Professor Clyde Hertzman ’€“ Early Child Development: A Powerful Equalizer

ABSTRACT: Professor Clyde Hertzman is a social epidemiologist with a distinguished scientific career, who has devoted the last 15 years to both study and action on arguably the most important determinant of lifelong health and function: early life.  He has published many papers demonstrating the close links between early life experiences, especially the social environment around and within the family, and the achievement of full human potential across socio-economic groups in modern society. Furthermore, he has consistently expounded the view that early life is, of all the determinants of health, by far the most amenable to policies and programs to reduce socio-economic inequalities in health, in any reasonable timeframe. Proven pre-primary child development programs can ’€œlevel the playing field of life’€ for a birth cohort within just a few years of initiation.

Over the last several years, Prof. Hertzman has established and directed the Human Early Learning Partnership at UBC in Vancouver, an applied research and knowledge transfer/exchange unit, funded from public sources.  It is dedicated to the population-level measurement, and prompt community feedback, of novel indicators of child developmental health ’€“ especially the Early Development Instrument (EDI), a twenty-minute fully validated questionnaire that assesses ’€œreadiness to learn,’€ which is now completed by kindergarten teachers in every British Columbia school every few years.  [This instrument has been clearly demonstrated to predict primary school achievement, and in turn ’€œlife success,’€ which correlates highly to lifelong health and function ’€“ it is therefore a sensitive indicator of social inequalities in health at the community level.]

The EDI results from all British Columbia’€™s far-flung communities are extensively analysed by HELP, using in particular data depiction methods accessible to lay persons. These data are then fed back promptly to local communities, including school boards, parents and teachers.  Part of the analysis allows these  takeholders to judge how their local children entering school that year are doing in developmental terms, compared to both previous birth cohorts in that setting, and same-aged cohorts of children in socio-economically matched settings across the province. Similar programs of population-wide measurement utilizing the EDI are in place in parts of Australia, and are being piloted in several other countries.

A key benefit to participating communities is the complete separation of these measurements from the contentious issue of school performance per se. Because these measures are taken when indergartners (typically five years of age in Canada) are only a few months into their first formal school experience, the results cannot be used to ’€œblame the schools for below-average performance.’€  Rather, the results are invaluable as resources, to local schools and communities, in advocating for additional resources to both improve future birth cohorts’€™ readiness to learn at school entry, via pre-primary child development programs of established effectiveness, and remedial instruction for those already in school.  The HELP program thus works to the advantage of the disadvantaged, at a local level, while also providing sensitive ’€“ and potentially promptly reversible ’€“ measures of human developmental health, at any level of aggregation in an entire population, that is relevant to program and policy decision-making.


Clyde Hertzman – Early Child Development: A Powerful Equalizer


Adolescent Health and Risk Behaviours Symposium: Policy, Research and Practice

On Wednesday 29th February 2012 SCPHRP and Health Scotland co-hosted an Adolescent Health and Risk Behaviours Symposium. The Symposium focused on policy, research and practice relating to adolescent health and featured presentations from a variety of speakers, as well as panel discussions and opportunities for Q&A.


Welcome and Opening Introduction: John Frank and Grant Costello

Adolescent Health and Wellbeing – Time to do things differently? Dr. Harry Burns

Trends in adolescent risk behaviour and relationships between risk behaviours – Helen Sweeting

Intervention programmes to prevent multiple risk behaviour – Ruth Jepson

City of Edinburgh Council – Multiple risk behaviour approach

Dumfries and Galloway ’€“ Life stages

Tayside – Taking an asset based approach to reducing teenage pregnancy

Themes from Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children – Candace Currie

Comments from discussion panel and open discussions


Helen Sweeting: Trends in adolescent risk behaviours and relationships between risk behaviours: comparison of two West of Scotland cohorts

Ruth Jepson: Review of interventions/approaches to address multiple risk behaviours in adolescents

John Nicholls: An emerging policy to address young people’€™s Risk Taking Behaviours

Jo Kopela & Michele Mccoy: Approaches to Addressing Adolescent Health Needs in Dumfries & Galloway

Felicity Snowsill & Ann Eriksen: Teenage Pregnancy: Everybody’€™s business!

Candace Currie & Kate Levin: Risk, wellbeing and assets for health: findings from Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children: WHO Collaborative Cross-National Study


Program: Adolescent Health and Risk Behaviours Symposium

List of Attendees