The Offord Centre came into being in 1992 through the efforts of the late Dr. David (Dan) Offord, a leading child psychiatrist, clinician and research scientist who in 1983 had initiated Canada’s first large-scale observational study of children within families, the Ontario Child Health Study (OCHS). That landmark study showed that one in five children experienced some form of mental health concern.
Dr. Offord brought together researchers and clinicians from multiple disciplines at McMaster University in 1992 to form an institute that would conduct population studies into a broad range of childhood disorders affecting health and mental development, communication and behaviour. Initially the Canadian Centre for Studies of Children at Risk, the Centre was renamed in 2002 and became The Offord Centre for Child Studies.
In 1983, 1987, and 2000, the Ontario Child Health Study surveyed thousands of the same children to determine their health concerns, how those concerns related to family, community and schooling issues and whether they experienced reduced opportunities or success in subsequent years. The results drew attention to a hidden health burden related to childhood anxiety, depression, aggression and other psychological and behavioural problems. It also showed a varying availability of opportunities and services to help children and a lack of knowledge about the nature of childhood mental health, healthy development and factors affecting illness and recovery.
The OCHS was a ground-breaking research project, and its legacy still resonates through the Offord Centre today.