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 and practice to align with our growing understanding of the critical importance of outdoor play.  

The past 18 months have brought increasingly scary news – a worldwide pandemic, an overdue reckoning with the effects of racism and colonialism, cataclysmic climate-related events, terrorism and war. I care deeply about these issues both as an academic who has dedicated my career to improving families’ lives and as a parent who wants my own children, their children and their children’s children to inherit a world of possibility and promise. 

I believe HELP’s research and data will become ever more valuable as we grapple with some of the most challenging problems that we have ever faced as a society. I am honoured and humbled to be stepping into this important role at such a critical time, to have an opportunity to work with HELP’s dedicated and talented group of people and to be joining all of you, the HELP community in making a real difference in the lives of children, youth and their families. Thank you for the kind and generous welcome I have received. It is incredibly fulfilling to be among you doing such important work for our children and their future.

Mariana Brussoni

Dr. Brussoni’s appointment follows the interim leadership of Dr. Martin Guhn, who completed his term on June 30, 2021 and who will remain as a key member of the HELP faculty. We want to sincerely thank Dr. Guhn for his valued contributions and stepping into the role to lead HELP successfully through a year of transition.