(Image courtesy CDC)

New report details impact of COVID-19 on child health in Canada

In recent months, the harsh realities facing young Canadians have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic

By Carol Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grizzly Gazette

A new report documents how Canadian children have been adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The findings of Raising Canada 2020 reveal that many of the top threats to childhood, including mental illness, food insecurity, child abuse, physical inactivity and poverty may be increasing because of the pandemic. This report highlights new data related to these threats and points to emerging concerns. The report is jointly published by Children First Canada, the University of Calgary’s O’Brien Institute for Public Health (OIPH), and the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute (ACHRI).

In recent months, the harsh realities facing young Canadians have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The statistics in this year’s report are alarming: one-third of children in Canada do not enjoy a safe and healthy childhood one in three Canadians has experienced abuse before the age of 15 one in five children live in poverty, and suicide is now the leading cause of death for children aged 10 to 14.

The odds are particularly stark for Black, Indigenous, and other racialized children. These children are more likely to be exposed to adverse childhood experiences such as poverty and abuse, being overrepresented in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems and being suspended or expelled from school because of systemic racism and discrimination.

“Since the outset of the pandemic, we have been worried that children were being disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Early indicators from this report suggest that children’s health is in jeopardy,” says Sara Austin, founder and CEO of Children First Canada. “How the government chooses to respond will change the trajectory of children’s lives.”

Key findings of the report include:

Suicide, depression, and anxiety: Suicide is now the leading cause of death for children aged 10 to 14 in Canada. 57% of participants aged 15 to 17 report that their mental health is “somewhat worse” or “much worse” than it was prior to physical distancing measures. (Crowdsourced data)

Child abuse: The World Health Organization (WHO) calls violence against children the hidden crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Canada, Kids Help Phone has reported an increase in specific conversations about physical, sexual and emotional abuse. As kids go back to school, reports of suspected child abuse may increase, once children are seen by trusted adults in their schools.

Physical inactivity: Only 4.8% of children (ages 5 to 11) and 0.8% of youth (ages 12 to 17) are meeting 24-hour movement guidelines, down from 35%. (ParticipACTION)

Food insecurity: 15% of Canadians indicated living in a household where they experienced food insecurity in the past 30 days, up from 8.7% in 2017/2018. (Statistics Canada)

Immunization: Paediatric infectious disease specialists say that vaccination rates among children have dropped as much as 20% in parts of Canada — ramping up anxieties that the country could face a series of infectious outbreaks while still battling COVID-19.

Systemic racism and discrimination: The report highlights the limited availability of race-based data, but indicates that Black, Indigenous (First Nations, Metis and Inuit), and other racialized children in Canada experience adverse health outcomes. Additionally, in a recent survey of Canadian adults of Chinese origin, more than half of the adults surveyed are worried that Asian children will be bullied when they return to school, according to a survey by Angus Reid.

As challenging a time as this pandemic is for children, the report also highlights that along with children’s vulnerability, they also have incredible strength, resilience and wisdom. “Children must be engaged in Canada’s recovery efforts,” says Austin. “Truly child-centred policies can only happen when we act with children, rather than acting for them.” “This report is a stark reminder of the significant threats to child health and wellness in Canada likely exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Brent Hagel, Professor of the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary and a member of OIPH and ACHRI. “It is also a call to action for us to address these issues and protect children’s rights.”

As an accompaniment to the Raising Canada 2020 Report, Children First Canada’s Council of Champions released a call to action, urging the government to appoint a federal Commissioner for Children and Youth, a Children’s Budget and a national strategy to tackle the top 10 threats. Aside from the threats impacted by COVID-19, climate change has been added to the list of threats analyzed in the 2020 report. “In our consultations with youth over the past year, we heard repeatedly that they view climate change as one of the greatest threats to their current health as well as their future and is one of their top priorities for action,” explains Austin.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

"We are looking seriously at the spread and determining what our next steps should be," says Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, as the daily number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb.
427 new COVID cases is highest in Alberta ever

Central zone has 126 active cases of COVID-19

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Temporary COVID-19 testing sites coming to Wetaskiwin and Ponoka

The Wetaskiwin location will open Oct. 23, 2020 and the Ponoka location will open Oct. 29.

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
City and County of Wetaskiwin reporting active cases

Both the City of Wetaskiwin and County of Wetaskiwin have active cases.

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw updates media on the Covid-19 situation in Edmonton on Friday March 20, 2020. nbsp;Alberta is reporting it's highest daily number of COVID-19 cases, with 364 new infections. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta confirmed 323 COVID-19 cases Tuesday

Central zone active cases at 145

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Leader of the Opposition Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons Thursday October 22, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
O’Toole tells Alberta UCP AGM Liberals were ‘late and confused’ on COVID response

He says Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has taken charge and not waited to make things happen

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives for an announcement at a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Inquiry into oil and gas foes to deliver report next year: Kenney

A lawsuit filed by environmental law firm Ecojustice argues the inquiry is politically motivated

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

This photo provided by Air Force Reserve shows a sky view of Hurricane Epsilon taken by Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter team over the Atlantic Ocean taken Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020.   Epsilon’s maximum sustained winds have dropped slightly as it prepares to sideswipe Bermuda on a path over the Atlantic Ocean.  The National Hurricane Center says it should come close enough Thursday, Oct. 22, evening to merit a tropical storm warning for the island.  (Air Force Reserve via AP)
Hurricane Epsilon expected to remain offshore but will push waves at Atlantic Canada

Epsilon is not expected to have any real impact on land

A voter places her absentee ballot in the ballot box, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Robert F. Bukaty
American voters living in Canada increasingly being counted in presidential race

The largest number of Canadian-based American voters cast their ballots in New York and California

A composite image of three photographs shows BC NDP Leader John Horgan, left, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Sept. 25, 2020; BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau, centre, in Victoria on Sept. 24, 2020; and BC Liberal Party Leader Andrew Wilkinson Pitt Meadows, B.C., on Sept. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck, Chad Hipolito
British Columbia votes in snap election called during COVID-19 pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan called the snap election one year before the fixed voting date

Nunavut's provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, on Tuesday June 30, 2020. The annual report from Nunavut's representative for children and youth says "complacency and a lack of accountability" in the territory's public service means basic information about young people needing services isn’t tracked. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Nunavut’s young people ‘should be expecting more’ from government services: advocate

‘The majority of information we requested is not tracked or was not provided by departments’

Most Read