Gilles Julien

Related TopicsChildren & Youth, Child care, Health & Fitness, Nutrition, Health care


This profile was prepared when Gilles Julien was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2006.
The New Idea
Dr. Julien has created a new field of “social pediatrics” in Quebec with the goal of forever transforming the way the health care industry approaches childhood illness and youth development. Social pediatricians aim to understand and address the environmental, socioeconomic and family conditions that contribute to childhood illness and work closely within communities to tackle problems like malnutrition, school dropout, and behavioral problems at their roots. Rather than treat illness once they’re well-formed, Dr. Julien focuses on the complex factors that contribute to illness and developmental problems. For Dr. Julien, the responsibility of the physician should lie well beyond the walls of the clinic.
The field of social pediatrics puts particular emphasis on physical proximity with children in their day-to-day environments. Rather than limit contact with doctors to sterile hospital rooms and clinics, social pediatricians work closely with parents in the children’s homes to create physical, psychological, and emotional bonds that are critical to a healthy development. This new field is also characterized by its inclusiveness—bringing together school teachers, social workers, policemen, volunteers, and others as key actors in this more comprehensive health care. 
The goal of a social pediatrician is to develop a local system of integrated services that address both, prevention as well as treatment or rehabilitation. Key components of their work are: Active screening to efficiently identify children who are at higher risk; early intervention to manage difficulties before they get worse; intensive support during difficult life transitions for the children and their families to prevent neglect, abuse, or school dropout.
Dr. Julien believes the most innovative part of his idea is that it ensures community mobilization around a “child-related” project: First to support the child’s harmonious development, then to renew the valuable and fundamental role of the family, and finally, to assert a new role for the community to support children and their families.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person


Armed with nothing more than a stethoscope, otoscope and measuring tape, Dr Gilles Julien once spent day after day on his bicycle, riding around one of Montreal's poorest and most densely populated neighbourhoods. There, in Hochelaga's streets, residents would call out to the officeless pediatrician, needing his help. More than a decade later, his dream of a holistic, alternative approach to child health realized, the man called Canada's father of social pediatrics is the director of two social pediatrics centres, one in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and one in Côte-des-Neiges. With the Fondation du Dr Julien, he supports the development of community social pediatrics centres all over the province of Quebec, of which there are now 17. In 2015, he also collaborated with Université de Montréal and McGill University for the creation of two research chairs in community social pediatrics.

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