Duke Faculty Team Awarded ABC Thrive Grant for Prevention of Child Maltreatment

September 6, 2019

Elizabeth J. Gifford, Elizabeth Snyder-Fickler, Lindsay Terrell and Jillian Hurst.
Elizabeth J. Gifford, Elizabeth Snyder-Fickler, Lindsay Terrell and Jillian Hurst

All Babies and Children Thrive (ABC Thrive), an initiative of Bass Connections, has awarded $300,000 over two years to an interdisciplinary team of Duke faculty working to identify opportunities to prevent child maltreatment in the health and social services systems.

Elizabeth J. Gifford and Elizabeth Snyder-Fickler (Sanford School of Public Policy) are collaborating with Lindsay Terrell and Jillian Hurst (School of Medicine, Pediatrics) to lead this project, which aims to investigate the interactions between healthcare providers and local agencies for children who have experienced maltreatment to understand the markers of children who are at risk.

Over the past year, with the support of a one-year seed grant from ABC Thrive, the team built a data infrastructure to identify health and social service interactions that could identify children at risk of maltreatment and isolate factors related to various types of maltreatment. They also studied maltreatment interventions in the health and social services systems. The data infrastructure created by the team integrates data from multiple sources into a protected data network.

“The results from the pilot study have been compelling and have already led to clinical changes,” noted Sallie Permar, Director of the Duke Children’s Health & Discovery Initiative. “Indeed, these results have sparked new conversations with colleagues in pediatrics and maternal medicine about how to measure and address social drivers of health so that we can improve the health of our patients. This study offers an important step in developing new methods to identify at-risk children and in developing new community partnerships.”

Over the next two years, the team plans to study interactions and events surrounding infancy and toddlerhood that may be markers of risk for maltreatment. The team will also evaluate the feasibility and acceptability of clinical interventions to prevent maltreatment in healthcare settings in partnership with Durham County Social Services and the Duke Child Abuse and Neglect Medical Evaluation Clinic.

“This project exemplifies the ability of Duke to tackle important and complex challenges facing children and their families when we bridge research, policy and practice,” said Leslie Babinski, Director of the Center for Child and Family Policy at the Sanford School of Public Policy.

Additional team members include Ben Rose, Director of Durham Social Services, Yaxing Liu from Duke Health Technology Solutions and researchers from the Center for Child and Family Policy including Megan Golonka, Kelly Evans, Matt Edwards, Sarah Vang, Rosie Rohrs and Jessie Byrd.

About ABC Thrive

ABC Thrive takes a holistic approach to helping babies and young children get the best possible start in life, focusing on their physical, mental and emotional well-being, as well as their environment and community. Leveraging the innovative research, education, clinical care and outreach capabilities of Duke University and Duke Health, the initiative promotes optimal development in children from prenatal to age five.

Priority areas include prenatal and early childhood health and wellness, community outreach and applied technology to achieve scale.

ABC Thrive is affiliated with Bass Connections and housed in the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies. It was established by a generous gift from Duke alumna and trustee Laurene Meir Sperling and her husband, Scott M. Sperling, through the Sperling Family Charitable Foundation. ABC Thrive is directed by Staci Bilbo, Haley Family Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience. 

Learn More