Healthy Development Initiative to Host Open House, Family Fun Day

AMHERST — The Healthy Development Initiative, a community-focused research, education, and outreach program led by UMass Amherst faculty, will host its annual open house on Friday, June 23 from 3 to 5 p.m. and a family fun day for families with infants and young children on Saturday, June 24 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Both events will be held at the UMass Center at Springfield.

The public is invited to attend either or both events and learn more about the initiative, which is aimed at understanding and promoting the psychological and physical health and well-being of children, adolescents, adults, and seniors, according to its director, Kirby Deater-Deckard, professor of Psychological and Brain Studies at UMass Amherst.

“We are scientists and students who discover and share new knowledge about human development,” he said. “We do this in collaboration with community partners, who put this knowledge to work.”

At the open house for professionals and the public on Friday, there will be light refreshments, informal presentations about exciting new research discoveries and outreach activities, and tours of the laboratory and office at the UMass Center. The family fun day on Saturday will include snacks, games, hands-on activities, and prizes. Families will also be able to sign up to participate in research studies.

Launched in the spring of 2016, the Healthy Development Initiative’s projects include several new studies focusing on children’s development spanning infancy through adolescence, in families, schools, and neighborhoods. The studies are focusing on various aspects of cognitive and social-emotional development, including learning and mental-health outcomes. Funding has already been received from several agencies and organizations, and multiple new proposals are under review to support the research and outreach work.

Also underway are ongoing collaborations with several public and charter schools in the region to develop and test new curricular, intervention, and assessment tools for academic-year summer programs. In addition, the initiative has partnered with the UMass Amherst Center for Research on Families to seed new research projects involving UMass researchers with community partners in Springfield. This collaboration also includes a joint partnership with Project ACCess at Baystate Health and Partners for a Healthier Community, a Springfield-based effort to expand community-based research projects that will benefit the area’s population.

Other UMass Amherst members involved in the initiative include UMass and Five College graduate and undergraduate students working with faculty members Sara Whitcomb of the College of Education, and Erik Cheries, Youngbin Kwak, Jennifer McDermott, Joonkoo Park, Maureen Perry-Jenkins, and Ashley Woodman from the Psychological and Brain Studies department.

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