Growing Gains – Advancing Early Childhood Development

May 1, 2017 – By the time you finish reading this sentence, a newborn baby’s brain will form thousands of new neural connections. This newborn’s mind and those of the next generation are crucial to the future of our planet, shaping and building what comes next for the global community.

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With the right support in the early years of life, girls and boys can grow to reach their full developmental potential – learning, innovating, and accomplishing their goals. Studies indicate that every dollar invested in quality early childhood care generates a return of eight dollars over a lifetime. Yet, an estimated 250 million children younger than five in low and middle income countries are at risk of falling short of their potential. This not only has long-term effects on individuals, but also contributes to the cycle of poverty, inequality, and social exclusion that affects all countries.

On Monday, May 1, 2017 Aga Khan Foundation Canada and the Alliance for Human Development explored how tested approaches to early childhood development can be integrated into global development programming and policy. Growing gains – Advancing Early Childhood Development presented findings from the recent Lancet series on early childhood development, and illuminated how Canada contributes to advancing this field nationally and globally. We were joined by several authors of the Lancet series, other experts, and policymakers for a series of interactive sessions, engaging talks, and stimulating discussion.

Special guests:

    • The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development
    • Ted Chaiban, Director of Programmes, UNICEF


    • Dr. Stephen Lye, Executive Director, Alliance for Human Development; Senior Investigator, Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute
    • Dr. Zulfiqar A. Bhutta, Robert Harding Inaugural Chair in Global Child Health, Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids); Co-Director, SickKids Centre for Global Child Health; and Founding Director, Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health, Aga Khan University
    • Dr. Pia Britto, Chief and Senior Advisor, Early Childhood Development, UNICEF

And speakers:

    • Dr. Catherine Birken, Scientist, SickKids Research Institute
    • Dr. Shoo Lee, Scientific Director, Canadian Institutes for Health Research
    • Dr. Kofi Marfo, Executive Director, Institute for Human Development, Aga Khan University
    • Dr. Stephen McGurk, Vice President, Programs and Partnership Branch, International Development Research Centre
    • Dr. Karlee Silver, Vice President, Programs, Grand Challenges Canada

In partership:

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Financial Support:

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Ted ChaibanDirector of Programmes, UNICEF. Ted Chaiban was appointed as Director of Programmes for UNICEF in August 2014.  Prior to this assignment, he was Director of Emergency Programmes for UNICEF where he mobilized support for UNICEF’s response to large scale emergencies in Syria, the Central African Republic, the Philippines and South Sudan and designed and initiated a humanitarian reform process, known as the Strengthening Humanitarian Action initiative, to increase the timeliness, effectiveness and efficiency of UNICEF’s humanitarian action. Mr. Chaiban is a national of both the United States of America and Lebanon.  He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology and Political Science from Tufts University and a Master of Arts Degree in Development and Arab Studies from Georgetown University, USA.

Dr. Stephen Lye, Executive Director, Alliance for Human Development; Senior Investigator, Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute. Stephen Lye Ph.D., is a Senior Investigator at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute of Sinai Health System where he is the ScotiaBank Scientist in Child and Adolescent Development and the Women’s Auxiliary Chair in Women’s and Infants’ Health Research. Dr. Lye is Professor in the Departments of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Physiology and Medicine at the University of Toronto.  Dr. Lye leads the Alliance for Human Development, a transdisciplinary initiative that seeks to improve the health and well-being of all children, everywhere, by focusing on optimizing their development in early-life. His research has integrated discovery, clinical and translational studies including the commercialization of discoveries in partnership with industry. Dr. Lye has established international research consortia focused on identifying interactions between an individual’s genetic make-up and their environment during the first 2000 days of life that underlie obesity and cardio-metabolic disorders. He has published over 230 research papers on pregnancy and maternal-child health with a special focus on mechanisms underlying preterm birth and other pregnancy complications. Dr. Lye has received numerous awards and honors, including Fellowship of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, Fellowship of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (UK) and the President’s Scientific Achievement Award from the Society for Reproductive Investigation.

Dr. Zulfiqar A. Bhutta, Robert Harding Inaugural Chair in Global Child Health, Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids); Co-Director, SickKids Centre for Global Child Health; and Founding Director, Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health, Aga Khan University. Dr. Zulfiqar A. Bhutta is the Robert Harding Inaugural Chair in Global Child Health at the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), Toronto, Co-Director of the SickKids Centre for Global Child Health and the Founding Director of the Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health at the Aga Khan University, unique joint appointments. He also holds adjunct professorships at several leading Universities globally including the Schools of Public Health at Johns Hopkins (Baltimore), Tufts University (Boston), Boston University School of Public Health, University of Alberta as well as the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.  He is a designated Distinguished National Professor of the Government of Pakistan and was the Founding Chair of the National Research Ethics Committee of the Government of Pakistan from 2003-2014. Bhutta was a member of the Independent Expert Review Group (iERG) appointed by the UN Secretary General for monitoring global progress in maternal and child health MDGs (2011-2015). He represented the global academic and research organizations on the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (Gavi) Board and was the co-chair of the Global Countdown for 2015 Initiative from 2006-2016. Bhutta is the co-chair of the Maternal and Child Health oversight committee of the World Health Organization (WHO) Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMRO) and the chairman of the Coalition of Centers in Global Child Health with its secretariat based at SickKids.

Dr. Pia Britto, Chief and Senior Advisor, Early Childhood Development, UNICEF. Dr. Pia Britto joined UNICEF in 2014 as Chief of Early Childhood Development, bringing with her many years of expertise in early childhood policy and programmes. Prior to joining UNICEF she was an Assistant Professor at Yale University and is internationally renowned for her work on developing, implementing and evaluating early childhood programmes and policies around the world. This includes providing evidence for the role of governance and finance in national systems in achieving equity; developing models for quality early childhood services; promoting women’s economic empowerment, and the role of parents and caregivers. Dr. Britto has been the recipient of various awards and grants; has published articles, books and reports; and made numerous presentations at both academic and non-academic conferences and seminars. She obtained her doctoral degree in Developmental Psychology from Columbia University.

Dr. Catherine Birken, Scientist, SickKids Research Institute. Catherine Birken MD, MSc, is a general paediatrician in the division of Paediatric Medicine, Associate Professor, University of Toronto (U of T), and a Scientist, Child Health Evaluative Sciences, Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute.  Her clinical care activities include attending paediatrician in inpatient paediatrics, and paediatrician in the outpatient SickKids Obesity Management Program for children with complex obesity.  Her research is in prevention of childhood overweight and obesity in early childhood, and is co-leader of TARGet Kids! primary care practice based research network to advance child health research. Dr. Birken is funded by CIHR for the study of obesity and cardiometabolic risk and early childhoood development in school, 2 randomized controlled trials in obesity prevention and treatmnet with public health nurse led parenting and home visiting intervention, and a population evaluation of the Healthy Kids Community Challenge in Ontario.

Dr. Shoo Lee, Scientific Director, Canadian Institutes for Health Research. Dr. Shoo Lee is a neonatologist and health economist. He is Scientific Director of the Institute of Human Development, Child and Youth Health (IHDCYH) at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research; Professor of Paediatrics, Obstetrics & Gynaecology and Public Health; Paediatrician-in-Chief and Director of the Maternal-Infant Care (MICare) Research Centre at Mt. Sinai Hospital and Senior Clinician Scientist of the Lunenfeld-Tannenbaum Research Institute. Dr. Lee received his medical degree from the University of Singapore, completed his paediatric training at the Janeway Children's Hospital in Newfoundland and neonatal fellowship training at Boston’s Children’s Hospital, and received his PhD in Health Policy (Economics) from Harvard University. As the founder and Chairman of the Canadian Neonatal NetworkTM and the International Neonatal Collaboration, Dr Lee fosters collaborative research, and he leads the CIHR Team in Maternal-Infant Care. His research focuses on improving quality of care, patient outcomes and health care services delivery. He developed Family Integrated Care model and piloted the concept at Mount Sinai Hospital. Awards for his work include the CAPHC 2016 Contribution to Child Health Award, SPR Douglas K. Richardson Award for Perinatal & Pediatric Healthcare Research, CIHR Knowledge Translation Award, the Aventis Pasteur Research Award and the Distinguished Neonatologist Award from the Canadian Paediatric Society, the Premier Member of Honour Award from the Sociedad Iberoamericana de Neonatologia, Magnolia Award from the Shanghai government and Honorary President of the Xiamen Children’s Hospital from the Xiamen government.

Dr. Kofi Marfo, Executive Director, Institute for Human Development, Aga Khan University. Dr. Kofi Marfo is Professor and Foundation Director, Institute for Human Development, Aga Khan University (South-Central Asia, East Africa, and United Kingdom). He has previously held academic positions at the University of South Florida (USA), Kent State University (USA), Memorial University (Canada), the University of Alberta (Canada), and the University of Cape Coast (Ghana).A graduate of the University of Alberta (PhD, 1985), Professor Marfo’s current scholarly interests are in the areas of developmental science and childhood interventions, advancement of a global interdisciplinary science of human development, and paradigmatic issues in behavioral science and education research. He has published extensively in the areas of early child development, childhood disability, early intervention efficacy, parent-child interaction, and behavioral development in children adopted into North America from China. His scholarship has been cited across many disciplines in over 180 different journals worldwide. He is co-leader of an initiative to support child development research capacity-building in Africa and is a co-convener of the African Scholars in Child/Early Child Development Workshop series. Most recently, he has supported the successful establishment, in 2015, of the African Early Childhood Network and serves as Founding Chair of its Board of Trustees. Professor Marfo has been a Residential Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, a finalist for Distinguished University Professor (University of South Florida), a U.S. National Academy of Education Spencer Fellow, and an Irving B. Harris Mid-Career Leadership Fellow (Zero to Three Organization—USA). He served on the WHO Task Force on the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF), officially endorsed by the 54th World Health Assembly on May 22, 2001. He was a founding member of the Bio-behavioral and Behavioral Sciences Subcommittee of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD—USA). He has been a member of the Governing Council of the Society for Research in Child Development and currently serves on advisory boards for two private foundations with substantial investments in early childhood development.

Dr. Stephen McGurk, Vice President, Programs and Partnership Branch, International Development Research Centre. Stephen McGurk is an economist and sinologist who has spent more than three decades studying Asia’s rural development. He has extensive experience in research for development, as a research leader, research manager, researcher, and technical advisor. As IDRC’s Vice-President, Programs and Partnership Branch, McGurk oversees all of the Centre’s research programming. Prior to taking up this leadership, McGurk led the Centre’s Agriculture and Environment Program which is dedicated to supporting research to increase agricultural productivity and food and water security while also ensuring environmental sustainability. He previously served as Regional Director in IDRC’s South Asia and China Office in Delhi, between 2006 and 2012, and in IDRC’s Southeast and East Asia office in Singapore, between 2000 and 2006. Between 1992 and 2000, McGurk worked with the Ford Foundation in Beijing, where he was responsible for its economic security program in China. He taught environmental and resource economics at the University of California in 1990-1992 and worked with the World Bank on China’s rural development between 1986 and 1992. McGurk has a PhD (Development Economics) and MA (Nutrition) from Stanford University’s Food Research Institute and a BA (Chinese/Political Science) from the University of British Columbia.

Dr. Karlee Silver, Vice President, Programs, Grand Challenges Canada. Karlee Silver is Vice President Programs for Grand Challenges Canada. Dr. Silver is responsible for the strategy of the Stars in Global Health, Saving Lives at Birth, Saving Brains and Global Mental Health programs. She is a thought leader for the Every Woman Every Child Innovation Marketplace and helps manage the Fellows who contribute to the Innovation Marketplace activities. Dr. Silver has been with Grand Challenges Canada since it launched, and led the process of selecting the organization’s prioritized grand challenges. Prior to joining Grand Challenges Canada, Dr. Silver trained in the laboratory of Dr. Kevin Kain at the Sandra Rotman Centre in Toronto, first as a Canadian Institutes of Health Research postdoctoral fellow, then as a MITACS Elevate postdoctoral fellow, where she helped to identify host responses of malaria infection in pregnant women to harness for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. Dr. Silver received her doctorate from the University of Oxford, where she attended as a Rhodes Scholar and trained in genetics and immunology under the supervision of Professor Richard Cornall and Professor Sir John Bell. An accumulation of inspirations, including traveling through southern Africa after Oxford, led to a refocus towards global health. Witnessing both the strength of women to sustain their families and communities, and the vulnerability of these same women to the consequences of poverty inspired Dr. Silver to apply herself to health issues of women in developing countries.

Read 805 times Last modified on Tuesday, 09 May 2017 19:12

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