Orphée Tamba is a Ph.D. student at UBC’s School of Population and Public Health and the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP). Tamba’s current contributions to the analysis and knowledge translation of the various HELP tools within the Child Development Monitoring System include a special interest in exploring the social determinants of health and other factors associated with the developmental trajectories of children in sub-Saharan Africa and those of children in Canada.
Tamba believes that understanding the social determinants of health and how they shape developmental trajectories is crucial to achieving health equity, stating “I am particularly passionate about studying the impact of these factors in early childhood, as it is a critical period in a person’s life that can set the stage for future health and well-being.”
When asked about what initially inspired him to pursue this area of research, Tamba cites his late father, who was a neonatologist and pediatrician. “Seeing how his former patients, including newborns and premature babies, returned with their parents to thank him years later left an indelible impression on me,” says Tamba. He adds that “growing up in a community with friends from various socioeconomic backgrounds who did not have a desirable life trajectory also fueled my interest in researching the impact of social determinants on developmental outcomes.”
As an international student, Tamba has encountered barriers in both his work and studies. In addition to language and cultural barriers making engagement with local community and resources a challenge, both the physical distance and time differences from their families can have a significant impact on a student’s performance and mental health. Tamba says that he hopes to “see more support for international students in terms of funding, opportunities for networking, and resources, as well as a greater emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion within the research community.
When it comes to working with HELP, Tamba states says that “the interdisciplinary nature of HELP allows me to collaborate with experts from various fields, such as education, sociology, psychology, and public health — this enriches my research and enables me to understand child development on a better level.”
Major players outside of UBC and HELP have been taking notice of Tamba’s research — this past fall he was accepted into the Health Systems Impact (HSI) Fellowship program with BC’s Ministry of Health, which provides highly qualified doctoral trainees and post-doctoral fellows in health services and policy research a unique opportunity to apply their research and analytic talents to health care’s critical challenges. Through this fellowship, he aims to help inform the BC Ministry of Health policies on early childhood development by carrying out data linkages — including data collected by HELP via the Early Development Instrument (EDI), as well as perinatal and MSP data — in an effort to combat vulnerability rates for kindergarten children in BC.
Most recently, Tamba was selected among a small number of his peers in the HSI Fellowship program to present to Canada’s Minister of Health, Jean-Yves Duclos, to discuss the program and how their research will help advance many health system priorities in Canada.
“In the next ten years, I hope to see a significant reduction in the percentage of vulnerable children in Canada.” says Tamba. “I also want to see those children in need of additional support or care reach their full developmental potential.”