Canadian agency releases report on the health of Canada's young people

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Today the Public Health Agency of Canada released Young People in Canada: Their Health and Well-Being, which highlights the importance of young people being well-integrated socially and having supportive relationships and environments at home and at school.

"Developing a multi-dimensional understanding of the health and well-being of Canada's young people is of abiding importance to Canada's future," said Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh. "This report contributes to that by highlighting not only positive and negative behavioural trends among youth but also how such behaviours are shaped by family, peers and socio-economic status."

Some findings indicate positive changes in the behaviours and attitudes of young people. For example, the majority of young people reported good emotional health and smoking rates have declined among both males and females. However, challenges remain including high rates of obesity, sedentary behaviour, marijuana use, stress related to relationships, and dissatisfaction with school.

"The cost to individuals, and more broadly to society as a whole, can be substantial when young people fail to achieve their optimal development, and as a result, fail to reach adulthood as healthy, resilient, socially responsible and engaged citizens," said Dr. Carolyn Bennett, Minister of State (Public Health).

During adolescence, young people seek more independence and establish networks and relationships outside of the home that influence their health and well-being. Canada's new Chief Public Health Officers commented that, "Parents in particular need to remain active participants in their children's education and development by promoting healthy living habits and healthy social relationships."

The report is a snapshot of the health behaviours of young people in Canada ages 11 to 15. It is based on Canadian data from the 2001/02 survey of the cross-national World Health Organization study - Health Behaviours in School-Aged Children (HBSC). The survey was carried out by the Queen's University Social Program Evaluation Group. The Public Health Agency of Canada provided $400,000 in funding over 4 years to conduct the study. It examines the influence of a variety of factors on health behaviours and attitudes in settings where young people live, learn, work and play.

The HSBC considers how socioeconomic status, the family, peers and school shape the health and well-being of adolescents. The most powerful determinants of youth physical and emotional health evident from the HBSC survey were gender, family affluence, school climate, and the influence of peers on risk-taking behaviours. Behaviours examined include smoking, alcohol, and drug use, physical activity/body image, eating patterns, emotional health and injuries.

The population health framework used in this report, an approach advocated by both the World Health Organization and Health Canada, provides valuable knowledge for the development of effective health promotion and disease prevention policies and programs. Federal/Provincial/Territorial Ministers of Health have endorsed the Integrated Pan-Canadian Healthy Living Strategy Framework and a set of broad actions, which is laying the foundation for promoting positive choices about personal health practices such as healthy eating and not smoking. Other F/P/T strategies, such as the Canada Drug Strategy and the Tobacco Control Strategy, have also been developed to address pan-Canadian health issues collaboratively.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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