OTTAWA, Nov. 12, 2014 /CNW/ - Canada's support system for early childhood lags far behind other countries and action is urgently needed, said the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada in a new position statement issued today.
To address this crisis, the Royal College and its partners have issued 15 recommendations to improve the health and wellness of Canada's children, including calls for increased government funding and enhanced support for parents.
"Early childhood is the most important development phase and our current approach is inadequate," says Dr. Andrew Padmos, Royal College CEO. "Canada can, and should, be a world leader in supporting its children."
Currently, Canada's system of childhood care and education lags behind other developed countries – tied for last out of 25 states according to key OECD indicators. Currently, Canada also spends below the OECD standard 1% of GDP on early childhood care and learning — with the majority of this spending occurring in Quebec.
Crucial physical and cognitive advancements take place between birth and age six. Research suggests that 90% of a child's brain is developed by age five, before many children have any access to early childhood education.
At the same time, science shows the root of many chronic diseases are formed in childhood. Adverse experiences such as abuse, neglect, poverty or prolonged toxic stress can significantly affect brain development. These children are then at higher risk of obesity, diabetes, various cancers, addiction and mental illness.
"Canada needs a national conversation about how we support the development of young children," said Dr. Robin Williams, President-Elect of the Canadian Paediatric Society. "Governments have a role to play in creating communities that care about children, and in making sure kids are protected from adversity. We also need to know more about how children are doing, to monitor their progress so that we can better evaluate our investments."
Developed in conjunction with various health care partners, the Royal College's recommendations outline 15 practical steps to improve early childhood care and learning in Canada. These include:
- The federal government commit to increased funding for early childhood development towards a target of 1% of GDP, thereby bringing Canada in line with other OECD countries.
- The federal government, in collaboration with provincial and territorial governments, implement a comprehensive early child development system with support for families, including Indigenous children and families living both on and off reserve;
- Home visiting programs be made available to all vulnerable families in Canada. These programs provide prenatal support, educate parents, promote positive parenting, and help monitor for signs of child-abuse and neglect.
"Our health system commits tremendous resources to treating obesity, diabetes and other health issues, yet research shows that investing early in children is far more cost-effective," Dr. Cecil Rorabeck, President of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. "These recommendations are a national call to action."
The Royal College's position statement was produced in collaboration with representatives from the College of Family Physicians of Canada, the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Paediatric Society, the Canadian Association of Paediatric Health Centres, and other associations and academic partners.
The complete list of 15 recommendations are available online in the Early Childhood position statement.
SOURCE: Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada
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