BOSTON - Boston Medical Center's (BMC) Vital Village Network has received a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation aimed at developing the infrastructure to support all children entering kindergarten at a healthy weight. The $500,000 strategic planning grant, entitled Networks of Opportunity for Child Wellbeing (NOW), is led by BMC pediatrician Renée Boynton-Jarrett, MD, ScD, who will work with a national team of experts and stakeholders to promote healthy growth and development.
Using a framework that considers the impact of childhood adversity on wellness and meaningful insight on two-generation approaches, the group will develop promising strategies to cultivate community settings to optimally support child wellbeing from preconception period through age 5. In addition to BMC, the central partners in this effort include the National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education and Families; the BUILD Initiative; The Brazelton Touchpoints Center; Communities and Hospitals Advancing Maternal and Childcare Practices (CHAMPS) Initiative (a partnership between the BMC Breastfeeding Center at BMC and Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere (ROSE)); and Children's HealthWatch.
The grant involves three primary goals: convene scientific, practice, and policy experts in early childhood, and community stakeholders and residents with life experience to co-design the program infrastructure; identify and learn from "bright spot" communities and programs that are using innovative strategies to connect early childhood systems and build community capacity; and develop a dashboard of metrics and associated tools for both community institutions and residents to promote healthy growth and development of children and population-level change.
Recently, 75 participants from over 39 cities and 21 states gathered for the NOW two-day meeting at the Babson Executive Conference Center to discuss how to support communities in integrating systems of care to promote optimal child well-being. Experts in education, policy, public health, social service and healthcare sectors engaged in large and small group discussions, panel discussions, and dynamic presentations linking research to programmatic and community practice innovations. Participants outlined strategies to build partnership and cross-sector collaboration, revealed common challenges and identified elements of success that communities can implement to achieve success.
"In order to build a culture of health in our community, we need to reassess how childhood adversity impacts health and development," said Boynton-Jarrett, who also is founding director of Vital Village, a network of residents and organizations committed to maximizing child, family, and community well-being in the Boston area. She also is associate professor of pediatrics at BU School of Medicine. "By working together, we can pool our expertise and resources to establish novel, proactive approaches to aligning systems of care for our most vulnerable children and give them all the chance at starting on a long-term trajectory of good health."
Boynton-Jarrett has made tremendous strides in addressing social determinants of health through her work in the community. She has established partnerships between BMC and area organizations to improve collaboration between health care providers, educators and family service agencies to better address issues that negatively impact communities and to promote population health. One example is a partnership between the Boston Public Schools and the Child Witness to Violence Project aimed at helping schools increase their capacity to identify and optimally support the unique needs of children who have been exposed to trauma.
For more information about Vital Village, visit http://www.
About Boston Medical Center
Boston Medical Center is a private, not-for-profit, 496-bed, academic medical center that is the primary teaching affiliate of Boston University School of Medicine. It is the largest and busiest provider of trauma and emergency services in New England. It offers specialized care for complex health problems and is a leading research institution, receiving more than $119 million in sponsored research funding in fiscal year 2015. In 1997, BMC founded Boston Medical Center Health Plan, Inc., now one of the top ranked Medicaid MCOs in the country, as a non-profit managed care organization serving Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Boston Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine are partners in the Boston HealthNet -- 13 community health centers focused on providing exceptional health care to residents of Boston. For more information, please visit http://www.