The Hassenfeld Child Health Innovation Institute (HCHII) has a new vision, new faculty, and new leadership. And thanks to the Hassenfeld Foundation, it also has significant new resources to support its work. The new Hassenfeld gift comes as newly appointed director Michael Silverstein M.D. MPH has drawn up the ambitious ten-year plan, Vision 2032.
Dr. Silverstein, George Hazard Crooker University Professor of Health Services, Policy, and Practice, came to Brown in 2021 on the heels of an illustrious career at Boston University School of Medicine, Boston Medical Center, and the US Preventive Services Task Force. His research focuses on mental health services for children and families, and the prevention of depression in at-risk mothers and mothers of vulnerable children.
The Hassenfeld Institute brings together Brown professors across medicine and public health, and “has a simple yet transformational goal,” he writes: “to eliminate health inequities in pregnancy and childhood for Rhode Island families within a decade.”
Focus on Mental Health
The path to realizing this goal begins with addressing family mental health and the related issues of substance use, food insecurity, and neighborhood safety. Mental health is also frequently linked to other vulnerabilities like preterm birth, chronic illness, and reproductive health. “It compounds nearly every other issue that prevents children from realizing their optimal health,” says Silverstein. “Rhode Island’s profound child mental health crisis demands an immediate statewide response.”
To meet these challenges, Dr. Silverstein sought out renowned child health scholars – experts and national leaders in their fields – to direct core initiatives and bring their talents to HCHII’s new research center. They are:
Dr. Caroline Kistin, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine, with expertise in child maltreatment prevention, substance use prevention, and food insecurity and nutrition.
Dr. Emily Feinberg, Associate Professor of Public Health at Boston University School of Public Health, with expertise in integrated behavioral health, autism services, and maternal depression screening and prevention.
Dr. Tracy Gladstone, Associate Director and Senior Research Scientist at the Wellesley Center for Women, and Director of the Robert S. and Grace W. Stone Primary Prevention Initiatives. Dr. Gladstone specializes in adolescent mental health prevention, dissemination and implementation, and school-based screening for youth for depression and suicide.
Together, faculty at HCHII, in conjunction with other experts at Brown and in the community, will lead a series core initiatives that tackle a “pyramid of needs,” including programs that address social factors that undermine mental health, prevention programs for families at risk for mental illness, and new initiatives dealing with community violence and food security. “The Institute will catalyze these initiatives for three years,” says Silverstein, “after which they are designed to be self-sustaining.”
The Institute’s new vision is necessarily ambitious. It is building on past successes by deepening existing partnerships and forging new ones with medical centers, community organizations, and Rhode Island’s state government to make “Rhode Island a national model for optimal child health.”