Our teams strengthened research collaborations with clinical and community partners to improve programs for families.


Evaluating LENA Start: Building Caregivers’ Capacity to Support Early Language Development

Children from low-income households have increased risk for early language delays, which can contribute to future academic inequities. It is important to encourage families to nurture early language development, but this can be difficult given busy schedules, lack of information about child development and competing priorities.

A PolicyLab team is evaluating the efficacy of one potential tool to support families at home: LENA Start, a group skills-building intervention using “Fitbit-style pedometer for words” technology. In the study, parents participate in group information sessions on the importance of early language exposure and how to incorporate communication into daily routines with their child. Using LENA Start technology, parents receive weekly information detailing the number of words directed to and conversations had with their child—which can encourage them to speak to and with their children more often.

By measuring each child’s language development, parental beliefs about child development, and parent satisfaction, the team hopes to identify the key components of LENA Start that drive gains in child language acquisition and parental knowledge, leading more community agencies to adopt and utilize this technology.

Young Black Girl Smiling on a Playground Sliding Board


Whether evaluating an existing clinical intervention or seeking to answer a question raised by community partners or local organizations as they implement a project with a new population, PolicyLab researchers are hard at work exploring whether programs and policies are having the intended impacts on families’ health and well-being. Here, you’ll see just a few examples.

Pass the Love: A Systematic Evaluation to Advance the U.S. Food Landscape towards Health Equity

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Evaluating a Population Health Approach to Addressing Social Determinants in the Community

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Evaluating Use of Family Navigation in Child Care Settings

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Black Father Holding Smiling Daughter at Playground

Getting Involved in Our Community

The PolicyLab team was thrilled to take part in several in-person opportunities to give back to our Philadelphia community this year. For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, eager volunteers returned to Alain Locke Elementary School in West Philadelphia for the Reading Buddies Program PolicyLab launched in 2015. We had many new volunteers to the program this year, through which team members travel to the school weekly to read one-on-one with second to fourth grade students. Members of our team also visited Philabundance, a food bank serving the Philadelphia area, to help package food for deliveries to families.

We also engaged virtually with organizations across the city. We held our third virtual holiday toy drive for Lutheran Settlement House (LSH), which serves children, adults and families in the city. PolicyLab team members provided more than $1,600 in donations, fulfilling gift wish lists for two families and 19 teenagers participating in LSH’s Bilingual Domestic Violence Program. Additionally, representatives from PolicyLab’s Visibility & Voice Committee spoke with students from the Philadelphia High School for Girls to highlight careers in research.

PolicyLab Team Members Volunteering at Philabundance
PolicyLab team members volunteer together at Philabundance in Philadelphia

"Strengthening community supports for families requires researchers to partner directly with the health care providers and program staff they engage with regularly. We at PolicyLab are so fortunate to have strong relationships with our primary care colleagues and community-based partners to help connect the dots for families and ensure our projects are meeting their specific needs."

Headshot of Sherita Williams

Sherita Williams, MS, PHMA