The University of British Columbia today announced a $1.2 million gift from The Lawson Foundation to develop a system to monitor differences in child development across Canada.
The gift will support a pan-Canadian network of researchers and practitioners, led by UBC’s Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP), as they identify inequities in child development across the country. The project will map the developmental trajectories of Canadian children by monitoring them as they develop through their early years and into their later school years. This research aims to improve child well-being by informing the creation of policies and programs to reduce the imbalances that exist across the country.
“The advantage of building a national child development monitoring system is that it will tell policy makers and educators where we need to focus our efforts at the neighbourhood, city, school board and provincial level so that all children can thrive,” says Clyde Hertzman, director of HELP in the UBC College for Interdisciplinary Studies.
Part of the monitoring system will include the implementation of a national Early Development Instrument (EDI) — a tool that HELP has used for the past decade in British Columbia. The EDI measures the development of kindergarten children, separating them by neighbourhood, socio-economic status and more. HELP’s findings have shown that approximately one third of children in British Columbia start school behind in key areas such as language, communications, social, emotional and physical health.
“We know that children who start school vulnerable are less likely to graduate from high school, they tend to earn less money, experience more illness as adults and they are more likely to end up in prison,” says Hertzman, Canada Research Chair in Population Health and Human Development.
In British Columbia, the EDI has been used to develop provincial health and education policy, and by communities to make decisions about programs for children and families. In Dawson Creek, EDI data was used to educate the municipal government on the need to create an indoor play space for families with young children to use throughout the long winters.
“This research has far-reaching impacts on public policy and the Lawson Foundation’s gift will ensure that HELP’s work extends to benefit all Canadians,” says John Hepburn, UBC Vice President Research and International. “We are grateful to the Lawson Foundation for supporting HELP in its efforts to give all children the best start to life.”
The Lawson Foundation’s $1.2 million investment complements its previous gifts to HELP’s Global Knowledge Hub for Early Child Development and the BC Leadership Chair in Early Child Development.
“We are pleased to support HELP and researchers across Canada as they work together to ensure the optimal development of children,” says Angie Killoran, executive director of The Lawson Foundation.
The new research network will expand a 2006 alliance created between HELP and the Centre of Excellence for Early Child Development, the Offord Centre for Child Studies, Healthy Child Manitoba and the Strategic Knowledge Cluster on Early Child Development. Led by HELP, the new research network will bring together child development experts from these organizations and universities across Canada.
HELP’s research focuses on why some children develop into healthy adults who thrive economically and socially, while others fall behind. It highlights the role that environment plays in brain development and the lifelong health, social and economic effects.
For more information about the network and the pan-Canadian monitoring system, visit: www.childdevelopmentmonitoring.net
For more information about HELP, visit: www.earlylearning.ubc.ca
To support the work of HELP, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org