NEWS

How are Manitoba's children doing?

Report a snapshot of 10 years of health, education and safety

A new report outlines health, education, safety and more among Manitoba's children over the space of a decade.
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Read the report: How Are Manitoba's Children Doing?

Winnipeg Health Region
Published Friday, October 12, 2012

The health and welfare of Manitoba's children shows both good and bad changes over a 10-year study period, including decreases in teen pregnancy but also increases in health care use by children living in poverty.

The study, titled How are Manitoba's Children Doing, was released by the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy on Thursday, and looked at almost all children in the province 19 and under during the period of 2000 to 2010. It measured children's well-being in four areas: physical and emotional health; safety and security; education; and social engagement and responsibility.

Improvements included a 10 per cent decrease in teen pregnancy rates, a 29 per cent decrease in grade repetition, and a seven per cent increase in high school graduation.

Some results were harder to interpret. For example, hospital use decreased by 23 per cent and physician visits decreased by 20 per cent over the 10-year study period. Whether these decreases reflect improvements in health, and therefore less need for services, more appropriate use of services, or more difficulty getting service over time was not clear.

Other findings weren't so good. Children from northern regions and those living in the lowest income areas of the province experience the highest mortality rates, with injuries being the leading cause.

"The rate of child deaths was over three times higher in the lowest income areas compared to the highest," says Dr. Marni Brownell, lead author of the study.

Similar differences between children from lower income areas and higher income areas were found for many of the measures studied. For example, children from low income areas had higher rates of hospitalization and involvement with child welfare services and teen pregnancy.

The information is based on where children live, not where they received services or attended school. For example, a child living in a remote area in northern Manitoba may be hospitalized in Winnipeg, but the hospitalization is attributed back to the rate for the remote area. Likewise, a child living in the Fort Garry area of Winnipeg may attend school in downtown, but the educational outcome will be attributed to Fort Garry. Thus the results offer insight into the health, education, and social service use patterns of the child population living in the area, no matter where they receive their services.

The report made a number of recommendations, which will be used by Manitoba Health and other provincial government departments. These include: programs and policies that improve health behaviour, coupled with policies that address the broader living conditions that contribute to poor health; strategies aimed at improving sexual health in teenagers; mental health strategies; addressing the needs of Aboriginal children; and integrated services for children, youth and their families.

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