N.L. leads coun­try in over­weight chil­dren

Na­tional study sounds alarm about the health of Canada’s kids, calls for ac­tion

The Aurora (Labrador City) - - Editorial - BY GLEN WHIFFEN

A na­tional study on the health of Canada’s chil­dren re­vealed that New­found­land and Labrador tops all the prov­inces in the num­ber of over­weight or obese chil­dren ages 12 to 17.

The re­port found that 36.4 per cent of this prov­ince’s chil­dren in that age bracket were clas­si­fied as over­weight or obese com­pared to the na­tional av­er­age of 27.9 per cent, based on Statis­tics Canada in­for­ma­tion. No in­for­ma­tion was avail­able for the ter­ri­to­ries.

The study, called “Rais­ing Canada,” was re­leased Tues­day by Chil­dren First Canada and the O’brien In­sti­tute for Pub­lic Health.

“In 2018, Par­tic­i­paction re­leased their re­port card on phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity for chil­dren and youth. A greater per­cent­age of younger chil­dren than older chil­dren meet the phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity rec­om­men­da­tion of the Cana­dian 24-Hour Move­ment Guide­lines for Chil­dren and Youth, with 62 per cent of three- to four-year-olds and 35 per cent of five- to 17-year-olds meet­ing the guide­lines,” the re­port states.

“This is a slight im­prove­ment from pre­vi­ous years.

“Be­tween 1978-79 to 2004 (a pe­riod of 25 years), the preva­lence of over­weight and obe­sity in chil­dren and ado­les­cents rose con­sid­er­ably, with the most sub­stan­tial in­creases ob­served in eco­nom­i­cally de­vel­oped coun­tries.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­sults of the 2004 Cana­dian Com­mu­nity Health Sur­vey: Nu­tri­tion (CCHS), Cana­dian youth are part of this trend. Amongst ado­les­cents (12-17 years), the over­weight/obe­sity rates more than dou­bled, and obe­sity rate tripled in this 25-year pe­riod, for a to­tal of 26 per cent.

These rates vary across the coun­try, with the high­est rates in the At­lantic prov­inces. These rates ap­pear to have plateaued — in 2017, 27.9 per cent of chil­dren aged 12-17 re­ported be­ing over­weight or obese. This is a slight in­crease from 26.8 per cent in 2016.”

An­other area in the re­port re­lated to phys­i­cal health stated that, na­tion­ally, 25 per cent of chil­dren had not re­ceived the full four rec­om­mended doses of diph­the­ria, whoop­ing cough and tetanus vac­cine by age two.

The re­port sounds alarm bells as class­room bells are about to ring as Cana­dian chil­dren re­turn to school this week.

The study high­lights statis­tics that re­quire im­me­di­ate ac­tion across the coun­try, the re­port states, in­clud­ing ac­tion to deal with stag­ger­ingly high rates of men­tal health is­sues, poverty, obe­sity and mor­tal­ity.

The study found that the lead­ing causes for child­hood deaths in Canada are pre­ventable ac­ci­dents and in­juries, and sui­cide.

While Canada’s rate of in­fant mor­tal­ity is among the high­est of Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Eco­nomic Co-op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment (OECD) coun­tries, New­found­land and Labrador has the sec­ond-low­est rate of in­fant mor­tal­ity (tied with Que­bec), with 4.3 deaths per 1,000, ac­cord­ing to Statis­tics Canada. Nu­navut has the high­est rate, with 17.7 — more than dou­ble any other prov­ince.

In re­la­tion to chil­dren’s men­tal health na­tion­wide, there has been a 66 per cent in­crease in emer­gency depart­ment vis­its over the last 10 years and a 55 per cent in­crease in hos­pi­tal­iza­tions for (ages 5 to 24 years) due to men­tal health concerns.

In New­found­land and Labrador, 562 chil­dren were hos­pi­tal­ized for men­tal health concerns in New­found­land in 2016 to 2017, ac­cord­ing to the Cana­dian In­sti­tute for Health In­for­ma­tion.

The re­port also states that 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.

An­other dis­tress­ing find­ing is that 1.2 mil­lion chil­dren live in low-in­come hous­ing in Canada.

In this area, New­found­land and Labrador is tied with Saskatchewan for the third­low­est num­ber of chil­dren in low-in­come house­holds (17.8 per cent), ac­cord­ing to the 2016 cen­sus. It ranks much lower than all other At­lantic prov­inces. (Cen­sus did not in­clude data from the ter­ri­to­ries).

Other statis­tics show that 10.7 per cent of fam­i­lies with chil­dren un­der six years of age say they ex­pe­ri­ence food in­se­cu­rity; one in three Cana­di­ans re­port hav­ing suf­fered some form of child abuse be­fore the age of 16; 26 per cent ex­pe­ri­enced phys­i­cal abuse; 10 per cent ex­pe­ri­enced sex­ual abuse; and eight per cent had ex­po­sure to in­ti­mate part­ner vi­o­lence.

In 2013-14, 17,500 hos­pi­tal­iza­tions of chil­dren and youth in Canada 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,” said Sara Austin, founder and lead di­rec­tor of Chil­dren First Canada.

She noted Canada con­sis­tently ranks far be­hind most other af­flu­ent nations for the well-be­ing of chil­dren, falling in 25th place ac­cord­ing to UNICEF.

Austin said the re­port is a call to ac­tion for the fed­eral govern­ment and pro­vin­cial and mu­nic­i­pal lead­ers — as well as all Cana­di­ans — to do more to in­vest in the health and well­be­ing of Canada’s chil­dren.

Rec­om­men­da­tions in the re­port in­clude:

• 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 toward ev­i­dence-based 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.

“It is both an eco­nomic and mo­ral im­per­a­tive that we act now, and we call on our govern­ment, and on all Cana­di­ans, to join us,” Austin said. “Our col­lec­tive fate as a na­tion rests on the well-be­ing of our chil­dren.”


A re­port re­leased Sept. 4 rec­om­mends fed­eral, pro­vin­cial and mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ments take im­me­di­ate ac­tion to ad­dress alarm­ing is­sues re­lated to chil­dren’s health in Canada.

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