Penn State professor to moderate congressional briefing on poverty

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Diana H. Fishbein, C. Eugene Bennett Chair of Prevention Research and professor of translational neuroscience in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Penn State, will moderate the congressional briefing, “A Bipartisan Approach to Reducing Poverty and its Consequences via Evidence-Based Prevention Science” at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 2, at the Rayburn House Office Building for the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C.

Hosted by the National Prevention Science Coalition to Improve Lives (NPSC), of which Fishbein is director, the briefing will feature nationally recognized experts on poverty.

The presentations will focus on evidence-based prevention practices shown to improve individual and family economic security, lessen the negative effects of poverty (such as poor child development, academic failure, mental illness), and break the cycle of poverty across multiple generations. 

“Children raised in poverty have — on average — higher rates of multiple problems, including school failure and behavioral and psychological problems including antisocial behavior, early pregnancy, drug addiction, and depression,” Fishbein said. “Recent evidence further shows that a child raised in poverty has a 30 to 60 percent higher likelihood of heart disease as an adult — even when they escape poverty by adulthood.”

There is a significant economic burden of poverty. “The cost of the most common problems for all youth, such as violence, drug abuse, high-risk sexual behavior, poor academic achievement, high school dropouts and suicide attempts, totals nearly $500 billion annually, as estimated in 2014,” Fishbein said.

Speakers at the briefing will emphasize the potential to exert a measurable impact on poverty and improve the chance for success among youth by implementing tested and effective programs, policies, and practices from the prevention sciences.

“There is a solid body of evidence showing that community, family and school-based interventions can prevent the development of most of these common problems and thereby minimize the harm of poverty and assist many children in eventually escaping from it,” Fishbein said.

Fishbein said programs exist, from the prenatal period through adolescence, that can help families nurture their children’s cognitive, social, and physical development. They teach parents how to reduce conflict in the home and how to help their children develop key skills for social and academic success. 

“Such programs can prevent impoverished children from failing in school and from developing aggressive behavior that leads to delinquency, substance abuse, early pregnancy, and continued poverty,” she said.

Expert testimonies at the briefing will include J. Lawrence Aber, professor of applied psychology and public policy and university professor, New York University, who will present “The Roots of Poverty and its Effects”; Anthony Biglan, senior scientist at Oregon Research Institute, who will present an “Overview of Issues Involved in Reducing Poverty Across Generations: An Environmental Framework for Intervention"; and David Olds, professor of pediatrics and director of the Prevention Research Center for Family and Child Health at the University of Colorado, who will present “Applying this Framework to Increasing Social Mobility and Economic Status via a Well-Established Intervention.”

The briefing will also include Rep. G.K. Butterfield, co-chair of Out of Poverty Caucus, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Out of Poverty Caucus, and a personal testimony by an individual who has received prevention programming.

The NPSC is a coalition of scientists, educators, practitioners and clinicians, policy makers, foundation representatives, and affiliated organizations whose members work to apply validated scientific findings to wide-scale effective implementation of practices and policies to improve the lives of children, adolescents, their families and communities. 

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Last Updated November 30, 2015