Assembly of the Healthy Child: The Right Next Steps
Posted on 10.22.2015, Thursday

Last year, Dr. Kathleen Gallagher of the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) told the story of one of the most famous studies in early childhood—FPG’s Abecedarian Project. The video of this talk, “The Healthy Child: Assembly Required,” quickly become UNC’s most popular TED Talk of the year. Now, Dr. Gallagher is back with the sequel, “Assembly of the Healthy Child: The Right Next Steps,” which she delivered recently at the TEDxMemphis conference.

In this new TED Talk, she explains the lifelong benefits of early education found through the Abecedarian Project, addresses the achievement gap that begins long before children start school, and shows how meaningful, healthy relationships with adults can have a profound impact on young children.

“The key…is that children learn best in the context of healthy relationships. Young children who have healthy relationships with their parents, with teachers and other children, learn that they are worthy of learning and education–of good health and wellbeing. We assemble healthy children by making certain that they have access to healthy, supportive relationships. Healthy relationships literally change the brain structure and prepare it to learn.”

Dr. Gallagher also emphasizes that the return on investment from early childhood education benefits both individuals and society. Extensive research shows that a child’s early years are a crucial window to have the most powerful impact on education, health and economic prosperity.

“To build economically vibrant communities, we need healthy children to grow into healthy community members who can contribute their resources, voices, informed perspectives, and personal capital. We need individuals whose relationships–in home and community–have taught them what it means to contribute in a democracy.”

The full text, video and many of the illustrations from the TED Talk are available here.

Dr. Gallagher’s research and applied work focuses on the design, implementation, and evaluation of evidence-based approaches that support the learning and well-being of young children, families, and early childhood professionals in the contexts of poverty and disability.

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