Early childhood brain development gets boost in Texas

Published 10:07 am Wednesday, January 29, 2020

By Mark Richardson

Texas News Service


HOUSTON — Research shows that early brain development gives young Texans a better chance in life.

But the programs addressing that are not reaching enough children.

The Episcopal Health Foundation has awarded $3.5 million in grants to implement timely, science-based practices for brain building during pregnancy and the first three years of life.

The grants were awarded to support programs at 12 Texas health groups in Houston, Austin, Waco and among several statewide organizations.

Brian Sasser, the foundation’s chief communications officer, says the first three years of a child’s life are a golden opportunity to mold a child’s brain.

“Doing the early, simple interactions between parents, caregivers and children works to scientifically build neurons in a brain that makes the brain stronger, more creative,” he points out.

Sasser says the Foundation’s research shows that health clinics and pediatric practices provide a unique opportunity to incorporate proven brain-building models into routine care for infants and toddlers.

He says the grants will support programs that build a strong brain, and develop a curious and creative mind. He adds that brain-building can also decrease the chances of a child developing serious illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and depression later in life.

“The research shows that there is definitely brain science, that if children and their parents and caregivers interact with each other almost like you’re talking to each other all the time and they’re responding to each other, those things actually build a child’s brain stronger,” Sasser states.

According to Sasser, a recent Foundation report shows that effective early brain development programs are only reaching about 10% of the Texas families who could benefit.

“The research kind of kept coming back to us showing that if you do this from basically in the womb to the first three years of life, that may have the most impact on those children’s lives,” he stresses.

Sasser says supporting early childhood brain development is part of the Houston-based Foundation’s strategy to improve overall health, not just health care, in Texas.