How can we prevent maltreatment and ensure all children flourish?
That was the subject of a 30-minute talk to a group of undergraduates, graduate students and faculty at an SFU Faulty of Health Sciences student conference held May 3/22. Nicole Catherine, Mowafaghian University Research Associate with the Children’s Health Policy Centre was the person addressing the group.
Speaking on the results of the BC Healthy Connections Project, an evaluation of a primary prevention program for young, first-time moms, Nurse-Family Partnership, Catherine said the results of the research had been moving. “We were honoured that more than 700 girls and young women and their children had shared their experiences with us,” she said. The research group conducted some 3,700 research interviews for the project.
“We’ve learned that prevention needs to start early in pregnancy before children are born,” Catherine said. “Adversities such as family socioeconomic disadvantage and child maltreatment are socially produced and are therefore preventable.”
Students expressed curiosity about how policymakers are interpreting the trial findings, whether the program is continuing in BC and whether other provinces will explore this intervention. They also noticed that the majority of the research was conducted in English which will have excluded children and families from other cultural backgrounds representative of BC.
Could better monitoring of children’s mental health conditions lead to better outcomes for BC’s children?
That was the subject of a 60-minute virtual talk to graduate students in UBC’s school of population and public health on March 17, 2022, by Charlotte Waddell, director of the Children’s Health Policy Centre.
Speaking on the serious mental health service shortfalls for BC youth and children before Covid-19, Waddell said there is an urgent need to for better measurement now.
“If we measure it, we can start to shift the public conversation,” she said. “This is crucial because until it is their child, people just do not know and so, do not ask policymakers to pay attention.”
The 60-minute talk included enthusiastic discussion of case studies.
A McMaster University team is leading Canada’s first comprehensive investigation of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on child health, with a team from the Children’s Health Policy Centre as Co-Principal Investigators.
Together, we are building on Statistics Canada’s uniquely-positioned 2019 Canadian Health Survey of Children and Youth — conducted just prior to the start of the pandemic. In re-interviewing this representative, population-based sample of 45,000 young people and their families, we will be able to measure the impact not only of COVID-19 but also of pandemic responses on mental health, physical health, learning and social inequities.
This project is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and Statistics Canada, with additional supports from Children’s Healthcare Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, McMaster University, BC MCFD and donors. Initial results are anticipated in 2023–2024.
Centre members are also providing supports for an associated study of the impact of the pandemic on Ontario children, funded by the province of Ontario. Results are anticipated in 2022. Beyond this, we contributed to a Royal Society of Canada volume outlining safe ways for children to return to school during the COVID-19 pandemic.
How can child maltreatment be prevented?
That was the subject of a 60-minute virtual talk, on February 22, 2022, by Nicole Catherine, scientific director for the BC Healthy Connections Project and Christine Schwartz, adjunct professor with the Children’s Health Policy Centre.
They were speaking with just over 200 practitioners attending a virtual conference titled “A multidisciplinary approach to child maltreatment — a path to healing,” sponsored by the Vancouver-based Sophie’s Place Child & Youth Advocacy Centre.
Speaking on the prevalence, risks and outcomes of child maltreatment, Schwartz told the group that one in three Canadians has experienced some form of maltreatment in childhood and that the COVID pandemic has only increased the risk. “Families being isolated in their homes, especially during periods in which schools have been closed, have come at a great cost to children,” she said.
Schwartz also discussed a systematic review of maltreatment prevention programs, citing strong evidence that child maltreatment can be prevented. She also noted that, home-visiting programs, like Nurse-Family Partnership, “provide needed supports to address family socioeconomic disadvantage, promote parenting skills and help children flourish.”
Nicole Catherine then summarized the early results of a recent BC-based scientific evaluation of the Nurse-Family Partnership. Findings of the BC Healthy Connections Project have shown that Health Authorities successfully reached the population that the program is designed to benefit and that it helped reduce prenatal substance use. Findings on child maltreatment and developmental outcomes, as well as maternal life course are anticipated later in 2022.
“To prevent child maltreatment, we must invest in programs that start early, in pregnancy and ensure that we reach underserved children and families who can benefit the most,” Catherine said.