This talk will focus on the current state of the field of early childhood development (ECD), and on opportunities that exist at this time to make substantial progress in promoting healthy development at the level of the individual, family, community, and society. Decades of empirical research in ECD have yielded extensive knowledge of specific mechanisms--across levels of measurement that range from the molecular and neurobiological to the behavioral and societal--associated with differential life course trajectories. This knowledge has been applied in the development of a multitude of evidence-based intervention and prevention programs, and policymakers have directed extensive resources in the implementation of many such programs at scale in the US and elsewhere. However, measurable population-level impacts from this work have been modest; moreover, extensively well-documented structural inequalities based on race/ethnicity, family structure, and income continue to exist among households with young children, and have only grown larger during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, transformative change within the ECD field is perhaps more achievable at present than at any time in the past, with global recognition of the critical importance of the early years on subsequent development, and with accelerating intersectionality among many scientific disciplines as well as healthcare, business, government, and the non-profit sector. This presentation will focus on how these adjacencies can be leveraged in the development of specific tools that can be brought to bear to address some of the most significant barriers to progress. Specific examples of such tools from our recent work will be provided.
Dr. Fisher is Philip H. Knight Chair and Professor of Psychology at the University of Oregon, where he serves as Founding Director of the Center for Translational Neuroscience. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Center on the Developing Child and a member of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, both based at Harvard University. His research, which has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health since 1999, focuses on developing and evaluating scalable early childhood interventions in communities, and on translating scientific knowledge regarding healthy development under conditions of adversity for use in social policy and programs. He is particularly interested in the effects of early stressful experiences on children's neurobiological and psychological development, and in prevention and treatment programs for improving children's functioning in areas such as relationships with caregivers and peers, social-emotional development, and academic achievement. He is currently the lead investigator in the ongoing RAPID-EC project, a national survey on the well-being of households with young children during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Fisher is also interested in the brain's plasticity in the context of therapeutic interventions. He is the developer of a number of widely implemented evidence-based interventions for supporting healthy child development in the context of social and economic adversity, including Treatment Foster Care Oregon for Preschoolers (TFCO-P), Kids in Transition to School (KITS), and Filming Interactions to Nurture Development (FIND). He has published over 200 scientific papers in peer reviewed journals. He is the recipient of the 2012 Society for Prevention Research Translational Science Award, and a 2019 Fellow of the American Psychological Society.