Stephen J. Lye, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Alliance for Human Development
An overwhelming body of research indicates that the first 2,000 days are critical to our long-term well-being. The evidence shows us that a child’s early social environment “gets under the skin,” literally shaping the architecture of the brain and other developing biological systems. The influences of early childhood reach far into adulthood and into future generations. Despite these insights, a great many children experience a start in life that is far from optimal. The widespread effects of such beginnings may manifest later as behavioural problems, learning disabilities, health issues, lifelong relationship struggles, addiction and criminality. Beyond the individual scale of suffering, the results could be felt more broadly through sharply-elevated health costs due to chronic physical and mental illness, lost productivity due to unemployment or under-employment, unstable households, policing and legal costs, and other stresses to the social fabric.
In the face of these distressing trends, however, tremendous optimism is found in our growing understanding of how human beings develop. Early childhood is a period of rapid development for the brain and other biological systems. Early life experiences affect how genes are expressed and how brain connections are built. What we don’t fully grasp yet is how this interplay occurs and how we can intervene to promote the best possible outcomes. When we gain this understanding, we will be much better equipped to help each and every child reach his or her full potential.
In this endeavour, the Institute will go beyond conventional single disciplinary approaches to encompass renowned trans-disciplinary expertise, state-of-the-art infrastructure, and one of the world’s most ambitious maternal-infant and paediatric studies. I am honoured to lead the Alliance for Human Development in this important work. Its trans-disciplinary approach and dynamic translation of ground-breaking early childhood science into direct work with children make the Institute unique in the world. We are confident that the resulting innovative science, training, and knowledge mobilization will be important steps toward realizing the next great leap in human development.
Supported by the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, the Alliance for Human Development provides the institutional umbrella to support research that applies a transdisciplinary focus to improve the health and well-being of children across the life-course. Its mission is to generate new knowledge on the science behind human development, to develop effective interventions to improve maternal and child well-being, and to shape the national and global policy agenda in human development.
The Alliance will harness the remarkable value accruing from its research partnerships in Canada, India, Bangladesh, South Africa and Kenya to establish a network of researchers focused on optimizing the health and well-being of children globally.