Connecticut Children’s Research Institute aims to advance the understanding of population health through research, education, interventions, policy, and community partnerships. The Institute has a diverse group of researchers, clinicians, community members, and patient families who are invested in improving health status, health equity, and quality of life for children in the communities we serve. This work includes suicide prevention, understanding barriers to research in racial and ethnic minorities, and investigating clinical pathways to improve health outcomes, among many others. Research is supported from various organizations, including the National Institutes of Health, the State of Connecticut, the Environmental Protection Agency, and local foundations and involves partnership with the Connecticut Children’s Office of Community Child Health, Department of Housing and many other state and local non-profits.

Led by Dr. Melissa Santos, Behavioral Health research encompasses a diverse, interdisciplinary team of investigators at Connecticut Children’s Research Institute working to reduce the impact and stigma of behavioral health disorders and improve quality of life for children and adolescents. Behavioral health factors impact all of our divisions here at Connecticut Children’s and our work reflects this wide span. Dr. Santos’s research focuses on children with comorbid medical and psychological conditions, focusing on treating and understanding the Whole Child. Her major research areas are pediatric obesity as well transgender youth and community participatory research methods. Within the area of Injury Prevention, Dr. Kevin Borrup focuses on community behavioral health needs, gun violence and suicide screening. Many of the behavioral health studies are funded at the federal, state, and local level, with ambitions to extend funding support to include studies supporting LGBTQ+ adolescent research and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and their families.

Over the past 30 years, research at the Injury Prevention Center (IPC) has contributed to actual reductions in both fatal and non-fatal injury rates, most clearly demonstrated by how our work helped to drive the implementation and enhancement of safety measures, from pedestrians to teen drivers and passengers of any age. The IPC’s scientific approach to injury prevention calls for interventions to be designed, evaluated, and then implemented based on a research-driven process of surveillance, hazard identification, risk assessment and analysis, and the transfer of successful interventions into widespread adoption and practice. Conducting high quality research in particular areas of interest in which the IPC team has the expertise and track record of success is how we continue to drive innovations in injury prevention research. Starting in 2011, the IPC refined its approach to research by considering the community need, the potential for change, and our own capacity, in identifying three research priority areas, family violence in all its forms; child and adolescent suicide prevention; and teen driving safety and related road safety issues.

The Institute for Nursing Research and Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) at Connecticut Children’s has a history of producing nurse-driven pediatric and family-centered research. Nursing Research and EBP is fundamentally grounded in its mission to improve the health and wellbeing of the children and families we serve and those in the broader community. We embrace innovation, exploration, interdisciplinary collaboration, and translation of evidence into practice. As a magnet-designated organization, Connecticut Children’s values and supports the advancement of Nursing Research. The Institute for Nursing Research and EBP sponsors nursing grand rounds, infuses evidence into daily practice, encourages an environment of inquiry, and creates opportunities that grow and develop nurses as scholars.

Connecticut Children’s Research Institute has launched a Community Research Advisory Board (CRAB), led by Dr. Melissa Santos. This advisory board brings together stakeholders from both the institute and the community to advise researchers at all stages of a project – from study idea to dissemination. This system has allowed us to engage the community and provide the voices of lived experience throughout grant projects and research planning.

At Connecticut Children’s, we recognize the importance of the patient voice in the diagnostic journey ranging from obtaining an accurate diagnosis, to choosing a treatment plan and navigating next steps related to chronic disorders. This experience may include disorders like childhood cancer, behavioral health issues, endocrine disorders or rare diseases. This journey can be greatly facilitated by the knowledge that each of these populations have a community in the form of patient advocacy organizations. We can assist patients and family members in connecting to patient advocacy organizations that can provide additional assistance related to resources, networking and sponsored advocacy events to create connections within their own communities.