HELP’s Monitoring System in Action

The 2020-21 school year will be one to remember. School communities across the province are facing many challenges as children and educators return to school amidst the fourth wave of the pandemic, and following a summer of displacement, loss and increased anxiety due to heat and wildfires.

Despite these challenges, our school district and community partners continue to support and promote the collection of critical population-level data that help us to understand and address the experiences and challenges faced by children and families. Here’s what we’ve learned so far from HELP’s monitoring system.

Children’s mental health is still top of mind. 
The disruption of regular routines and support systems over the past 18 months due to public health restrictions have impacted children of all ages. Data gathered using the Middle Years Development Instrument (MDI) from over 43,000 children in Grades 4 through 8 before and during the COVID-19 pandemic are providing initial insights into this issue. Early analyses of the most recent MDI data from 2020-2021 indicates that fewer children in grades 7 and 8 reported high well-being during the pandemic as compared to previous years, and also reported less presence of key assets, including ...

read more

A Note from HELP's New Director, Dr. Mariana Brussoni

Dear HELP Community,

It is my pleasure to be writing to you as the new director of HELP, following in the footsteps of truly inspiring and visionary leaders. I have been in this role only a few weeks yet it already feels like I have been welcomed home, into a place of innovation that values partnerships and moving research to action as much as I do.  

For the past 20 years, my research has focused on children’s development, exploring their needs through interdisciplinary work that places children’s voices at the centre of these efforts. Most recently, I’ve studied children’s risk taking in the context of outdoor play and injury prevention. I’ve been grappling with questions like: What effect does outdoor risky play have on children’s development, health and wellbeing? How do we ensure that outdoor play is a daily priority in all children’s lives? How do we provide children with ready access to stimulating and safe outdoor play spaces? How do we get the adults in their lives to support their play rather than place unnecessary limits on them? Through my research, I have sought to build the evidence base while shifting policy ...

read more

Generation Squeeze’s 2021 Voter Guide and Score Card

Generation Squeeze’s 2021 Voter Guide and Score Card on Family Affordability is now available. Learn how party platforms stack up on issues like child care, parental leave and work-life balance. Additional Voter Guides include Housing Affordability, Climate Change, and Wellbeing Budgets.

See them all at

Announcing the recipients of the ’Society to Cell’ Clyde Hertzman Memorial Fellowship

It is our pleasure to announce the recipients of the ’Society to Cell’ Clyde Hertzman Memorial Fellowship! This fellowship is funded by the Social Exposome Cluster and the Human Early Learning Partnership to financially support UBC trainees who are conducting research projects that are directly and/or indirectly related to child health and well-being.  All applications for this fellowship underwent a rigorous, anonymous review process. We wish to thank the reviewers for lending their time and expertise to make this award possible.

This fellowship is in honour of the late Dr. Clyde Hertzman, the Founding Director of the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP), who passed away suddenly in 2013. Dr. Hertzman was a world-leading researcher in early childhood development and health, a champion for social justice, and a tireless advocate for all children. He was the Canada Research Chair in Population Health and Human Development and Professor in the School of Population and Public Health at UBC. Dr. Hertzman played a central role in creating a framework that links population health to human development, which has catalyzed research investigating the importance of early child development as a determinant of health. His research contributed to international, national, provincial, and community initiatives ...

read more

Child Care Round Up

In anticipation of the Federal Election, taking place Monday, September 20th, HELP has been sharing links trelated to child care. In case you have missed some, here is a round-up of what’s been shared:

Child care: A key election issue

Unpacking Party Platforms on Child Care

Generation Squeeze’s 2021 Voter Guide and Score Card on Family Affordability (including child care, parental leave and work-life balance). View the other Voter Guides on important topics in this election including: Housing Affordability, Climate Change, and Wellbeing Budgets

David MacDonald, senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, provides detailed analysis of the impact on families based on the child care platforms of each political party. Families would save more with $10-a-day child care fees than with tax credits.

In this Generation Squeeze blog, Dr. Gordon Cleveland, emeritus professor of economics at the University of Toronto, member of the Expert Panel on Early Learning and Child Care Data, clearly outlines the core debate around child care in this election – Tax Credits vs. Direct Funding: What’s Best for Child Care?

Dr. Gordon Cleveland answers the question What’s Wrong with For-Profit Child Care? in this online Child Care Policy resource.

Gordon ...

read more

In Memoriam: Dr. Jessie Carol Nyberg

It is with much sadness that we share news that Elder Jessie Nyberg has passed away.

Dr. Jessie Carol Nyberg was a proud member of the Canoe Creek Band of the Secwepmc (Shuswap) Nation. As a founding member of the Aboriginal Steering Committee (ASC) for over fifteen years, she was an integral member of HELP from the beginning. Elder Jessie had a strong and honored voice. She spoke often of our collective responsibility to cherish, respect, and listen to children as gifts from the Creator. Her commitment to ensure our work was inclusive and safe for all children, families, and communities was sometimes daunting, but always awe-inspiring.

As a long-time nurse, she brought her knowledge of the health care system to her research and her work at HELP, along with her experiences of racism within this system. She had a passion for cultural safety, which became a focus during her expansive career in research and continues to be embedded in HELP’s research tools, implementation, and knowledge translation. 

Elder Jessie started our days in a good way. Before our shared meals, she would ensure her prayers included a thank you to all the people who are often missed by our ...

read more

Child Care Platforms: Direct Funding vs. Refundable Tax Credits

Of all of the “top of mind” issues in the 2021 federal election campaign, the issue with the starkest contrast between the parties is early learning and child care. More specifically, the Conservative’s plan differs from the other parties’ plans, in proposing that the direct funding approach laid out in the spring 2021 budget by the Liberal government be scrapped, and replaced with a funding model of refundable tax credits to parents who pay for child care to support their employment.

What is the Direct Funding Approach?

The federal government would provide funding to provinces to be used to directly fund the services provided by licensed facilities, both centres and family child care homes. Between 2021 and 2026, the federal government has budgeted $30 billion, increasing each year and reaching $9.2 billion at the end of five years, to be continued at that level permanently.

To receive this funding, each province and territory negotiates bilateral agreements (eight completed and signed so far) that address each jurisdiction’s particular needs, but are also legally binding around certain fundamental principles for building a publicly funded and managed early learning and child care system in Canada. These principles include affordability, accessibility ...

read more

Child Care: A Key Election Issue for Families in B.C.

With a federal election called for September 20, 2021, a Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care system is a critical election issue. This week’s HELP Child Care blog post outlines some key data – from parents and caregivers themselves – highlighting why.

As outlined in previous blog posts from HELP, last April, the federal government announced historic investments in a national early learning and child care system. As of August 2021, eight provinces/territories, including B.C., have signed Bilateral Early Learning and Child Care Agreements with the federal government toward this end. Each of the bilateral agreements signed to date adhere to the principles outlined in the federal Multilateral Early Learning and Child Care Framework which includes a commitment to high-quality, accessible, affordable, flexible, and inclusive early learning and care for all.

It is clear the need for high quality and accessible child care is high. Recent HELP data collected from parents and caregivers of children aged from 12 months to school entry through the Toddler Development Instrument (TDI) and Childhood Experiences Questionnaire (CHEQ), suggest that for the vast majority of parents and caregivers who would like to use child care, there are significant challenges.

Of the 1,166 B ...

read more

B.C. is First Province/Territory to Sign a New Bilateral ELCC Agreement with Federal Government

In the first installment in HELP’s Child Care Blog series last April, Dr. Barry Forer, HELP Research Associate and member of the Federal Expert Panel on Early Learning and Child Care Data and Research, provided an overview of the Government of Canada announcement of their plans for, and investment in, a Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care System (

In this second installment, Dr. Forer outlines the details of the new Bilateral Early Learning and Child Care Agreement that was signed earlier this summer between the Province of British Columbia and the Federal Government.

B.C. is First Province/Territory to Sign a New Bilateral Early Learning and Child Care Agreement with the Federal Government.

Background: Federal Budget Spring 2021

The Government of Canada is making a permanent commitment to Early Learning and Child Care (ELCC), investing $30 billion over the next five years, with $9.2 billion per year after that. The cost of child care to parents will be reduced by 50% by the end of 2022, and down to an average of $10 per day in five years’ time. The plan includes growing both the number of spaces ...

read more

UBC Faculty of Medicine Appoints Dr. Mariana Brussoni as HELP's new Director

The faculty and staff at the Human Early Learning Partnership, along with our colleagues from the UBC Faculty of Medicine and the School of Population and Public Health, are pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Mariana Brussoni as the Centre’s new Director effective August 1, 2021 until June 30, 2026.

Dr. Brussoni is an Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics and SPPH, a member of the BC Injury Research & Prevention Unit, and an Investigator at BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute. Research conducted by Dr. Brussoni combines injury prevention, risk and developmental psychology to develop evidence-based interventions for parents, educators, practitioners and policy-makers that support children’s outdoor risky play. Dr. Brussoni has published extensively and has been widely featured in international media. She was awarded the 2019 inaugural Outdoor Play Canada and the 2020 UBC Faculty of Medicine Excellence in Clinical and Applied Research Award.

Incoming Director, Dr. Mariana Brussoni

In her new role, Dr. Brussoni will provide leadership in translating research toward policy and systemic improvements for children and families, and contribute to supporting and nurturing the emergence of new and young academics with interests in interdisciplinary research on child development. Dr. Brussoni will also work with HELP’s Aboriginal ...

read more

In Memoriam: Dr. Jim Frankish

It is with great sadness that we share news of the death of our friend and colleague Jim Frankish, Professor Emeritus, on the evening of Sunday, July 4th.

Jim was a member of SPPH (and HCEP) for 28 years and an alumnus of UBC. Many will also remember his significant contributions as a Scientist and Director of the UBC Centre for Population Health Promotion Research. Following his retirement from UBC in 2019, Jim continued doing what enjoyed the most - supervising students and trainees working on research related to population health and health disparities.

Throughout his career, Jim focused on community-based public health and taught numerous undergraduate and graduate courses. His most recent work focused on gaining a better understanding of homelessness and the health and social conditions that accompany it. He was the recipient of local and national awards for his work in public health, including from the B.C. Health Research Foundation, the Public Health Association of B.C., the Canadian Public Health Association, and the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research.

As a fond remembrance of Jim and his work, we share with you here a link to his contributions to a video on the social determinants ...

read more

Majority of BC teachers report deteriorated mental health during pandemic

In between his woodwork and metalwork classes, it took Qualicum Beach high school teacher Rob Gibbs more than 40 minutes to clean every piece of equipment and surface his students touched. That’s several classes a day, multiplied by every school day this past year. On top of that, with only a half hour for lunch, the 34-year veteran teacher ended up spending his ‘break’ sanitizing. “It has been a difficult year with many uncertainties and changes creating challenges along the way. This amounted to a 50 per cent increase in workload over that of a typical year.”

For elementary school counsellor Sarah Bourdon, walking into a building of 500 people each day when everyone was being told to stay at home was extremely stressful. “I found it very difficult to balance the normal challenges of my job and home life as a parent of young children with the overwhelming fear that I, or a member of my family, would get sick. I know that this anxiety impacted my wellness.”

Gibbs and Bourdon are clearly not alone. According to a new study conducted by a team of researchers from the UBC Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP), the Centre for Health ...

read more

How are the kids?

The latest Middle Years Development Instrument (MDI) Data Highlights and Trends Report is now available. How are the kids? Children’s Perspectives on their Health, Well-Being and Assets both Before and During a Global Pandemic through the Middle Years Development Instrument (MDI) in British Columbia, Canada, provides information about key results emerging from BC school districts that participated in the MDI in 2020/2021. 

This year’s report spotlights MDI data collected earlier this year from over 38,000 children in grade 4 through 8 in British Columbia, with comparisons to MDI data collected in past years in order to shed light on children’s well-being over time both before and during the current pandemic.

MDI data represent one of the most comprehensive population-based datasets about children in the middle years and early adolescence over time in Canada, providing information from the perspectives of children on their social and emotional competence, mental and physical health, and well-being, as well the assets in their lives, including connectedness to adults and peers, nutrition and sleep, and use of time after school. The information shared in this report is invaluable to educators, parents, and service providers as they continue to work through challenging ...

read more

In Focus: The Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care System

It has been a busy month for anyone involved in child care research and advocacy in Canada. On April 21, as part of Budget 2021, the Federal government announced the establishment a Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care System. The announcement outlined a plan to reduce fees for parents with children in regulated child care and invest billions of dollars to support quality, not-for-profit child care, including the needs of early childhood educators.

To learn more about the Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care System and what it will mean for children and families across the country, HELP’s Communication Lead Amy Mullis sat down with Dr. Barry Forer, HELP Research Associate and member of the Federal Expert Panel on Early Learning and Child Care Data and Research, for a second, In Focus Interview.

Amy Mullis: What do we need to know about the National Child Care Plan announced in the budget?
Barry Forer: Some highlights: The federal government is making a permanent commitment to Early Learning and Child Care, investing $30 billion over the next five years, with $9.2 billion per year after that. The cost of child care to parents will be reduced by 50% by the ...

read more

CHEQ COVID Report: Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Families with Young Children in British Columbia

The Childhood Experiences Questionnaire (CHEQ) is a questionnaire completed by parents and caregivers at the start of the kindergarten school year. It is an innovative way to learn about and report on children’s experiences in their early environments, focusing on specific areas of development that are strongly linked to children’s health and well-being, education and social outcomes. 

But what happens when children experience a pandemic? 

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all aspects of children’s lives and presents a significant risk to their health and well-being. The scale and scope of the pandemic are unprecedented and will have long-lasting effects on the development of our children (Benner & Mistry, 2020). 

Although the infection rate for children is lower and the virus is generally milder (She et al., 2020), children are at significant risk due to disruption to their proximal contexts and daily lives (Benner & Mistry, 2020).  Risk factors include disruptions due to illness or death, financial instability, educational disruptions as a result of closures of child care facilities and schools, physical distancing restrictions, and the effects on social interactions and activities, among many others. 

The CHEQ Project provided a timely opportunity for researchers at HELP to gather information on ...

read more