Health of B.C. children and youth positive overall: report

Provincial health officers release findings on birth weights, tooth decay, substance use and more.

A new report shows an overall good grade on the health and well-being of children and youth in B.C., despite notable disparities between gender and regions.

The report, called “Is ‘Good’, Good enough?” was released Thursday morning by Child Health BC and the provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall at BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver.

It analyzes 51 indicators on a broad range of subjects, from birth weights to immunization to self-esteem.

The report was overall positive, Kendall said,  but shows a need to explore the reasoning behind the regional differences between children and youth health in urban and rural areas of the province.

“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,” Kendall said.

Seventeen-year-old Morgan Peever told the crowd it’s “shocking that many indicators [are] a lot worse in northern communities.”

Peever, a resident from Fort St. John, is a member of the BC Student Voice – a group that connects leadership students together to focus on the education and health needs of their peers.

Members of the group meet twice a year to discuss priority needs, with this information contributing to the new report.

The report also showed differences between sex and genders when it comes to mental health, where females fared worse than males overall.

Female youth in grades 7 to 12 are more likely to consider and/or attempt suicide than male youth; however, male youth age 15 to 19 have a higher suicide mortality rate, according to the report.

Bullying – despite there being a decrease in cyber-bullying since 2008 – is also themed by gender.

In 2013, 57 per cent of females students in Grade 7 to 12 reported they were bullied, compared to 42 per cent of males.

Report highlights trends

Also of highlight, infant mortality rates, tooth decay, and tobacco and alcohol use in teenagers were on the decline, while the numbers show fewer children going to bed hungry — though that rate still sits at six per cent.

Of concern, one-third of B.C. children are not not up-to-date with their immunizations by the age of seven, or entering into Grade 1.

Similarly, B.C.’s urban residents make up the highest percentage of people with unstable housing in the country, particularly in Vancouver (20 per cent), compared to Abbotsford (13 per cent).

“It’s one of the things we know impact ability to learn and grow,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, deputy provincial health officer.

Henry noted there are significant gaps of data on children and youth mental health.

“We don’t have rates of youth experiencing mental health issues and treatment,” she said. “[It’s] something we need to do better.”

However, youth generally have a “good positive view” of themselves, she noted.

The full report can be found here.

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