#WorldChildrensDay – A vision for healthy vibrant children and youth
November 20th marks UNICEF's World Children's Day, an opportunity to promote international togetherness, awareness among children worldwide, and improving children's welfare.
At Children’s Healthcare Canada, we are troubled by trends reported in 2018 by the O’Brien Institute for Public Health[i] which reveal that Canada has a long journey ahead when it comes to improving the health and wellbeing of our children and youth. Canada lags far behind our peers internationally, scoring 25th out of 41 affluent nations with respect to children’s wellbeing, according to UNICEF.
Particularly alarming to members of Children’s Healthcare Canada are the rates of children and youth affected by mental illness, and those who cannot, for a variety of reasons, access appropriate mental health services. The Mental Health Commission of Canada estimates that 1.2 million children in Canada suffer from mental illness, with only approximately 20% receiving treatment. Improved awareness of services designed for children and youth, and access to these services is a first step. Equally critical, is the integration of these services across the continuum of care, and subsequently, the seamless transition to adult services.
Children suffering from medical complexity represent another area of concern for Canada. Medically complex paediatric patients represent a small number of hospital admissions however consume disproportionately greater healthcare system resources in hospitals and the community. Successful programs and services for children/youth with medical complexities and their families have been developed across the country. Yet, there remain inequities and a significant degree of variation in practice and delivery of health services to this vulnerable population. Families should expect a similar level of care for their child as they navigate across systems in any province, territory or region, and national standards need to be established to minimize these inequities in health and healthcare access.[ii]
Lastly, but certainly not least, is the health of Indigenous children and youth in Canada. A vastly complex issue, many barriers remain for First Nations children and youth seeking access to appropriate and culturally safe health services. In 2017, Health Canada reported that 30.8 percent of Indigenous children with a chronic condition experience barriers to services due to long waiting lists, and 26 per cent of children without a chronic condition report the same problem with accessing services. Social determinants of health – including child welfare and education remain critical elements of a broader strategy to improve the health and wellbeing of this vulnerable population.
What is the role for Children's Healthcare Canada?
Children’s Healthcare Canada takes a systemic approach to children’s health, working with stakeholders across the continuum of care to build more integrated and innovative health systems.
We assemble diverse perspectives and expertise to share knowledge and insights that propel conversations forward and inform action.
We have a strong and stable foundation. Over our fifty year history, we have gained a loyal membership base. The relationships and trust we have built, provides a spring board for success.
Our members are working to overcome system barriers by creating a stronger, child- and family-centred, high quality, unified approach to children’s healthcare. There is alignment of priorities across the children’s healthcare community focused on creating stronger and more innovative health delivery systems, uniting partners across the continuum of care and elevating the voice of children ‘s health to inform public policy and legislation.
As child healthcare leaders we need to set the pace for change and leverage the collective knowledge of our members and partners to inform the development of innovative and integrated health systems that will bring Canada’s healthcare system to the front of the pack.