Governor Newsom Announces Two National Experts in Child Development will be Key Leaders in Administration’s Efforts to Help the Youngest Californians

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris will be California’s first-ever Surgeon General

Kris Perry will be Deputy Secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency for Early Childhood Development and Senior Advisor to the Governor on Implementation of Early Childhood Development Initiatives

SACRAMENTO — Governor Gavin Newsom today announced the appointment of two nationally-recognized experts in child development to be key leaders in his administration’s efforts to help the youngest Californians. Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, a national leader in pediatric medicine, will serve as California’s first-ever Surgeon General, and Kris Perry, a national leader in early childhood policy, will serve as Deputy Secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency for Early Childhood Development and Senior Advisor to the Governor on Implementation of Early Childhood Development Initiatives.

There is overwhelming consensus in the scientific community around early warning signs and childhood determinants of serious health outcomes. As Surgeon General, Dr. Burke Harris will urge policymakers at every level of government and leaders across the state to consider the social determinants of health, especially for children. Her work will focus on combating the root causes of serious health conditions — like adverse childhood experiences and toxic stress — and using the platform of Surgeon General to reach young families across the state.

Kris Perry will help lead efforts to implement Governor Newsom’s early childhood policy agenda, one of the key components of his California for All agenda. Governor Newsom’s budget proposed more than $1.7 billion in funding for expanded early childhood education and early interventions. Studies have shown that nearly 85 percent of brain development occurs within the first three years of a child’s life — with 90 percent of life brain capacity complete by the age of 5. Other research shows the disparities between low and high-income children show up as early as 6 months into a child’s life.

As a pediatrician, entrepreneur and nonprofit CEO, Dr. Burke Harris has dedicated her professional career to understanding the link between adverse childhood experiences and toxic stress in children, and the effect both have on future health outcomes. She is the founder and CEO of the Center for Youth Wellness (CYW) – a national leader in the effort to advance pediatric medicine, raise public awareness, and transform the way society responds to children exposed to adverse childhood experiences and toxic stress. She leads the Bay Area Research Consortium on Toxic Stress and Health, a partnership between CYW and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals, to advance scientific screening and treatment of toxic stress. She serves as a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ National Advisory Board for Screening and on a committee for the National Academy of Medicine. She is an expert advisor on the Let’s Get Healthy California Task Force, a former member of the Boys and Men of Color Trauma Advisory Committee and a former appointee by then-Mayor Gavin Newsom to the San Francisco Citizens’ Committee for Community Development.

Dr. Burke Harris, 43, of San Francisco, will be sworn in as Surgeon General on February 11. This position does not require Senate confirmation and the compensation will be $200,000. She is a Democrat.

Kris Perry is a nationally-recognized early childhood advocate and has been instrumental in driving effective early learning policy at local, state and national levels. She previously served as President of Save the Children Action Network (SCAN). Prior to SCAN, Perry was the Executive Director of the First Five Years Fund. She was also Executive Director of First 5 California and First 5 San Mateo County, fostering their emergence as one of the most well-known and respected advocates for early childhood development on the state and national levels. Her dedication to children and their families began at the Alameda County Social Services Agency, where she worked for more than 12 years in various capacities, including child abuse investigator, family preservation case manager, and program manager. Perry was also a plaintiff in the landmark Proposition 8 case which returned marriage equality to California after a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Perry, 54, of Berkeley, will be sworn in today as California Health and Human Services Agency Deputy Secretary for Early Childhood Development and Senior Advisor to the Governor on Implementation of Early Childhood Development Initiatives. Her position does not require Senate confirmation and the compensation is $170,000. Perry is a Democrat.

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