The Mississippi Thrive! Child Health and Development Project is improving health outcomes for children

About 100 new babies are born each day across Mississippi. During the first five years, children’s brains make more than one million neural connections every second. The foundation of the brain is established in these early years as children reach developmental milestones—like focusing their vision or gaining control over their muscles. Marking these milestones – at home and with health care professionals – is an important step to be sure a young child is developing correctly. 

While it’s fun to celebrate as children reach new milestones, it’s important to pay attention to any concerns one may have about a child’s development. One in six children experiences developmental delays. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends regular developmental screenings when children are 9, 18, and 24 or 30 months—or any time there is a concern. However, most children in Mississippi (70%) have not received a developmental screening. 

Detecting and addressing developmental delays early through developmental screenings and connecting a child with the appropriate supports can create better outcomes for the child’s future. 

To better support the development of young children from birth through age five, the Child Health and Development Project: Mississippi Thrive! is working to improve the statewide behavioral health system. Here’s how:

  1. Active promotion of healthy early brain development. Infants, toddlers, and preschoolers develop rapidly across many domains, like speech, hearing, vision, and social skills. This brain architecture is the structure for the skills and abilities children need in school and later life. Health care providers and early childhood professionals have a key role in laying the foundation for strong brain development.

  2. Regular, professional checks on children’s development. Fewer than one in three children in Mississippi receive a formal developmental evaluation from a health care provider. Low levels of developmental screening and monitoring means we are missing opportunities to take action early, when it would be most effective. Mississippi Thrive! is working to double the rate of developmental screening in our state.

  3. Connections to services when needed. When children don’t reach a developmental milestone at the time expected, it’s important to address the issue in a timely manner. Often there are simple supports that can boost the child’s progress. Mississippi Thrive! is working to make it easier and more efficient for primary care providers and families to work with specialists when needed.

The Child Health and Development Project: Mississippi Thrive! is moving into its fourth year of funding from the Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA). Mississippi Thrive! is a project of the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Children’s of Mississippi and Mississippi State University’s Social Science Research Center. 

Supporting developmental and behavioral health for young children in Mississippi

  • Mark your child’s milestones: Knowing the expected developmental milestones for each age helps chart their progress.  
  • Get a formal check on your child’s development. Talk to your health care provider about having formal developmental screenings or any time you have a concern. A free online screening is available from Help Me Grow Mississippi here.
  • Connect with free resources. The Mississippi Thrive! website has a wide array of resources for pediatric health care professionals, parents and families, child care providers, and others. They also have extensive interactive resource maps for information on pediatric health care, family resources, and child care centers in Mississippi. 
  • Check out the 2018 Mississippi Child Health and Development Survey (MCHDS), a comprehensive survey conducted to examine how many children in Mississippi received an assessment of their developmental progress. The MCHDS was modeled after the National Survey of Children’s Health but included a greater number of Mississippians to provide more representative data.
  • Collaborate with Mississippi Thrive! Interested in learning more or spreading the word about ways to promote early childhood health and development in your community? Contact them to connect with free materials and resources, help you efficiently incorporate developmental screenings into your organization or clinic, and provide free professional development opportunities for you and your staff or community! 

For more information, visit, and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.

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