An outpouring of research in the field of early childhood development has made it clear that the first years of life play an exceptionally important role in determining a person’s future prospects. With the launch of our Institute for Human Development (IHD) in 2015, AKU is working to make a significant contribution to this burgeoning field, recognising the potential of investments in the early years to deliver high impact at low cost in the developing world.
Most of what is known about child development comes from research focused on the 10 percent of the world’s population that lives in wealthy countries. Thus there is a vast need for studies aimed at discovering what works in child development in developing-world contexts, so that governments, non-governmental organisations, the private sector and civil society can make evidence-based investments.
The Institute is helping to fill this need, by bringing together researchers, practitioners and students from across the University and AKDN; by building on AKU’s renowned expertise in maternal and child health research; by creating space for work that crosses the boundaries of disciplines and fields; and by collaborating with partners around the world.
IHD aims to:
- generate new knowledge through basic and applied research;
- apply the knowledge gained through research to inform programmes, services, and practices within community settings;
- influence policy formulation and implementation in ways that reap the benefits of the systematic research produced at the Institute and elsewhere; and
- deliver educational programmes to prepare human development specialists and professionals.
Among the subjects researchers have explored are the early childhood education landscape in Tanzania, childcare for working parents in informal settlements in Kenya, child survival and neurodevelopment in rural Kenya and early literacy and school readiness in Pakistan. The Institute has also trained hundreds of professionals in the science of early child development.
IHD recently received a $6.5 million grant from the US National Institutes of Health to establish a cutting-edge data science hub that will use artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other emerging technologies to improve health and care delivery in local communities.