EHF invests $1.1 million to create new program to help at-risk families build their infants' healthy brains

November 1, 2017

Project is one of 28 grants announced this fall in EHF’s ongoing effort to improve health, not just healthcare in Texas.

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EHF has made a $1.1 million investment in Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy to develop a program that helps at-risk families learn invaluable skills to build their infants’ healthy brains.

The project will teach families that having positive, back-and-forth interactions with their babies is one of the most fundamental ways to create healthy brain development. The program will serve pregnant women and families who receive services at three Women, Infant and Children (WIC) clinics across Harris County.

“The physical construction of an infant’s brain is critical and occurs at the fastest rate in the baby’s first three years of life,” said Elena Marks, EHF’s president and CEO. “We believe that establishing a culture of healthy infant brain development could be a game-changer in building the foundation for a healthy life for thousands of young Texans.”  

Annually, the program plans to serve more than 3,700 pregnant women and mothers with newborn babies under one year old. If successful, the model could be duplicated in other WIC clinics in Texas and beyond. The Houston Health Department and Harris County WIC have already expressed interest in using a proven model in their everyday operations across Greater Houston.  

“We hope this building healthy brains program will show the lasting benefits of working upstream in young children to prevent chronic physical and mental health problems before they occur,” Marks said. “The babies whose lives we influence are more likely to be successful, healthier adults.”

Other EHF grants this fall
Along with the infant brain development program, EHF’s board of directors approved 27 other grants worth more than $5.7 million. With these latest awards, EHF’s Board of Directors has approved 91 grants totaling more than $20.7 million in 2017.

Like the infant brain development program, many of EHF’s fall grants are designed to benefit different organizations to enhance early childhood brain development from pregnancy through the first three years of a child’s life.  

Other grants approved this fall are helping organizations strengthen the ability of communities to take charge of their own health in many different ways.

Complete list of new grant partners:

Early Childhood Development

  • $110,000 to Child and Family Research Partnership, University of Texas at Austin
    To lay the framework and data system for implementing Family Connects in Austin
  • $200,000 to Episcopal Relief and Development
    To work with vulnerable and HIV-affected families to strengthen parents/primary caregivers' relationships and parenting practices in responsive care and stimulation with their children ages 0-3
  • $90,000 to First3Years - Houston
    To expand the work of an organization devoted to early childhood brain development in the Greater Houston area
  • $299,430 to Nurse Family Partnership (NFP)
    To evaluate the use of a new assessment tool that could modify NFP’s successful home-visit program to reach more women and children across 16 Texas counties
  • $50,000 to Rupani Foundation - Houston
    To pilot a group-based parent/child engagement program in low-income apartment complexes across Southwest Houston
  • $73,068 to Santa Maria Hostel - Fort Bend, Harris & Montgomery counties
    To provide early childhood brain development outpatient programs for pregnant women and women with young children who have been impacted by substance use and trauma
  • $100,000 to Spring Branch Community Health Center – Houston
    To increase screening for maternal depression and mental health services for depressed new mothers
  • $127,995 to St. Luke’s Foundation – Angelina & Polk counties
    To provide first-time pregnant women and parents with weekly home visits by a trained health educator
  • $400,000 to Texans Care for Children, Inc.
    To advance policy opportunities and community approaches to optimize primary/pediatric care visits and home-based programs that link families of children 0-3 with support and early interventions
  • $133,400 to Texas Children’s Hospital
    To provide support for the upWORDS program which aims to serve parents with infants from birth to 24 months in low-income communities throughout Greater Houston

  • $30,000 to TexProtects (Texas Chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America)
    To provide support to home-visiting research and advocacy efforts

Community Capacity Building

  • $198,000 to Austin Interfaith Sponsoring Committee, Inc.
    To train leaders in Bastrop, Williamson and Travis counties to organize families and identify issues to advocate for themselves and their neighbors to create healthy communities
  • $200,000 to Avenue Community Development Corporation – Houston
    To continue the comprehensive community development work for the revitalization of the Northline area and to begin implementation of work toward Our Northline: A Health Equity Plan

  • $200,000 to BakerRipley - Houston
    To support the Greater Hobby area by developing community leaders, creating vision/priorities for the community, and addressing health and wellness programs at Harbach-Ripley Community Center
  • $145,579 to East Texas Human Needs Network
    To support a collective action network in Anderson, Cherokee and Rusk counties
  • $200,000 to Gulf Coast Leadership Council – TMO
    To train leaders in Brazos, Fort Bend and Harris counties to organize families and identify issues to advocate for themselves and their neighbors to create healthy communities
  • $75,000 to Healthy Futures of Texas
    To support the Texas Women’s Healthcare Coalition project in its mission of increasing access to preventive healthcare, including contraception, for all Texas women
  • $288,090 to Houston Health Foundation
    To build leadership capacity among young adults in Houston’s Acres Homes and Gulfton communities
  • $146,800 to Local Initiatives Support Corporation – Houston
    To implement and evaluate health-focused leadership development workshops in under-resourced neighborhoods, building community capacity to impact the social determinants of health
  • $254,509 to Neighborhood Recovery CDC – Houston
    To implement and evaluate community-based health improvement policies, programs and services in the OST/South Union neighborhood
  • $150,000 to Northeast Texas Public Health District – Tyler
    To support the Tyler Integrated Health Care Workgroup and the Behavioral Health Leadership Team that are focused on the health needs of Tyler’s low-income community
  • $250,000 to Texas Organizing Project Education Fund
    To conduct community outreach and develop leaders through training and community engagement to revitalize low-income communities in Harris County to become quality neighborhoods
  • $315,000 to Texas Rural Leadership Program
    To support the growth and development of a rural leadership program

Other grants 

  • $100,000 to Fund for Shared Insight
    To provide funding for seven EHF grant partners to participate in an initiative to enhance methods of receiving feedback from their clients
  • $92,000 to Young Invincibles
    To support the organization’s role as administrator of the Get Covered Connector tool and facilitate ongoing enrollment efforts in Affordable Care Act health insurance plans in Texas
  • $224,733 Green & Healthy Homes Initiative
    To conduct a feasibility study in anticipation of a Pay for Success project to provide in-home assessment and control of environmental triggers for Medicaid patients with asthma in Harris County
  • $160,000 to Texas Organization of Rural & Community Hospitals (TORCH)
    To develop a rural provider network to deliver population health management resources to aid providers to address value-based contracting and purchasing


Click here to see all of EHF’s grant partners in 2017