Healthy child and youth development begins long before birth and is one of the key determinants for health and well-being throughout life. A healthy child is one who thrives through each developmental stage and is positioned to reach his or her potential in adulthood. The capacity for a child to develop in a healthy manner depends greatly on the environment in which he or she is raised. There is an extensive body of research evidence confirming the profound influence of early experiences on brain development, school readiness, subsequent learning and future adult health. The child’s early experiences have the most important influence of any other time frame in the life cycle. Additional information is available on the Public Health Authority of Canada (PHAC) website.
Among other things, the following facts are known about child and youth development:
There are a number of provincial programs and initiatives that support healthy child development. These programs are designed to promote healthy pregnancy, infancy, and birth, improve parenting and family supports and strengthen early childhood development.
Parent and Child Health Programs include a variety of programs designed to offer and support seamless service for childbearing families and families with young children, from the prenatal period to the school-aged child. These are offered to all families, through regional community health services. Families are referred to these programs either by health care providers or by themselves and services are provided primarily by public/community health nurses.
Specific program areas include:
Parent and Child Health Programs also include other services such as:
These initiatives are designed to provide prenatal, postnatal and parenting education and support to women and their families. Healthy Beginnings was developed to assist public health nurses to identify families and their children who require specific follow-up in the time after birth. The goal of the program is to promote optimal physical, cognitive, communicative and psychological development in all children. Included in this program is a plan for screening and follow-up of priority families. Child Health Clinics and Preschool Health Checks also provide screening opportunities for physical growth, vision, hearing, speech/language development, behaviour, oral health and nutrition. Referrals can also be made for other services where indicated. Each program provides a standardized, yet flexible, approach based on best practice in meeting the health needs of parents and young children.
Please see our Child, Youth and Families section for related information.