Directory of People & Offices
Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D.
Julius B. Richmond FAMRI Professor of Child Health and Development, Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Graduate School of Education
Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School and Children's Hospital Boston
Director, Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University
(On Leave 2012-2013)
Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D., is the Julius B. Richmond FAMRI Professor of Child Health and Development at the Harvard School of Public Health and the Harvard Graduate School of Education; Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Boston Childrens Hospital; and director of the university-wide Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. He currently serves as chair of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, a multi-university collaboration comprising leading scholars in neuroscience, psychology, pediatrics, and economics, whose mission is to bring credible science to bear on public policy affecting young children. In 2011, Shonkoff launched Frontiers of Innovation, a multi-sectoral collaboration among researchers, practitioners, policymakers, investors, and experts in systems change who are committed to developing more effective intervention strategies to catalyze breakthrough impacts on the development and health of young children and families experiencing significant adversity.
Under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences, Shonkoff served as chair of the Board on Children, Youth, and Families and chaired a blue-ribbon committee that produced the landmark report, From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development. He also served as a member of the Panel on Child Care Policy, the Committee on the Assessment of Family Violence Interventions, and the Roundtable on Head Start Research.
Shonkoff has received multiple honors, including elected membership to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, elected membership to the American Pediatric Society, designated National Associate of the National Academies, the C. Anderson Aldrich Award in Child Development from the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Award for Distinguished Contributions to Public Policy for Children from the Society for Research in Child Development.
Shonkoff has served on numerous professional networks and public interest advisory boards, including the core scientific group of the MacArthur Research Network on Early Experience and Brain Development, the governing council of the Society for Research in Child Development, and the executive committee of the section on developmental and behavioral pediatrics of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He has authored more than 150 publications, including nine books; co-edited two editions of the widely heralded Handbook of Early Childhood Intervention; and served on the editorial board of several scholarly journals, including Child Development.
Shonkoff completed his undergraduate studies at Cornell University, medical education at New York University School of Medicine, pediatric training at Bronx Municipal Hospital Center and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and fellowship in developmental pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital. He has been a visiting professor or delivered named lectureships at more than 30 universities in the United States, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. Prior to assuming his current position, he was the Samuel F. and Rose B. Gingold Professor of Human Development and Social Policy and Dean of The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University.
- M.D., New York University
- To Support and Enhance the Center's Knowledge Translation and Communication Capacity, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, (2011-2014)
Science does not speak for itself. For policymakers and practitioners to make sound decisions based on the best knowledge available, the implications of recent advances in the biological and social sciences must be translated into accessible language and communicated in a variety of formats to accommodate a wide range of learning styles and preferences for accessing information. To this end, the Center has developed a three-stage knowledge transfer process: (1) Knowledge Synthesis a critical analysis of cutting-edge science and program evaluation research to identify core concepts and evidence-based findings that are broadly accepted by the scientific community; (2) Knowledge Translation the identification of gaps in understanding between scientists and the public, and the development of effective language to communicate accurate scientific information in a way that can inform sound public discourse; and (3) Knowledge Communication the production and dissemination of a wide variety of publications and educational media via print, the Web, and in-person presentations. Our grant request to the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation seeks support for expanding this multidimensional process of knowledge synthesis, translation, and communication, with an intensified focus on the developmental significance and underlying neurobiology of two critical issues chronic neglect and resilience in the face of adversity. Requested funds will be used to enhance all three phases of the process by supporting the staff infrastructure and associated expenses required for high-quality execution and high-impact products. The National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (Council) and the National Forum on Early Childhood Policy and Programs (Forum) will work collaboratively in this effort to build a strong foundation of scientific knowledge to inform all aspects of the work. This process begins with the production of an initial draft of a working paper about the developmental impacts of chronic neglect, including a neurobiological perspective on what happens to the brain when it receives limited or inappropriate stimulation, and a discussion of the relevance of this scientific knowledge for rethinking both policy and practice in child protective services. The production of this paper will also be informed by extensive communications research already conducted by the FrameWorks Institute on this topic. In keeping with the Centers mission to provide multiple ways for audiences to access this kind of information, funding support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation will underwrite the resources needed not only to support the writing, editing, designing, and printing of a working paper, but also to extend its reach with a 2-page InBrief version of the content, a 3-5 minute video featuring interviews with the authors that is suitable for use on the web or in presentations, and an interactive web feature.
- Proposal to Advance the Frontiers of Innovation in Early Childhood Policy and Practice, Bezos Family Foundation, (2011-2014)
The overarching goal of this initiative is to improve life outcomes for vulnerable, young children. Our core strategy is to mobilize advances in scientific knowledge to inform the design and implementation of a dynamic framework for a new era in early childhood policy and practice that embraces creativity, invites experimentation, and learns from failure. We view existing best practices as a promising starting point and we are committed to helping the field move above and beyond the current focus on increased quality improvement, enhanced staff development, appropriate measures of accountability, and expanded funding to serve more children and families. Our ultimate aim is to catalyze substantially greater impacts on the lives of young children whose needs are not addressed adequately by existing programs, with a strong emphasis on those who face the cumulative burdens of economic hardship, limited parent education, racial or ethnic discrimination, and other sources of structural inequity. Our signature approach draws on advances in neuroscience, molecular biology, and the behavioral and social sciences to inform both the design of testable, new interventions and the measurement of their effectiveness over time. This strategy requires the continuous refinement of new theories of change that are grounded in a growing scientific understanding of the causal mechanisms that explain how early experiences are built into the body and influence lifelong outcomes in learning, behavior, and both physical and mental health. To this end, our current work plan is focused on three core objectives: (1) To build a dynamic Frontiers of Innovation community composed of scientists, scholars, policymakers, policy analysts, practitioners, and other creative individuals who are motivated to engage in the kind of transformational thinking that is needed to break down disciplinary barriers and catalyze significant change in early childhood policy and practice. (2) To create and support an initial network of selected states and community-based sites that are both motivated and prepared to engage in an interactive process of Innovation by Design through piloting creative, new policies and practices, as well as contributing to active, cross-site learning that will be supported by the Early Childhood Innovation Partnership (ECIP) based at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. (3) To build and sustain a sophisticated communications infrastructure with the capacity to promote knowledge-based collaboration across the domains of education, health, and a broad range of human services in order to help build more effective systems that are guided by an integrated science of early childhood health and development.
- Proposal for Continuing Support of the Innovation Portfolio of the Center on the Developing Child, Casey Family Foundation, (2011-2011)
In follow-up to a successful first year of investment by Casey Family Programs (CFP) in the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (Center), this funding represents flexible funding from CFP in 2011 to support multiple contributing components of our work to drive significant innovation in early childhood policy and practice including: 1) Core Support for the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child and National Forum on Early Childhood Policy and Programs 2) Research on Communicating the Science of Resilience and Reducing Developmental Barriers to Learning
- Early Childhood Innovations Partnerships, William K. Kellogg Foundation , (2010-2013)
The Early Childhood Innovation Project (ECIP) is designed to provide policymakers and service providers guidance on how to augment the impacts of early childhood interventions for children who experience significant adversity related to economic hardship with or without other risk factors, as well as to address the compelling need to redefine the health dimension of this dynamic area of public policy. Building on more than four decades of scientific advances and program experience, the goal of the ECIP is to catalyze transformational thinking in the service of developing and testing new theories of change to guide innovations in policy and programs designed to enhance healthy development and improve the life prospects of vulnerable, young children. To this end, the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University is drawing on its existing partnership with the National Conference of State Legislatures and National Governors Association Center for Best Practices as well as collaborating with selected scientists, scholars, policymakers, policy analysts, practitioners, and other creative thinkers who are motivated to drive significant innovation in the early childhood field. Three thematic areas have emerged as leading candidates for initial attention: (1) re-conceptualizing the health dimension of early childhood policy; (2) formulating and testing more effective strategies to reduce toxic stress in young children through innovative approaches to transforming the lives of their parents; and (3) developing and testing more effective strategies to reduce barriers to early learning, particularly those related to emotional difficulties and behavior problems. The primary beneficiaries of this initiative will be a national population of vulnerable young children whose future life prospects are currently compromised by adversity related to economic hardship and limited parent education, as well as a variety of associated sources of excessive stress such as child maltreatment, maternal depression, parental substance abuse, and family violence, among others.We expect that children who participate in the innovative interventions developed through this project will achieve better long-term outcomes in learning, behavior, and both physical and mental health in comparison to graduates of existing programs.
- The Early Childhood Innovation Project, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, (2010-2013)
Building on more than four decades of scientific advances and program experience, the mission of the Early Childhood Innovation Project is to catalyze transformational thinking about how to promote the healthy development of young children who are at risk for poor life outcomes. The Center on the Developing Child is working collaboratively with the National Conference of State Legislatures and National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, along with selected scientists, scholars, policymakers, policy analysts, practitioners, and other creative thinkers who are motivated to drive significant innovation in early childhood policy and practice. Multiple mechanisms are used to solicit this broad range of perspectives, including interviews, workshops, and idea incubators or think tanks. The aim is to combine scientific insights with practical implementation and policy experience to generate new action strategies that are grounded in well-established scientific principles that can be applied across agencies and sectors, likely to produce greater impacts than current interventions; positioned to mobilize both public and private-sector resources; and designed to be feasible and replicable in a broad diversity of political, economic, social, and cultural environments. Three themes have emerged as leading candidates for initial attention: (1) re-conceptualizing the health dimension of early childhood policy; (2) formulating and testing more effective strategies to reduce toxic stress in young children through innovative approaches to transforming the lives of their parents; and (3) developing and testing more effective strategies to reduce barriers to early learning, particularly those related to emotional difficulties and behavior problems. The knowledge gathered from these activities will inform a collaborative network of community-based demonstration sites for testing new intervention models and state-based laboratories for piloting innovative policy approaches and then leveraging what we learn to inform the future direction of early childhood policy and practice.
- Early Childhood Innovation Project, Casey Family Foundation, (2010-2010)
The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University has recently launched the Early Childhood Innovation Project (ECIP). The mission of this multifaceted project is to leverage new knowledge in the service of generating and testing innovative intervention models that will produce substantially greater impacts on learning, behavior, and health outcomes than existing programs and policies, particularly for the most disadvantaged children and families. Existing programs do not adequately address the multiple needs of this population, and society pays considerable costs in later remedial education, economic dependence, increased health care needs, and incarceration for criminal behavior. The process of creating, developing, and testing innovations in policy and practice will be methodical and systematic. This award provides direct support toward four primary activities: (1) core support for the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (Council); (2) core support for the National Forum on Early Childhood Policy and Programs (Forum); (3) communications research focused on child mental health; and (4) core support for Casey Family Foundation engagement in ECIP and its supporting activities. The Council and Forum will serve as primary engines driving the construction of an integrated science base that will inform CDC's innovation work. The communications research will be critical to address the challenges of translating science to inform policy change, particularly as it advances our understanding of the impact of maltreatment on young children.
- A Comparative Assessment of the Impact of Early AdversityOn Mental and Physical Health across the Life Span, George Kaiser Family Foundation, (2008-2010)
Healthy child development is the foundation of school achievement and later economic productivity, responsible citizenship, and successful communities. Within this context, the science of early childhood and brain development underscores the important influence of early life experiences on long-term outcomes. But much more remains to be understood in order to apply this knowledge to the real-life needs of children who have problems in their development, whether as a result of biologically-based disabilities or the consequence of adversity during their younger years. The proposed cluster of projects is an integrated, multidisciplinary investigation of the cellular and molecular consequences of early life adversity in both human populations and animal models. Our strategy is to conduct a parallel combination of five mouse and human studies to elucidate the long-term effects of stress experienced early in life, with a particular focus on physical and mental health outcomes. The two mouse projects are essential to our understanding of the biological consequences of early adversity. The three human studies are essential for examining whether the biological markers studied in rodents are applicable to humans. Taken together, these five inter-related investigations will shed light on both the biology and psychology of early adversity. Their findings will then be used to further educate non-scientists about the long-term health consequences of early life stresses and to inform the development of new, science-based strategies for ameliorating the impacts of adversity on young children.This project will be conducted by a multidisciplinary team of investigators, including Takao Hensch, Ph.D., Professor of Neurology at Childrens Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School; Charles Nelson, Ph.D., Scott Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, Professor at Harvard School of Public Health, and Research Director of the Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience at Childrens Hospital Boston; Laura Kubzansky, Ph.D., M.P.H., Associate Professor of Society, Human Development and Health at the Harvard School of Public Health; Karestan Koenen, Assistant Professor of Society, Human Development and Health at the Harvard School of Public Health; Michela Fagiolini, Assistant Professor of Neurology at Childrens Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School; and Wendy Mendes, Assistant Professor of Psychology in Harvards Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
- Julius B Richmond Fellowships, Foundation for Child Development, (2007-2010)
The Julius B. Richmond Fellowships at the Center on the Developing Child support Harvard University students in extended research positions over the first three years in the life of this newly-established Center. Among the core goals of the Center on the Developing Child is the creation of a new generation of leaders who view the promotion of healthy child development broadly, leaders and researchers who recognize the need to bring the work of academia to bear in both private and public sector efforts in support of the well-being of children. To that end, Harvards Center draws on multiple schools within the University and offers a creative mix of learning opportunities for students, civic leaders, and child-focused professionals. The Julius B. Richmond Fellowships builds a foundation for that goal by bringing students from across the University to the Center to engage in ongoing research and strengthen communications and collaboration University-wide in the area of child development.
An interview with Jack Shonkoff, M.D. about using science to promote young children's learning