Penn State is now, officially, the place to turn for answers about child abuse.
On Tuesday, the university announced it had received a $7.7 million grant from The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, part of the National Institutes of Health.
That five-year competitive grant allows Penn State to establish the Center for Healthy Children, “a national resource for child maltreatment research and training.” Penn State added $3.4 million for a total of $11 million toward the project.
The recognition follows Penn State dedicating $12 million toward research and programming in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. Part of that was a cluster hire of 12 faculty members to increase the amount of focus on the topic.
“This is the product, the payoff of that investment. NIH has recognized Penn State as the place in the country that they want to invest in,” said Jennie Noll, director of the Child Maltreatment Solutions Network at Penn State and principal investigator of the NIH award.
“It really focuses the research mission. It brings us together,” she said. “Almost every single one of those people who was hired are co-investigators on this. It brings together all of their talents.”
“We recruited the best and the brightest researchers to Penn State to create a network and we continue our commitment to work on this critical issue by contributing $3.4 million in support of the new NIH center,” said Penn State President Eric Barron. “The expertise, passion and dedication of our researchers are unparalleled and this grant exemplifies our strength in successful interdisciplinary collaborations, with leading experts from across the university.”
Part of the focus is on research studies like one looking at 1,200 kids aged 8 to 13 from across Pennsylvania to address “eradicating health disparities for children who have experienced the child welfare system.”
Another is a clinical trial working with pediatric intensive care units across the country to assess a screening tool for children’s abusive head trauma, something that kills 1,500 American children annually.
“This is really a complement to what we have created here,” said Noll. “This addresses the scope and gravity of child maltreatment in a way that raises awareness and implores a larger systemwide acknowledgment. We want to be a national model, solving large problems in this area.”