Helping children and families achieve healthier and happier lives is an interest shared by many HDFS students and faculty. “Prevention” is a growing specialty that includes a broad range of programmatic interventions. Prevention and early intervention policies and practices that address health behaviors, education, relationships, and well-being are prevalent in our society and throughout the world. Prevention and early intervention occurs at every point in the lifespan, although childhood is a special opportunity. Training in human development, health and well-being are essential elements in becoming a prevention specialist. In the department of Human Development & Family Studies, graduate students have the opportunity to study and engage in prevention and early intervention in any phase of family life Family-level Prevention or human development including Infancy, Childhood, and Youth-level Prevention or Adulthood-level Prevention.
Using the language of prevention science, we can distinguish three levels:
- Primary prevention addresses universal needs to avoid serious injury and illness or relationship disruption and thereby promote healthy development; primary prevention is health promoting and reaches all members of a population.
- Secondary prevention seeks to identify individuals and groups at risk for particular outcomes or problems, for example, preterm infants who are likely to experience developmental delays, young children and youth from low-resource communities who may be exposed to toxins, and older adults whose health status may increase risk for isolation or injury.
- Early intervention is a form of secondary prevention which seeks to promptly identify and the needs of individuals, families, neighborhoods, and communities with known adverse circumstances who are more vulnerable to serious disruptions of healthy development.
- Tertiary prevention approaches include intensive supports and therapies that are provided to individuals with established problems or conditions. Their aim is to return the individual or family to an improved level of functioning.
In our Department, graduate students play an important role in the design and evaluation of prevention and intervention efforts that are implemented at the local, state, and national levels. Student involvement covers the entire range of involvement and training experiences, including in-depth analysis and evaluation of early intervention studies, delivering educational and awareness-raising primary prevention messages, individualized early intervention, and “hands-on” project management. Faculty in our program are engaged in leadership training in prevention through centers within and outside of the Department:
- Center for Applied Research in Human Development (CARHD) – a joint venture between the Dept. of Human Development and Family Studies and Cooperative Extension, the CARHD is the administrative home for many research and evaluation projects through State and non-profit agencies.
- Center for the Study of Culture, Health, and Human Development (CHHD) – a departmental academic center that has two large “basic” research projects on early development and families, both with strong implications for prevention/intervention; several evaluation studies of early intervention for high-risk families (in collaboration with the Children’s Trust Fund/Department of Children and Families), and links to both the State and National level Family Development Certification.
- Center for the Study of Interpersonal Acceptance and Rejection – a research center promoting sound parenting, healthy social and emotional development, and healthy adult relationship.
- Humphrey Clinic for Individual, Marital, and Family Therapy – a clinical service and training unit within the Department, serving the University and surrounding communities, that also promotes well-being through early intervention services.
- Child Development Laboratories – a nationally accredited early care and education center for young childrens ages six weeks to five years trains pre-service teachers and whose faculty and staff engage in early childhood teacher training, research, and policy activities in area communities and around the State.
- UConn Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD), located at the UConn Health Center, the UCEDD is an advocacy, training, and research center promoting child health professionals to improve care for children with developmental or other disabilities.
Additional information about Prevention and Early Intervention training in the Department is located on the following pages –