Child Health in Northern B.C. – Mixed Findings Says Report
Prince George, B.C. – There is some good news and some not so good news in a new report on Child Health in B.C.
The report, “Is ‘Good’, Good enough?” is the first of its kind in Canada. A collaboration of experts in the Province , the report is meant to be a baseline for measuring improvements as efforts continue to improve the health and well being of children and youth in B.C.
But there are issues.
Provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall, says the report shows the overall health and well-being of children and youth in this province is “quite good”, but Dr. Kendall points out there are some disparities, “Particularly based on sex/gender and geography.”
That regional disparity is evident in a number of areas:
- There has been an overall decrease in the number of children with visible tooth decay in BC, but children in northern BC are not faring as well as other children.
- a higher percentage of students participate in daily physical activity in rural areas as compared to more urban areas, and there is a striking difference in physical activity rates between sexes.
- The percentages of BC youth who have ever used tobacco, consumed alcohol, or used marijuana have decreased. Additionally, the percentages of youth who use tobacco daily, who binge drink, and who use marijuana on a regular basis have also decreased.
- While youth tobacco use is decreasing overall, there are substantial geographic differences in its use with more youth in the North reporting daily tobacco use than their counterparts in other areas of BC.
- There has been a substantial decrease in teen pregnancy since 1989; however, for the health authorities, there is a five-fold difference between the highest rate (Northern Health) and the lowest rate (Vancouver Coastal Health).
For children in the northern part of the province, ( students in grades 7-12) the report indicates higher rates of discrimination, daily tobacco use and fewer students with a healthy weight ,
When it comes to daily tobacco use, 2.5% of the same students in the North report using tobacco daily, compared to a low of 0.9% in the lower mainland
But there is some good news, with Northern children reporting a higher rate of physical activity, with 19.4% reporting they had taken part in at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day for the previous week. That’s the highest percentage recorded in the Province.
Dr. Kendall says there is work to be done “There are about 960,000 children and youth in B.C., and more exploration, analyses and focused attention are needed to ensure that groups of them are not left behind as the overall
health of this population improves.”
The report makes five recommendations:
- calling for a commitment to address health disparities based on sex/gender and geography;
- creating an inter-ministerial committee to support actions generated from the report;
- developing mechanisms to share best practices;
- developing a coordinated approach to ongoing data collection and reporting; and
- creating an ongoing forum to engage B.C. youth with community stakeholders
The full report can be viewed by clicking here