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Children need healthy communities

Posted on June 5, 2018 by the Canadian Paediatric Society | Permalink

Topic(s): Advocacy

The first step to improving child health and wellbeing in Northern Ontario is to focus on improving community health. That’s the message from participants at a forum co-hosted by the CPS and the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority (SLFNHA) in January. The forum brought together members of the CPS First Nations, Inuit and Métis Health Committee, SLFNHA staff, local physicians, and community leaders from some of the 33 communities served by the health authority.

The forum was the result of two years of discussion and planning between the CPS and leaders from the region. Health professionals from Sioux Lookout, Ontario contacted the Canadian Paediatric Society in 2015 to ask for help with a growing child health crisis in the region that included an outbreak of rheumatic fever. In February 2016, Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN)—a political body representing 49 First Nations communities—declared a public health emergency in response to inequities in health services. Among the related consequences are suicides, opioid addiction, and gaps in child development services.

The forum, held over two days in Sioux Lookout and the nearby community of Lac Seul, focused on early child development. Officials at SLFNHA believe many of the acute health crises in the region could be prevented by investing in and strengthening the earliest foundations for children and families.

Guest speaker Dr. Kassia Johnson, a developmental paediatrician from Hamilton and a member of the CPS Early Years Task Force, described a framework for healthy child development and how families, communities, systems and policy all play a role. Participants said some of the challenges facing communities include poverty, a lack of basic infrastructure, and colonial systems—ways of planning and delivering health, social services, and child welfare—that have harmed Indigenous people.

In a post-meeting report, the committee made a number of recommendations to improve child health in the region, including:

  • Improve data gathering on child health indicators in the region;
  • Implement consistent, culturally safe and community-focused developmental screening;
  • Enhance investments in developmental paediatric services, especially allied professionals who provide supportive therapies;
  • Enhance investments in culturally safe paediatric subspecialty services and consulting paediatric services;
  • Enhance investments in culturally safe mental health services, including psychotherapy and psychiatric services;
  • Increase funding and community capacity for programs/services that support parents and keep families together.

Members of the Canadian Paediatric Society’s (CPS) First Nations, Inuit and Métis Health Committee have been visiting Indigenous communities across Canada for many years. During these visits, committee members meet with local health authorities, learn about health issues facing children and youth, and tour local health facilities.

The forum was funded by the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch of Indigenous Services Canada.


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Last updated: Jun 5, 2018