- Associated Press - Monday, September 28, 2015

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Brown University is launching a new institute to combat childhood health issues and improve the health of kids worldwide, its president said Monday.

Brown President Christina Paxson was joined by Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo and other dignitaries to announce the creation of the Hassenfeld Child Health Innovation Institute.

“This institute will work with children and families in Rhode Island, but the research findings that come out of this work will apply here and in many other places,” Paxson said after the statehouse ceremony. “If they discover great ways to address childhood asthma or autism, the benefits won’t just stay in the state. They’ll spread.”

The family of retired Hasbro Chairman and CEO Alan Hassenfeld, a former Brown trustee, provided a $12.5 million founding gift. Brown says it will raise $12.5 million to match the donation.

“I would like to dream that someday what we do here in Rhode Island will truly be a benefit to children and families the world over,” Hassenfeld said.

The research institute will focus on child health from pregnancy through young adulthood with an emphasis on combating childhood obesity, asthma and autism. Research shows that healthier children perform better in school and later in the workforce, and obesity, asthma and autism are among the most acute childhood health issues, Paxson said.

Raimondo praised the institute for its potential to address health problems and create jobs based on innovation. She pledged the state’s cooperation.

“We need to make this successful,” she said. “Kids are counting on it, and the people of Rhode Island are counting on it.”

The institute will bring together specialists in research, clinical practice and public health. Brown is collaborating with Hasbro Children’s Hospital and Women and Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, as well as with government agencies, nonprofits and others.

Terrie Fox Wetle, dean of Brown’s School of Public Health, said this interdisciplinary approach can show others how to bring the state, hospitals and research universities together to focus on a public health issue. She said the students who take part can share this knowledge in other states and countries.

“It’s not just hyperbole when we say this is a model that will be repeated again and again and copied elsewhere,” she said.

It will launch in early 2016.

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