Scientific team update on BC Healthy Connections Project now available

June 11, 2020

The scientific team guiding the BC Healthy Connections Project has published an update. The project is a randomized controlled trial evaluating the Nurse-Family Partnership program, involving 739 BC-based girls and young women — and their 744 children. The update may be viewed here.

Following last year’s publication of data describing maternal participants and the life conditions they were coping with in early pregnancy, the team is now analyzing initial data on the effectiveness of the nurse-visitation program. A first findings report will soon be released — examining the program’s impact on prenatal substance use. Further findings reports will follow in 2020-2022.

As well, some 27% of project participants identified as Indigenous (including First Nations, Métis or Inuit). The scientific team is collaborating with the First Nations Health Authority to produce publications telling their stories.

The scientific team expects to provide an additional update every quarter until March 2022.


Coping with COVID-19

April 23, 2020

The Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University has created a brief video offering parents advice on how to help children cope with COVID-19.

The video features Charlotte Waddell, director of the Children’s Health Policy Centre, who says that physical distancing doesn’t have to mean loss of connections.

She suggests that parents help children by:

• Getting help themselves when needed to manage stress and to help kids maintain healthy routines
• Encouraging kids to stay connected with friends and family using social networks and the phone
• Remembering how COVID19 affects some children and families more than others
• Thinking of ways to be helping others, which in turn contributes to resilience

“Social connections are crucial for children, as they are for adults,” Waddell says. For more information on specific steps parents and caregivers can take to support kids in the time of COVID-19, go here.

New prevalence study will address children’s mental health needs in BC

April 22, 2020

The Children’s Health Policy Centre has taken on a new research project to comprehensively estimate children’s mental health needs in BC and recommend how they can be met. The BC Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) has requested this effort, to inform new services for children’s mental health.

This project will inform needs-based planning by:

• Reviewing the latest epidemiological data on the prevalence of the 10 most common childhood mental disorders
• Summarizing the best evidence on exemplary prevention and treatment interventions for young people
• Examining public datasets that can be used to track children’s mental health outcomes going forward, and
• Synthesizing prevalence, intervention and public data evidence to suggest a comprehensive plan for BC

Led by BC MCFD’s Child and Youth Mental Health Policy Branch, a cross-governmental policy advisory group for the project includes senior representatives from the:
• BC Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions (co-sponsor)
• BC Ministry of Health
• BC Ministry of Education
• First Nations Health Authority, and
• Métis Nation of BC
Other policy collaborators are also being consulted as needed.

The CHPC team is being led by Charlotte Waddell, Christine Schwartz and Nicole Catherine — together with Jen Barican, Donna Yung and Yufei Zheng. Additional scientific collaborators include Kathy Georgiades from McMaster University and Bohdan Nosyk and Emanuel Krebs from Simon Fraser University.

This project is being conducted from 2019 through 2021.

Supporting kids in the time of COVID-19

March 23, 2020

The COVID-19 public health emergency is putting a lot of pressure on parents, caregivers and others who work with children. They must explain challenging concepts to help children manage their fears and keep routines as stable as possible.

To assist with these challenges, we offer the following suggestions:

  • Create situations for children to comfortably ask questions at their own pace. Answer questions honestly using concepts that children can easily understand. For example, explain that the new coronavirus is one of many different types of viruses, like the ones that cause colds. And be ready to repeat your answers as children may re-ask the same questions as a way to gain reassurance.
  • Help children manage their fears by modelling calmness and by providing accurate information. This can include explaining the steps you are taking to keep them healthy and safe. (See sidebar, below.) It may also involve highlighting the many actions that community members are taking to protect everyone. And avoid letting children be exposed to media sources that could unnecessarily increase their anxiety.
  • Maintain children’s regular routines as much as possible. Fun activities, like playing outdoors and bike riding, are still possible even with physical distancing. Similarly, technology can help with other important activities like play dates and connecting with grandparents.
  • Encourage children to think about ways they can help others. This could include, for example, helping neighbours who may need things delivered to their doors, sending positive messages to loved ones who may not be near, or communicating with other children about doing schoolwork together, remotely.

Our sidebar, below, gives helpful resources for parents and families. For children who are experiencing more severe anxiety, the book Helping Your Anxious Child may be particularly useful. (Many local bookstores are offering free shipping for online and phone orders.) The book provides guidance to parents of school-age children on ways to teach cognitive-behavioural strategies to reduce anxiety, including recognizing worries and changing the thinking that encourages them.

Collectively, we have faced serious challenges in the past — including wars, 9/11 and wildfires. We will weather this latest crisis as well, with strong public health leadership and with the support of everyone who cares for and works with children.

Resources for parents and families

New resources to help children — and their parents or caregivers — cope with COVID are being developed rapidly. These include: