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Foundation Awards Grants for Early-Childhood Brain Development

The Episcopal Health Foundation is funding programs that focus on healthy infant brain development. Photo: AlissaOHanship/Twenty20

by Mark Richardson

HOUSTON – The Episcopal Health Foundation has awarded grants to 12 organizations across Texas for programs that focus on healthy infant brain development. The Houston-based group’s $3.4 million investment is aimed at implementing proven practices for early-childhood brain development during pregnancy and through the first three years of a child’s life.

Katy Butterwick, program officer with the foundation, said the program is based on the knowledge that a child’s first three years of life are critical for building a healthy brain, developing a curious and creative mind, and laying a strong foundation for a healthy life.

“When you have a healthy and fully optimized brain, children are going to have those cognitive and social emotional strengths,” Butterwick said. “It gives you resiliency so that when you are in a stressful situation you can move through that and not stay in a heightened state of adrenal overload. The toxic stress in your system can be mitigated.”

Butterwick said the foundation’s investments will provide tools and trustworthy information based on solid science. She said programs will include home visits, clinic-based models, community groups, parent education and more.

Grants have been awarded to a diverse group of organizations, including the Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, The People’s Community Clinic in Austin, the Palacios Community Hub and the Texas chapter of Prevent Child Abuse-America.

Butterwick said interaction with other humans is essential to early brain construction. She added that a baby or toddler in a strong relationship with at least one caring adult will develop language, cognitive skills and the resilience that allows him or her to face and overcome adversity.

“That means that you’re going to have lower levels of inflammation, your chances of developing certain chronic diseases down the line are going to be lessened. So, you have, again, an optimal chance to avoid things like diabetes and heart disease,” she said. “Also, you’re going to have stronger mental and behavioral health.”

The Episcopal Health Foundation serves 11 million Texans in a 57-county area in the southeast part of the state. It is founded on the principle that all Texans deserve to live a healthy life – especially the poor and those with the least resources.

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