The Offord Centre (originally the Canadian Centre for the Study of Children at Risk) was established by Dr. Dan Offord in 1992.
The Offord Centre’s primary focus is to better understand the causes and consequences of children’s mental health problems from a population health perspective. Combining expertise in child psychiatry, psychology, social work, nursing, epidemiology, pediatrics and policy development, the Offord Centre encourages innovation and cross-disciplinary collaboration.
Working in close affiliation with two world-class medical communities, McMaster Children’s Hospital and the Faculty of Health Sciences at McMaster University creates an even greater diversity of skills. The affiliation provides access to a multitude of other related disciplines (health economics, genetics, neuro-development research and more), as well as an ongoing connection to the practical realities of children’s mental health issues through the many programs and clinics of the Hospital’s Child and Youth Mental Health Program.
The team also enjoys the strong support and involvement of groups and institutions including school boards, parent organizations, Children’s Aid Societies and children’s mental health centres.
Research conducted at the Offord Centre has had an important impact in Ontario, in Canada, and internationally. It is commonly stated that one in five children in Canada have a mental health challenge. That statement comes from the Offord Centre’s 1983 landmark study, The Ontario Child Health Study, one of the most important population-based studies on children’s mental health conducted anywhere in the last 30 years.
From that study, it was also determined that one in ten children has a severe disability, medical or otherwise, that limits his or her development; one in twenty has multiple challenges interfering with successful transition at school entry; between 50% and 80% of all adult mental health problems begin in childhood. These findings have had an enormous impact on public policy in Canada.
In 2013, the Offord Centre received funding to repeat the Ontario Child Health Study (OCHS). The 2014 OCHS will be done in collaboration with Statistics Canada and will include more than 13,500 Ontario Children, ages 4-17.
The Centre also had a major impact on other areas of research, including family violence and work in autism which has facilitated the implementation of early intervention and the use of clinical micro-arrays as a first line genetic test.
“We are unique in Canada and the world in the breadth of children’s problems that we tackle and in the way we translate this knowledge into practical information that parents, front-line workers and others in the community can use on a day-to-day basis.” – Dr. Peter Szatmari, Past Director
Dr. Szatmari, one of the earliest members of the Offord Centre, served one year as Acting Director following the death of founding director Dan Offord in April 2004. He then served as full time Director from 2005-2013.
In April 2014, Dr. Michael Boyle was named the new Director for the Offord Centre. In collaboration with Dr. Dan Offord, Dr. Boyle was responsible for the OCHS in 1983 and its follow-ups in 1987, 2001, and now 2014. He is considered one of the country’s leading experts on the determinants of child health.
In July 2016 Dr. Boyle stepped down as Director, and we are now being led by Dr. Ellen Lipman, the Head of Department of Psychiatry’s Academic Division of Child Psychiatry and is Chief of Hamilton Health Science’s Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. A welcome message from Dr. Lipman can be found here.