National study sounds the alarm about the state of Canada’s children
As kids head back to school, a new report released Sept. 4 sounds the alarm about the state of Canada’s children. The study highlights deeply worrisome statistics that require immediate action, including staggeringly high rates of mental health issues, poverty, obesity and mortality.
Entitled ‘Raising Canada’ the report has been released by Children First Canada and the O’Brien Institute for Public Health, along with ‘A Call to Action’ signed by Canada’s leading heads of children’s charities and hospitals, research institutes, and corporations that invest in children’s issues. The report is based on data from Statistics Canada, the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), the Canadian Institute of Child Health (CICH), Health Canada, and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). More information is available at ChildrenFirstCanada.com, but some of the highlights include:
· MORTALITY o The leading causes for childhood deaths in Canada are preventable accidents and injuries and suicide;
o Canada’s rate of infant mortality is among the highest of OECD countries. Alberta has a fairly low infant mortality rate, ranking fourth out of all the provinces with 4.4 deaths per 1,000). Nunavut has the highest rate, with 17.7 – more than double any other province).
· MENTAL HEALTH
o Over the last 10 years there has been a 66 per cent increase in emergency department visits, and a 55 per cent increase in hospitalizations, of children and youth (age 5-24 years) due to mental health concerns; 4,611 children were hospitalized in Alberta for mental health concerns in 2016 to 2017, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information.
o Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Canadian children and youth, and Canada is ranked in the top five countries for the highest child suicide rates globally.
· PHYSICAL HEALTH
o 27.9 per cent of children age 12-17 reported being overweight or obese; Alberta is the third healthiest province, with 26 per cent of children classified as overweight or obese, according to Statistics Canada. (No data provided from the territories)
o 25 per cent of children have not received the full 4 recommended doses of diphtheria, whooping cough, and tetanus vaccine by age 2;
o 35 per cent of 5-17 year olds meeting the daily recommended guidelines for physical activity.
o 1.2 million children live in lowincome housing; Alberta has the least number of children in low income households, (12.8 per cent) according to the 2016 Census (Census did not include data from territories).
o 10.7 per cent of families with children under 6 years of age say they experience food insecurity.
· CHILD ABUSE
o One in three Canadians reports having suffered some form of child abuse before the age of 16;
o 26 per cent experienced physical abuse, 10 per cent experienced sexual abuse, and eight per cent had exposure to intimate partner violence.
o In 2013-14, 17,500 hospitalizations of children and youth were for injuries, 3,000 of which were intentional/caused by others.
“Many Canadians think this is one of the best countries in the world to raise a child, but the statistics prove otherwise,” says said Sara Austin, founder and Lead Director of Children First Canada. She notes that Canada consistently ranks far behind most other affluent nations for the wellbeing of children, falling in 25th place according to UNICEF. Among the report’s recommendations: · The establishment of a national Commission for Children and Youth: an independent government office to promote the best interests of children and hold government accountable.
· The implementation of a children’s budget to track national investment in children, ensure the equitable distribution of resources, while ensuring funds are allocated towards evidencebased solutions for children.
· The full implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Canadian Children’s Charter.
The Canadian Children’s Charter is a document drafted by Children First Canada with input from thousands of children and youth from across the country.
The document lays a roadmap for Canada to become a world-leading country for kids, calling for urgent action to respect, protect and fulfill the rights of every child in Canada.