young people. She presented three levels of stress; 1) Positive (school plays, giving a presentation). This is positive because eventually with enough repetition, these acts don't produce as much stress. 2) Tolerable (serious and temporary but buffered but supportive relationships).  3) Toxic (prolonged activation of the stress response system and absence of the buffering factors found in stage 2). 

The argument is that we need to focus on stress and this should be implemented in parenting interventions as well. We need to look at building self-regulation and stress management. We need to keep the pressure on governments to keep funding and developing policy, research evaluation and multi-sectorial collaboration. 

A. Neaverson 

Posts are on-the-go and my views. 

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