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The health of Aboriginal peoples 2002

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy163
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2002-12-07
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Policy document
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2002-12-07
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
HEALTH OF ABORIGINAL PEOPLES 2002 A CMA Policy Statement Recommendation #1 That the federal government adopt a comprehensive strategy for improving the health of Aboriginal peoples that involves a partnership among governments, non-governmental organizations, universities and the Aboriginal communities. 2) The Need to Address Health Determinants The health status of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples is a result of a broad range of factors: social, biological, economic, political, educational and environmental. The complexity and interdependence of these health determinants suggest that the health status of Aboriginal peoples is unlikely to be improved significantly by increasing the quantity of health services. Instead, inequities within a wide range of social and economic factors should be addressed; for example: income education employment interactions with the justice system racism and social marginalization environmental hazards water supply and waste disposal housing quality and infrastructure cultural identity, (for example, long-term effects of the residential school legacy.) Recommendation #2 That all stakeholders work to improve provision for the essential needs of Aboriginal peoples and communities that affect their health (e.g. housing, employment, education, water supply). 3) The Importance of Self-Determination One characteristic of successful Aboriginal communities is a high degree of self-efficacy and control over their own circumstances. This empowerment can take many forms, from developing community-driven health initiatives to determining how to use lands. It is increasingly recognized that self-determination in cultural, social, political and economic life improves the health of Aboriginal peoples and their communities, and that Aboriginal peoples can best determine their requirements and the solutions to their problems. Therefore, the CMA encourages and supports the Aboriginal peoples in their move toward increasing self-determination and community control. A just and timely settlement of land claims is one means by which Aboriginal communities can achieve this self-determination and self-sufficiency. Recommendation #3 That governments and other stakeholders: Settle land claims and land use issues expeditiously; Work toward resolving issues of self-determination for Aboriginal peoples and their communities in areas of cultural, social, political and economic life. 4) Community Control of Health Services Control by Aboriginal peoples of health and social services is increasing across Canada as part of a broader transfer of control of political power, resources and lands. This transfer has not progressed at the same pace across all Aboriginal communities; the needs of Urban Aboriginal peoples, for example, are only beginning to be addressed. CMA supports the development of community-driven models for delivery of health care and health promotion, responsive to the culture and needs of individual communities. Successful community-driven models of health care delivery generally recognize that the Aboriginal concept of health is holistic in nature, incorporating mental, emotional and spiritual as well as physical components. Translating this concept into practice may involve: Development of primary care models that are grounded within Aboriginal culture at a local level; Integration of disease treatment services with health promotion and health education programs, and with traditional healing practices; Integration of health and social services; Interprofessional collaboration within a multi-disciplinary team. CMA also supports programs to increase the involvement of Aboriginal peoples in professional and other decision-making roles affecting the health of their community – for example, increased representation in health-care management positions, and on health facility boards where there is a significant Aboriginal population. Recommendation #4 That all stakeholders actively encourage the development of integrated, holistic primary care service delivery relevant to the needs and culture of Aboriginal communities and under community control. 5) Cultural Responsiveness in the Patient/Physician Relationship As mentioned above, the concept of “health” in Aboriginal culture is holistic and incorporates many components. The concepts of continuity, wholeness and balance within and among people are important to Aboriginal culture, as is a close affinity with the natural environment – both in practical and spiritual senses , which emphasises the importance of stewardship of the land as a component of individual and community health maintenance for present and future generations. Physicians should work in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples and groups to promote a greater understanding and acceptance of their respective philosophies and approaches. This could include: an openness and respect for traditional medicine and traditional healing practices (e.g. sweat lodges, herbal medicines, healing circles). This should be balanced with a recognition that not all Aboriginal people, whether First Nation, Métis or Inuit, adhere to or understand their traditional ceremonial practices. improved cross-cultural awareness in physicians, which could be facilitated by greater contact with their local Aboriginal communities, better understanding of local Aboriginal cultures, history and current setting, development of cross-cultural patient-physician communication skills. Recommendation #5 a) That educational initiatives in cross-cultural awareness of Aboriginal health issues be developed for the Canadian population, and in particular for health care providers, b) that practice tools and resources be developed to support physicians (Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal) and other health care professionals practicing in Aboriginal communities. 6) Access to Health Services Canada is often considered to have one of the best health care systems in the world and is typically described as providing “universal access”. However, our system does not provide equal access to services for all people living in Canada – the most underserviced being those in northern Canada, which contains many Aboriginal communities. Several kinds of access problems exist in Aboriginal communities: Lack of access to employment, adequate housing, nutritious food, clean water and other social or economic determinants of health. Factors that impede access to health care services, particularly in remote locations; for example, language and cultural differences, and the difficulty of transporting patients to tertiary centres. Lack of specific services (for example, mental health services) for Aboriginal peoples in many regions of Canada. Specific groups, such as women and the elderly, have unique and distinct needs that should be addressed. Program delivery that involves multiple federal, provincial and municipal funding agencies. Physicians and patients alike have trouble obtaining information about and entry into existing programs and funding for new programs because of jurisdictional confusion. CMA has previously recommended that the Canadian health system develop and apply agreed-upon standards for timely access to care. This includes the need to increase timely and appropriate access by Aboriginal peoples to health care and health promotion services, geared to different segments of the population according to their needs. Recommendation #6 a) That governments and other stakeholders simplify and clarify jurisdictional responsibilities with respect to Aboriginal health at the federal, provincial and municipal level, with a goal of simplifying access to service delivery. b) That strategies be explored to increase access to health services by remote communities; for example, through the use of technology (e.g. Web sites, telemedicine) to connect them with academic medical centres. 7) Health Human Resources There is an urgent need to increase the training, recruitment and retention of Aboriginal health care providers. The 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples recommended that a cadre of 10,000 Aboriginal health care and social service workers be trained to meet the needs of a complex and diverse community. While progress has been made in recent years, an intensive focus on recruitment, training and retention is required in order to achieve this goal. A comprehensive health human resource strategy should be developed, to increase the recruitment, training and retention of Aboriginal students in medicine and other health disciplines. Such a strategy could include: Outreach programs to interest Aboriginal young people in the health sciences. Access and support programs for Aboriginal medical students. Residency positions for recently graduated Aboriginal physicians or physicians wishing to practice in Aboriginal populations, including re-entry positions for physicians currently in practice. Mentoring and leadership-development programs for Aboriginal medical students, residents and physicians. Programs to counter racism and discrimination in the health-care system. Initiatives to recruit and train Community Health Representatives/ Workers, birth attendants and other para-professionals within Aboriginal communities. Recommendation #7 a) That CMA and others work to develop a health human resource strategy aimed at improving the recruitment, training, retention of Aboriginal physicians and other health-care workers; b) That medical and other health faculties increase access and support programs to encourage enrollment of Aboriginal students. 8) Health Information Information about the health status and health care experience of Aboriginal peoples, is essential for future planning and advocacy. For Aboriginal peoples to effectively develop self-determination in health care delivery, they should have access to data that can be converted into useful information on their population. The “OCAP” principle (ownership, control, access to and possession of health data) is seen as integral to First Nation community empowerment, but may prove acceptable to other Aboriginal groups as well. A considerable amount of data currently exists, though there are gaps in coverage, particularly regarding Métis, Inuit and urban and rural off-reserve First Nations populations. This data can come from a variety of federal and provincial/territorial sources, including periodic surveys, federal censuses, Aboriginal Peoples Survey data holdings, and also regional physician and hospital utilization statistics. However, jurisdictional and ownership issues have hindered Aboriginal people from accessing and making use of this data. CMA supports the development and maintenance of mechanisms to systematically collect and analyze longitudinal health information for Aboriginal people, and the removal of barriers that prevent Aboriginal organizations from fully accessing information in government databases. Aboriginal health information should be subject to guarantees of privacy and confidentiality. The CMA urges relevant government departments to ensure that revisions to the Indian Act do not infringe on the privacy of health information of Aboriginal peoples in Canada. Recommendation #8 That the Government of Canada support the First Nations and Inuit Regional Longitudinal Health Survey Process, and the First Nations and Inuit Health Information System, and parallel interests for the Métis and Inuit. These programs should be operated under the control of their respective Aboriginal communities 9) Research The CMA supports culturally relevant research into the determinants of Aboriginal health and effective treatment and health-promotion strategies to address them. Specifically, the CMA supports the efforts of the Institute of Aboriginal Peoples’ Health at the Canadian Institute for Health Research, in addressing the needs of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples. Aboriginal peoples should be involved in research design, data collection and analysis; research should support the communities as they build capacity and develop initiatives to address their health needs. Ideally, research should address not only determinants of ill health but also the reasons for positive health outcomes. The CMA also acknowledges the need to communicate research results to Aboriginal communities to help them develop and evaluate health programs. In particular there is an urgent need among Aboriginal communities for the sharing of successes. Recommendation #9 That government and other stakeholders Support Aboriginal peoples and communities in the development of Aboriginal research and the means of interpreting its findings. Make public communication of health research results a priority in order to facilitate its use by Aboriginal communities. CMA’S CONTINUED COMMITMENT The Canadian Medical Association, consistent with its mandate to advocate for the highest standards of health and health care in Canada, will continue to work with the Aboriginal community and other stakeholders on activities addressing the following issue areas: Workforce Enhancement: Research and Practice Enhancement:. Public and Community Health Programming:. Leadership Development:. Advocacy for healthy public policy. Page 5 November 15, 2002
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Early childhood development

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy11476
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2014-12-06
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Policy document
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2014-12-06
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
Adult health is pre-determined in many ways in early childhood and even by events occurring before birth. The years between conception and the start of school are the time when crucial developments in physical, social, cognitive, emotional and language domains take place. Disruptions during this period can lead to weakened physiological responses, influence brain architecture, and influence how the neuroendocrine, cardiovascular and other systems are developed.1,2 Experiences in early life can even 'get under the skin', changing the ways that certain genes are expressed.3,4 Negative experiences such as poverty or family or parental violence can have significant impacts on this important period of development. Even for those children who don't encounter these types of barriers, there can be problems in the early years. Evidence suggests that adult diseases should be viewed as developmental disorders that begin in early life.5 Just as children are susceptible to negative influences in early life, the period of rapid development means that effective interventions can minimize or eliminate these outcomes. Intervening in the early years has been shown to have the potential to impact developmental trajectories and protect children from risk factors that are present in their daily environments.6 At the government and national level there are four main areas of action: Early childhood learning and care; Support for parents; Poverty reduction; and Data collection for early childhood development. The CMA Recommends that: 1. The federal government, in collaboration with the provinces and territories, implement a national early learning and care program that ensures all children have equal access to high quality child care and early learning. 2. The federal government commit to increasing funding for early childhood development to 1% of GDP to bring Canada in line with other OECD countries. 3. Programs such as early childhood home visiting be made available to all vulnerable families in Canada. 4. Governments support the expansion of community resources for parents which provide parenting programs and family supports. 5. A national strategy to decrease family violence and the maltreatment of children, including appropriate community resources, be developed and implemented in all provinces and territories. 6. The federal government work with provinces and territories to adopt a national strategy to eradicate child poverty in Canada with clear accountability and measurable targets. 7. Provinces and territories implement comprehensive poverty reduction strategies with clear accountability and measurable targets. 8. The federal government work with the provinces and territories to create a robust and unified reporting system on early childhood to ensure that proper monitoring of trends and interventions can take place. 9. The federal government work with the provinces and territories to continue to implement the early development index in all jurisdictions. In addition, work should be supported on similar tools for 18 months and middle childhood. 10. The federal government support the development of a pan-Canadian platform that can share evidence and best practice, and focus research questions around the early years. While most of what is necessary for early childhood development will be done by governments and stakeholders outside of the health care system, there are opportunities for physicians to influence this important social determinant both through medical education, and clinical practice. The CMA Recommends that: 11. Curriculum on early brain, biological development and early learning be incorporated into all Canadian medical schools. 12. Continuing CME on early brain, biological development and early learning be available to all primary-care providers who are responsible for the health care of children. 13. All provinces and territories implement an enhanced 18 month well-baby visit with appropriate compensation and community supports. 14. Physicians and other primary care providers integrate the enhanced 18 month visit into their regular clinical practice. 15. Comprehensive resources be developed for primary-care providers to identify community supports and services to facilitate referral for parents and children. 16. Efforts be made to ensure timely access to resources and programs for children who have identified developmental needs. 17. Physicians serve as advocates on issues related to early childhood development. They should use their knowledge, expertise and influence to speak out on the need and importance of healthy development in the early years. 18. Physicians continue to include literacy promotion in routine clinical encounters with children of all ages. 19. National Medical Associations work with governments and the non-profit sector to explore the development of a clinically based child literacy program for Canada. Background Adult health is pre-determined in many ways in early childhood and even by events occurring before birth. The years between conception and the start of school are the time when crucial developments in physical, social, cognitive, emotional and language domains take place. The early childhood period is the most important development period in life.7 Disruptions during this period can lead to weakened physiological responses, influence brain architecture, and influence how the neuroendocrine, cardiovascular and other systems are developed.8,9 Experiences in early life can even 'get under the skin', changing the ways that certain genes are expressed.10,11 According to research done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the adverse childhood event (ACE)a study, child maltreatment, neglect, and exposure to violence can significantly impact childhood development. The study involved a retrospective look at the early childhood experiences of 17,000 US adults and the impact of these events on later life and behaviour issues. An increased number of ACEs was linked to increases in risky behaviour in childhood and adolescence12 and to a number of adult health conditions including alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, obesity, heart disease, and some forms of cancer.13,14 The greater the number of adverse experiences in childhood the greater the likelihood of health problems in adulthood.15 A high level of ACEs was linked to language, cognitive and emotional impairment; factors which impact on school success and adult functioning.16 Finally, the study found a correlation between experiencing ACEs, suicide, and being the victim of or perpetrating intimate partner violence.17 Poverty is a significant barrier to healthy child development. Children who grow up in poor families or disadvantaged communities are especially susceptible to the physiological and biological changes associated with disease risk.18 Poverty is associated with a number of risk factors for healthy development including: unsupportive parenting, inadequate nutrition and education, high levels of traumatic and stressful events19, including higher rates of traumatic injuries20, poorer housing, lack of services, and limited access to physical activity.21 Children from low-income families score lower than children from high-income families on various measures of school readiness, cognitive development and school achievement22,23, and this gap increases over time with children of low-income families being less likely to attend post-secondary education and gain meaningful employment.24 Children who grow up in poverty are more likely to be poor as adults25,26 and to pass this disadvantage on to their own children.27,28 Children living in poverty have more problem behaviours such as drug abuse, early pregnancy, and increased criminal behaviour.29 Finally, economic hardship in childhood has been linked to premature mortality and chronic disease in adulthood.30 Early adverse events and poverty are serious impediments to healthy development, however, it is not just disadvantaged children that need attention. The early years are critical for all children regardless of socio-economic status. Evidence suggests that adult diseases should be viewed as developmental disorders that begin in early life.31 By 2030, 90% of morbidity in high income countries will be related to chronic diseases.32 These diseases are due in large part to risk factors such as smoking, poor nutrition, alcohol and drug abuse, and inadequate physical activity.33 These risk factors can be heavily influenced by the environment in which people live and can be increased by poor early childhood experiences.34,35 Health promotion and disease/injury prevention programs targeted at adults would be more effective if investments were made early in life on the origins of those diseases and conditions.36,37 Areas for Action While there is reason for concern regarding early childhood development, there is positive news as well. Just as children are susceptible to negative influences in early life, the period of rapid development also means that effective interventions can minimize or eliminate these outcomes. Intervening in the early years has been shown to have the potential to impact developmental trajectories and protect children from risk factors that are present in their daily environments.38 Government and National: Early Childhood Learning and Care Research suggests that 90% of a child's brain capacity is developed by age five, before many children have any access to formal education.39 More than one quarter of Canadian children start kindergarten vulnerable in at least one area of development.40 Approximately two thirds of these deficiencies can be considered preventable. Evidence suggests that each 1% of excess vulnerability in school readiness leads to a reduction in GDP of 1% over the course of that child's life.41 Children who aren't ready for kindergarten are half as likely to read by the third grade, a factor that increases the risk of high school drop-out significantly. 42 While it is possible to intervene later to address these learning deficiencies, these interventions are less effective and much more costly.43 High quality early childhood programs including programs to nurture and stimulate children and educate parents are highly correlated with the amelioration of the effects of disadvantage on cognitive, emotional and physical development among children.44,45 A recent analysis of 84 preschool programs in the United States concluded that children participating in effective pre-school programs can acquire about a third of a year of additional learning in math, language and reading skills.46 Since the implementation of the universal childcare program in Quebec, students in that province have moved from below the national average on standardized tests to above the average.47 In addition, effective early childhood learning programs offer a significant return on investment. Research done on US preschool programs found a return on investment of between four and seventeen dollars for every dollar spent on the program. Evidence from the Quebec universal child care program indicates that the program costs are more than covered by the increased tax revenues generated as a result of increased employment among Quebec mothers. For every dollar spent on the Quebec program, $1.05 is received by the provincial government with the federal government receiving $0.44.48 In terms of early childhood learning and care, Canada is lagging far behind - tied for last place among 25 countries in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) early childhood development indicators.b,49 Canada spends the least amount of money on early childhood learning and care of all countries in the OECD (0.25% of GDP)50, or one quarter of the recommended benchmark. Of this money, fully 65% is attributable to Quebec's universal daycare program.51 Canadian families face great pressures in finding affordable and accessible quality early childhood learning and care spots across the country. In Quebec 69% of children 2-4 regularly attend early childhood learning programs; outside of Quebec the number falls to 38.6%. The challenges for low-income families are even more pronounced with almost 65% of poor children 0-5 receiving no out-of home care.52 The federal government and the provinces and territories must work to bring Canada in line with other OECD countries on early childhood learning and care. The CMA Recommends that: 1. The federal government, in collaboration with the provinces and territories, implement a national early learning and care program that ensures all children have equal access to high quality child care and early learning. 2. The federal government commit to increasing funding for early childhood development to 1% of GDP to bring Canada in line with other OECD countries. Support for Parents A supportive nurturing caregiver is associated with better physical and mental health, fewer behavioural problems, higher educational achievement, more productive employment, and less involvement with the justice system and social services.53 Studies have demonstrated that improved parental-child relationships can minimize the effects of strong, prolonged and frequent stress, referred to as toxic stress54,55, and that the effects of poverty can be minimized with appropriate nurturing and supportive parenting.56 Parental support programs can act as a buffer for children at the same time as strengthening the ability of parents to meet their children's developmental needs.57 Caregivers who struggle with problems such as depression or poverty may be unable to provide adequate attention to their children undermining the attachment relationships that develop in early life. The relatively limited attention that is focused on addressing the deficiencies in time and resources of parents across all socio-economic groups can undermine healthy childhood development.58 One approach that has been shown to improve parental functioning and decrease neglect and child abuse is early childhood home visiting programs, sometimes referred to as Nurse Family partnerships. These programs provide nursing visits to vulnerable young mothers from conception until the children are between two and six depending on the program. The home visits provide prenatal support, educate parents about early childhood development, promote positive parenting, connect parents with resources, and monitor for signs of child-abuse and neglect.59 Results from several randomized controlled trials of these programs in the United States have shown that the program reduces abuse and injury, and improves cognitive and social and emotional outcomes in children. A 15 year follow-up study found lower levels of crime and antisocial behaviour in both the mothers and the children that participated in these programs.60 In Canada Nurse Family Partnerships were first piloted in Hamilton, Ontario. They are now undergoing a broader implementation and review in the Province of British Columbia. These programs should continue to be supported and expanded to all families who would benefit from this proven early childhood intervention. Many Canadian provinces have established community resources for parents. Alberta has recently announced plans to establish parent link centres across the province. These will deliver parenting programs, and be home to community resources and programs.61 Similar programs exist in other provinces such as the early years centres in Ontario62, and family resource centres in Manitoba.63 Early Childhood Development Centres in Atlantic Canada are combining child care, kindergarten and family supports into early childhood centres that are aligned with schools.64 While these programs can go a long way in reducing abuse and neglect, there is still a need for an overarching strategy to reduce neglect and child abuse across the country. As the ACE study in the United States clearly demonstrated, exposure to early adverse events such as family violence or neglect have troubling implications for adult health and behaviours.65 Action must be taken to ensure that avoidable adverse events are eliminated. The CMA Recommends that: 3. Programs such as early childhood home visiting be made available to all vulnerable families in Canada. 4. Governments support the expansion of community resources for parents which provide parenting programs and family supports. 5. A national strategy to decrease family violence and the maltreatment of children, including appropriate community resources, be developed and implemented in all provinces and territories. Poverty reduction In 1989 the Canadian government made a commitment to end child poverty by 2000. As of 2011, more Canadian children and their families lived in poverty than when the original declaration was made.66 Canada ranks 15th out of 17 peer countries with more than one in seven children living in poverty (15.1%).67 Canada is one of the only wealthy nations with a child poverty rate that is actually higher than the overall poverty rate.68 Child poverty is a provincial and territorial responsibility as well. As of 2012, only four provinces had child poverty strategies that met the guidelines put forward by the Canadian Paediatric Society.c,69 Poor children grow up in the context of poor families which means that solutions for child poverty must necessarily minimize the poverty of their parents.70 Efforts to increase the income as well as employment opportunities for parents, in particular single parents, must be part of any poverty reduction strategy.71 Programs, such as affordable child care, that allows parents to be active participants in the work force represent one approach72,73 Quebec's program of early childhood care has increased female workforce participation by 70,000 and reduced the child poverty rate by 50%.74 Addressing poverty could minimize problem areas in child development. According to a 2009 report by the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, of 27 factors seen as having an impact on child development, 80% of these showed improvement as family income increased.75 Increasing income has the greatest impact on cognitive outcomes for children the earlier in life the reduction in poverty takes place.76 The federal government and the provinces and territories must work to ensure that poverty does not continue to be a barrier to the healthy development of Canadian children. The CMA Recommends that: 6. The federal government work with provinces and territories to adopt a national strategy to eradicate child poverty in Canada with clear accountability and measurable targets. 7. Provinces and territories implement comprehensive poverty reduction strategies with clear accountability and measurable targets. Data Collection for Early Childhood Development The evidence shows the importance of early childhood development for later success and health. In order to properly design effective interventions to mitigate developmental concerns, there is a need for appropriate data on early childhood health indicators and interventions. Given the variation in outcomes of children among different communities and demographic groups, there is a need for individual level data which is linked to the community level. This will allow providers and governments to develop appropriate interventions. Such an approach is being used by the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy, the Human Early Learning Partnership in British Columbia, and Health Data Nova Scotia. Researchers at these centres are creating a longitudinal data set by linking administrative data from a range of sources.77 Such data sets should be supported in all provinces and territories. Another tool being used to measure the progress of Canadian children is the Early Development Instrument (EDI). This tool is a 104 item checklist completed by teachers for every child around the middle of the first year of schooling. The checklist measures five core areas of early child development that are known to be good predictors of adult health, education and social outcomes. These include: physical health and well-being; language and cognitive development; social competence; emotional maturity; and communication skills and general knowledge.78,79 This tool has been used at least once in most of the provinces and territories with a commitment from most jurisdictions to continue this monitoring.80 While this is a good start, it gives only a snapshot of development. Ideally a monitoring system plots several points of time in development to identify trajectories of children. Ontario has introduced an enhanced well baby visit at 18 months. This clinical intervention could allow for the capture of development data at an earlier time. There is a need for more comprehensive information at the 18-month and middle childhood phases.81 The CMA Recommends that: 8. The federal government work with the provinces and territories to create a robust and unified reporting system on early childhood to ensure that proper monitoring of trends and interventions can take place. 9. The federal government work with the provinces and territories to continue to implement the early development index in all jurisdictions. In addition, work should be supported on similar tools for 18 months and middle childhood. 10. The federal government support the development of a pan-Canadian platform that can share evidence and best practice, and focus research questions around the early years. Medical Education: Given the importance of early childhood experiences on adult health there is a need for a greater understanding of the biological basis of adult diseases. The medical community needs to focus more attention on the roots of adult diseases and disabilities and focus prevention efforts on disrupting or minimizing these early links to later poor health outcomes.82 The science of early brain development and biology is rapidly evolving. There is a need to ensure that future and current physicians are up to date on this information and its implications for clinical practice.83 The Association of Faculties of Medicine and the Norlien foundation have partnered to provide funding and support for a series of e-learning tools on early brain and biological development.84 Continuing medical education does exist for some components of early childhood development and more work is underway. The Ontario College of Family Physicians has developed a CME that explores early childhood development for practitioners.85 These initiatives must be supported and expanded to all physicians who provide primary care to children and their families. The CMA Recommends that: 11. Curriculum on early brain, biological development and early learning be incorporated into all Canadian medical schools. 12. Continuing CME on early brain, biological development and early learning be available to all primary-care providers who are responsible for the health care of children. Clinical Practice: While many of the threats to early childhood development lie outside of the hospital or medical clinic, there are a number of ways that physicians can help to address this important determinant of health within their practices. Primary care practitioners are uniquely qualified to address this fundamental population health issue,86 and can provide one important component in a multi-sectoral approach to healthy early childhood development.87 Screening and support for parents The health care system is the primary contact for many child-bearing mothers, and for many families, health-care providers are the only professionals with whom they have regular contact during the early years.88,89 According to data from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, 97% of Ontario children aged zero to two are seen by a family physician.90 Within a patient-centred medical home, health-care providers can give support and information to parents about issues such as parenting, safety, and nutrition, and can link them to early childhood resourcesd, and other supports such as housing and food security programs. 91,92 Primary-care providers can help patients connect with public health departments who have many healthy baby and healthy child programs.93 Primary-care providers can ensure that screening takes place to identify risk factors to appropriate development.94 This screening should take place as early as the prenatal stage and continue throughout childhood. Screening should include regular assessments of physical milestones such as height, weight and vision and hearing etc. In addition, providers can identify risk factors such as maternal depression, substance abuse, and potential neglect or abuse.95 Given the negative consequences of early violence and neglect on childhood development96, this is a key role for primary-care providers. Screening for social issues such as poverty, poor housing and food insecurity should also be completed.97 A significant time for screening occurs at 18 months. This is the time for the last set of immunizations and in many cases the last time a child will have a regularly scheduled physician visit before the start of school.98 The 18 month well baby visit provides an opportunity to screen for not only medical concerns but child development as well. The enhanced 18 month well baby visite developed in Ontario combines parental observations and clinical judgment to screen for any risks a child might have.99 In Ontario, parental observation is captured through the Nipissing District Developmental Screen (NDDS). The parents complete this standardized tool and report the results to their physicians or other primary-care providers. The NDDS checklist is not meant to be a diagnostic tool but instead helps to highlight any potential areas of concern while also providing information to parents about childhood development. The 'activities for your child' section which accompanies the tool can also help reinforce the importance of development.100 As part of the visit primary-care providers fill out a standardized tool known as the Rourke Baby Record. This tool is an evidence based guide which helps professionals deliver the enhanced visit. This combined with the parental report through the NDDS, allows for a complete picture of the physical as well as the development health of the child at 18 months. Primary-care providers can use the results to discuss parenting and development and link children to specialized services, as necessary, and other community supports and resources. In Ontario early child development and parenting resource system pathways have been developed in many communities to help ensure that primary care providers can be aware of the resources and supports available for their patients.101 As was already noted, almost two thirds of vulnerabilities in readiness for school can be prevented.102 Appropriate identification through screening is a first step in correcting these issues. While the expansion of this approach is currently being reviewed in Nova Scotia, it should be implemented in all provinces and territories with appropriate compensation mechanisms and community based supports. Additionally, consideration should be made to developing screening tools for physicians outside of primary care, ie. emergency departments, who see children who might not have regular primary care physicians. The CMA Recommends that: 13. All provinces and territories implement an enhanced 18 month well-baby visit with appropriate compensation and community supports. 14. Physicians and other primary care providers integrate the enhanced 18 month visit into their regular clinical practice. 15. Comprehensive resources be developed for primary-care providers to identify community supports and services to facilitate referral for parents and children. 16. Efforts be made to ensure timely access to resources and programs for children who have identified developmental needs. 17. Physicians serve as advocates on issues related to early childhood development. They should use their knowledge, expertise and influence to speak out on the need and importance of healthy development in the early years. Literacy By 18 months disparities in language acquisition begin to develop.103 According to US research, by age four, children of families on welfare will hear 30 million less words than children from families with professional parents.104 This can lead to ongoing disparities in childhood learning as evidence suggests that exposure to reading and language from parents is fundamental for success in reading by children.105 Physicians and other primary-care providers can play a role in helping to reduce these disparities. They can encourage reading, speaking, singing and telling stories as part of a daily routine.f Studies have demonstrated that when physicians discuss literacy with parents and provide them with appropriate resources, such as developmentally appropriate children's books, increases in reading frequency and preschool language scores have been found.106 One program which has integrated reading and literacy into clinical practice is the 'Reach out and Read' program in the United States. This program partners with physicians, paediatricians, and nurse practitioners to provide new developmentally appropriate books to children ages 6 months through 5 years, as well as guidance for parents about the importance of reading.107,108 The success of this program has been significant with parents in the program being four to ten times more likely to read frequently with their children, and children scoring much higher on receptive and expressive language scores on standardized tests.109 Given the success of this program for American children, a similar program should be explored in the Canadian context. The CMA Recommends that: 18. Physicians continue to include literacy promotion in routine clinical encounters with children of all ages. 19. National Medical Associations work with governments and the non-profit sector to explore the development of a clinically based child literacy program for Canada. Conclusion The early years represent the most important time of development. The first five years can 'get under the skin' and influence outcomes throughout the life course. Negative experiences such as poverty, violence, poor nutrition, and inadequate parenting can determine behaviours as well as adult health outcomes. Effective early interventions can help to minimize or capitalize on these experiences. Government actions and supports to reduce poverty, child abuse, violence and to enable parents to care for their children are necessary. In addition, appropriate high quality early childhood learning and care programs are required for all Canadians regardless of socio-economic status. Finally, health care providers can play a role in identifying children at risk, supporting their parents to encourage healthy childhood development, and advocating for communities that ensure all Canadian children have the opportunity to grow up happy and healthy. References a The adverse childhood events are: emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional neglect, physical neglect, mother treated violently, household substance abuse, household mental illness, parental separation or divorce, incarcerated household member. http://www.cdc.gov/ace/prevalence.htm#ACED b The indicators used for the comparison include: Parental leave of one year with 50% of salary; a national plan with priority for disadvantaged children; subsidized and regulated child care services for 25% of children under 3; subsidized and accredited early education services for 80% of 4 year-olds; 80% of all child care staff trained; 50% of staff in accredited early education services tertiary educated with relevant qualification (this is the only indicator that Canada met); minimum staff-to-children ratio of 1:15 in pre-school education; 1.0% of GDP spent on early childhood services; child poverty rate less than 10%; near-universal outreach of essential child health services. UNICEF (2008) The child care transition: A league table of early childhood education and care in economically advanced countries. Available at: http://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/rc8_eng.pdf c To meet the CPS guidelines a province/territory requires anti-poverty legislation promoting long-term action and government accountability for at least three years, and has a poverty reduction strategy with specific targets. d For a list of some of the resources available for early childhood development across the country please see the Canadian Paediatric Society Resource Page: http://www.cps.ca/en/first-debut/map/community-resources e For more detailed information on the enhanced 18 month well baby visit please see the Canadian Paediatric Society Position statement- Williams R & J Clinton. Getting it right at 18 months: In support of an enhanced well-baby visit. Canadian Paediatric Society. Ottawa, ON; 2011. Available: http://www.cps.ca/documents/position/enhanced-well-baby-visit (Accessed 2014 Jan 24). For resources available to Ontario primary-care providers please visit: http://machealth.ca/programs/18-month/default.aspx f For information and resources on early literacy please see the Canadian Paediatric Society at: http://www.cps.ca/issues-questions/literacy 1 Williams R et.al. The promise of the early years: How long should children wait? Paediatr Child Health Vol 17 No 10 December 2012. Available: http://www.cps.ca/issues/2012-early-years-commentary.pdf (accessed 2014 Feb 21) 2 Shonkoff JP et al. The Foundations of Lifelong Health Are Built in Early Childhood. Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University. Cambridge (MA); 2010. Available: http://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/reports_and_working_papers/foundations-of-lifelong-health/ (accessed 2013 Dec 13). 3 Norrie McCain H.M, Mustard JF, McCuaig, K. Early Years Study 3: Making decisions Taking Action. 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Getting it right at 18 months: In support of an enhanced well-baby visit. Canadian Paediatric Society. Ottawa(ON); 2011. Available: http://www.cps.ca/documents/position/enhanced-well-baby-visit (accessed 2012 Feb 20). 102 Williams R & Clinton J. Getting it right at 18 months: In support of an enhanced well-baby visit. Canadian Paediatric Society. Ottawa(ON); 2011. Available: http://www.cps.ca/documents/position/enhanced-well-baby-visit (accessed 2012 Feb 20). 103 Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University. Five Numbers to Remember About Early Childhood Development. Cambridge(MA); N.D. Available: http://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/multimedia/interactive_features/five-numbers/ (accessed 2014 Feb 10). 104 Denburg A, Daneman D. The Link between Social Inequality and Child Health Outcomes. Healthcare Quarterly Vol. 14 Oct 2010. 105 Shaw A. Read, speak, sing: Promoting literacy in the physician's office. Canadian Paediatric Society, Ottawa (ON); 2006. 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