The Human Early Learning Partnership
The Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) is a collaborative, interdisciplinary research network, based at the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia. HELP’s unique partnership brings together many scientific viewpoints to address complex early child development (ECD) issues. HELP connects researchers and practitioners from communities and institutions across B.C., Canada, and internationally.
HELP’s interdisciplinary approach reaches from ‘cell to society’. We study everything from how early experience affects the development of the brain, to children’s development over time, to family policy. HELP builds on a range of population health approaches, including social determinants of health. HELP takes a life course approach, accepting the early years as the first and most critical in determining life-long health and wellbeing.
HELP’s research follows three core thrusts.
- Neurogenomics and Epigenetics informs our understanding of the biology of development, and explores the processes and structures that influence a child’s development over time.
- Developmental Trajectories builds a rich database of child development information that helps better understand children’s development over time and informs policy and practice.
- Policy and Program Monitoring develops evidence-based program and policy recommendations that are consistent with our understanding of the science of early development and that address high levels of child vulnerability.
These research areas are led by faculty based at HELP who are working with a network of researchers from B.C., Canada and around the world whose work informs and builds on our comprehensive approach. Faculty are an essential component of HELP’s interdisciplinary work.
Creating, promoting and applying new knowledge to help children and families thrive.
- Promote equity in children’s developmental and educational outcomes, and ultimately in their lifelong health and well-being;
- Communicate the importance of quality environments for all children: those that support families and provide for healthy child development;
- Contribute to social change that improves the health and well-being of children and families.
Why is this research important?
HELP’s early child development research explores how different early environments and experiences contribute to social inequalities in children’s development by school age and to their life chances later on.
Foundational to this is an understanding of all of the environmental influences that affect children's development: from those closest to them - particularly family - to more distant influences such as provincial and national policy. To assist us in this understanding, HELP developed a TEAM-ECD framework that depicts the interacting and interdependent spheres of influence in a child's life.
This research is compelling. Early experiences shape our development as humans. Positive and negative experiences become ‘embedded’ in the biology of our brains and bodies, persisting far into adult life and influencing our health and well-being. Genes and environments interact to determine how early experiences affect our development. Healthy, thriving children are essential to a prosperous and sustainable society. There are profound social and economic benefits associated with an enhanced investment in the early years. Later health and education programs would be more effective and less costly if we could strengthen the foundations of social development, health, and learning in early childhood.
HELP’s research demonstrates the need for new ways of thinking and acting at every level. Working in partnership with communities, businesses, and government, HELP ensures that its research is relevant and useful, supporting individuals, communities, and governments to make wise and informed decisions toward social change. It is imperative that we ensure optimal environments for all children, working with parents and caregivers, program and service delivery, staff, communities, bureaucrats, and political leaders to do so.
HELP is recognized as a leading research institute in Canada in early child development. The impact of our research has rippled out from our home at the University of British Columbia . Community Early Years Round Tables throughout B.C. extensively use HELP data to plan and implement programs. In addition, HELP data is included in B.C. government strategic planning and performance measurement documents. As a result, well over 500 community initiatives have been implemented in part because of EDI data. The business community in British Columbia is starting to take note of the importance of the early years. The B.C. Business Council commissioned a report, entitled 15 by 15: A Comprehensive Policy Framework for Early Human Capital Investment in B.C., on the impact of reducing childhood vulnerability on B.C.'s economy.