New portrait of the Early Childhood Observatory

MONTREAL, November 16, 2021 / CNW Telbec / – This morning, as part of Early Childhood Week, the Early Childhood Observatory (Observatory for toddlers) launched his latest Portrait: How are the youngest people in Quebec doing? This report presents the most recent data available on the conditions surrounding childbirth, early childhood development, and children’s physical and mental health. This year’s Snapshot also includes a review of the latest studies on the effects of the pandemic on young children and their families.

“The pandemic has had many repercussions on the living conditions of young children and their families, especially those who were already in a vulnerable situation before the health crisis. More than ever, it is crucial that we implement mutually coherent measures aimed at reducing social inequalities. and give every child the opportunity to develop to their full potential. The choices we make as a society over the next few years will be decisive, which is why it is important to clearly document the issues, ”explained Fannie Dagenais, director of the Early Childhood Observatory.

The last Portrait of the Observatory of Early Childhood allowed us to assess the evolution of the health and development of children aged 0 to 5 since the publication of our first portrait on the same theme in 2017 and, more broadly. , over the past ten years. The Portrait highlights good news as well as cause for concern, many of which have been exacerbated by the pandemic. The COVID-19 crisis has had a negative impact on the quality of food, screen time, families’ financial situation and their ability to obtain healthy food, the mental health of children and their parents and domestic violence. Some of these effects were more pronounced in children living in disadvantaged environments.

Pregnancy and childbirth: positive developments and worrying aspects
The Portrait features lots of good news about newborn health. For example, the stillbirth rate in Quebec (7 deaths per 1,000 births) is well below the target set by the World Health Organization (10 out of 100). Studies carried out over the past year have also shown that the COVID-19 virus has little effect on newborns and that the risk of transmission between a pregnant mother and her newborn is low, between 1.5 % and 5%.

The Portrait teaches us, however, that certain factors surrounding pregnancy and childbirth continue to be of concern. The caesarean birth rate increased gradually between 2002 and 2018, from 20.9% to 25.5%, which is higher than the ideal rate of 10 to 15% recommended by the WHO. Additionally, many mothers stop breastfeeding in the first few months, which can indicate barriers to breastfeeding. WHO recommends that babies be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life. Another worrying development is the level of violence against women during the prenatal period. According to the latest available data (2018) —before the pandemic — 10.9% of mothers of children aged 6 months to 5 years were victims of domestic violence during their pregnancy, and we now know that there has been a substantial increase in domestic violence during the COVID-19 health crisis in several countries as well as in Quebec.

Physical health of young children: monitor their lifestyle
The Portrait also contains encouraging information about the physical health of the children. In 2019, for example, almost all 1-year-olds (97%) had received all recommended vaccines for the first year of life, which is a significant increase from the 2006 figures. Additionally, based on data compiled over the past year, the risk of being hospitalized for COVID-19 is very low in children. No deaths from the virus have been reported in children 0 to 5 years of age in Quebec.

However, some data on the physical health of young children will need to be monitored. Between 2016 and 2019, 40% of 3 to 5 year olds did not meet physical activity guidelines and just over half (52%) exceeded recommended screen times. Studies to date have shown that the health crisis has been associated with a significant decrease in physical activity in children of all ages combined with an increase in sedentary activities (time sitting, time in front of a screen).

In addition, job losses resulting from the pandemic have undermined the financial balance of many families, who have had to turn to food banks for help. Studies have also observed a decline in the quality of children’s diets, especially in low-income households. On the other hand, certain favorable developments have been observed in more advantaged families, including an increase in the average time spent cooking at home. Finally, in 2020, less than a quarter of children aged 0 to 5 (24.2%) had their teeth examined by a dentist as part of the dental care program of the Quebec health insurance (RAMQ). The corresponding figure for 2016 was 30.6%.

Consequences of the pandemic on the mental health of young children
The mental health of the youngest children in Quebec is worrying. In 2019-2020, 1,696 children between the ages of 1 and 5 had been diagnosed with anxiety and depressive disorders, mainly social phobia, separation anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder and depression.

Children are among those whose mental health has declined the most during the COVID-19 health crisis. Since the start of the pandemic, according to studies carried out in many countries, there has been an increase in symptoms of anxiety and depression and behavioral disturbances in children and a decrease in their attention span as well as the quantity and quality of their sleep. The build-up of sources of stress within families may have contributed to an increased risk of mental health problems in young children during the pandemic, especially financial stress caused by the crisis, difficulty accessing health resources mental (for children and their parents), and the social isolation of families.

Early Childhood Development: Young Children Who Need Support
Finally, the Portrait focuses on the development of children entering kindergarten. According to the latest available data (2017), just over one in four kindergarten children (27.7%) are vulnerable in at least one area of ​​development. In addition, the proportion of vulnerable children in at least one development domain is higher among those living in households considered to be low income (41%) than among their counterparts in households that are not part of the low income category. low income (23%).

Le Portrait recalls that a significant number of children in Quebec have special needs. In 2016-2017, 4,888 children enrolled in 5-year-old kindergarten in the public system lived with a disability or adjustment difficulties, which represents 5.8% of the total number. In 2019-2020, 4,877 children aged 1 to 5 were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and 2,708 children in the same age group were diagnosed with attention deficit disorder with or without hyperactivity (ADHD ).

How can we help every child develop to their full potential?
It is possible to act collectively on behalf of all young children living in Quebec. The scientific literature has identified many possibilities for group effort that would help children develop to their full potential. For example, pregnancy notification systems allow doctors and midwives to systematically refer any pregnant woman to a health facility in the territory where she resides. She is then contacted by a nurse who offers her services according to her needs or situation. It is also possible to promote the development of children in vulnerable situations by giving them access to quality educational childcare services. Taxing sugary drinks or creating safe spaces for physical activity in municipalities can help children develop healthy lifestyles. Finally, awareness campaigns on the importance of taking care of the dental and oral health of young children could encourage parents to go to the dentist with their child.

The Early Childhood Observatory, a project of the Lucie and André Chagnon Foundation, aims to take stock of the state of knowledge in order to promote enlightened decision-making in early childhood in Quebec. Our goal is to ensure that every young child living in the province has access to conditions that will allow them to develop to their full potential, no matter where they are born or grow up.

Source: Observatory for toddlers / Early childhood observatory

SOURCE Observatory for toddlers

Information: Sandrine Gagné / Béatrice Gougeon Morin Public Relations, [email protected] / [email protected], 438 873-2909 (cell) / 514-688-3936 (cell)

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