Conceptual Framework for Child Flourishing in Canada

Childhood is an important developmental period that can make a lasting impact on a person’s health and well-being throughout their life. Children are particularly susceptible to external influences on their development, known as the social determinants of health (SDOH), and can differ significantly between and within populations. This variability can affect children from vulnerable populations more than their advantaged peers, leading to inequitable health and well-being throughout childhood and lasting into adulthood. 

The Leong Centre’s mission to “promote the flourishing of every child and family” is a broad goal that needs to be qualified in order to identify opportunities and implement interventions for sustainable impact. We have developed a conceptual framework to guide the work supported by the Leong Centre, centered around the culturally, socio-politically relevant context that represents the experience of Canadian children. By thinking about child health research questions in terms of our conceptual framework, we hope to work together to improve the health and well-being of all Canadian children and their families.

Framework Development & Adaptation

The Leong Centre’s Conceptual Framework for Child Flourishing in Canada was adapted from two key documents: UNICEF Innocenti Report Card (2020) and a WHO-UNICEF-Lancet Commission (2020). These documents focus on the well-being of children in terms of factors in their environment that can support surviving & thriving, and examine how such interactions influence their development. Our Framework is grounded in an equity approach to SDOH, which is essential to ensuring that efforts to promote children’s present and future flourishing is for all children. The framework was further adapted to be applicable in the Canadian context; a high-income country with health indicators that can differ from low-and-middle income countries. Only those indices from the Commission’s 'Child Flourishing Index' that focused on a child’s best chance for survival and well-being in Canada were included. Further, our Framework broadens maternal factors to include fathers as well, and have therefore renamed these indicators "parental" to include all caregivers.

Navigating the Framework

With the child and their outcomes at the heart of this model, individual outcomes are influenced by social determinants which refer to the conditions in which individuals are born, grow, work, live, and age which are shaped by forces and systems including economic policies and systems, development agendas, social norms, social policies and political systems. Social determinants can be viewed through overlapping spheres or perspectives, referred to as the world at large, the world around the child, the world of the child.

Leong Centre Conceptual Framework


1. UNICEF Innocenti, ‘Worlds of Influence: Understanding what shapes child well-being in rich countries’, Innocenti Report Card 16, UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti, Florence, 2020. Available online from:

2. Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development: Experiments by nature and design. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

3. Clark H, Coll-Seck AM, Banerjee A  et al. A future for the world's children? A WHO-UNICEF-Lancet Commission. Lancet. 2020; 395: 605-658. Available online from: