JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Mississippi has grown from being 50th in the country for childhood developmental and behavioral screenings to ranking 34th in five years.

Leaders with the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) said this is because of a partnership between UMMC and Mississippi State University’s Social Science research Center. The partnership has been named Mississippi Thrive!

In 2017, 18.6% of children in Mississippi received developmental screenings as part of pediatric care. The state has since seen a 15.5% increase in screenings.

UMMC leaders said the Mississippi Thrive! mission is being furthered with statewide partners as a part of the Early Childhood Development Coalition. It’s funded by $17.4 million from the Health Resources and Services Administration.

The coalition will include two subcommittees, Mississippi Help Me Grow and Enhanced Pediatric Medical Home Services, both aimed at reaching children and families and connecting them with the care that will prepare them for school.

“These subcommittees, one that will reach out to families through the community and the other that will enhance the pediatric care already available with training on developmental and behavioral screenings and care, will help Mississippi’s children flourish and strengthen families,” said Dr. Heather Hanna, co-principal investigator of Mississippi Thrive!