Child health report up for discussion at BIC Conference

May 23, 2014

In late 2012 Dr. Nazeem Muhajarine worked with Dr. Cory Neudorf to produce the first-ever child health status report.

The document focused on a number of outcomes for children within the Saskatoon Health Region. One of the most notable findings was that too many children are not ready for kindergarten.

 Nazeem Muhajarine and Cory Neudorf at BIC.
Nazeem Muhajarine and Cory Neudorf at BIC.

This information provided the basis for a panel discussion on children’s well-being at the Best Interests of the Child Conference in Saskatoon on May 8.
“It is important for us to work with kids earlier in their lives rather than later,” Muhajarine said.

He outlined some of his SPHERU work on children’s development, such as the KidsFirst program, an intervention that helps connect families at risk to services and supports in specific communities around the province.

“In SPHERU, we’ve done a lot of intervention research,” he said. “We learned that KidsFirst produced measurable, short-term positive developmental changes.”

Muhajarine reiterated the point that early years investments make lasting improvements and result in long-term savings.

“It covers a range of tried and tested policies,” he said.

Neudorf also spoke to the specifics of the Healthy Families, Healthy Communities Report, which he worked on as the Saskatoon Health Region’s Chief Medical Health Officer.

“Overall, a third of our kids aren’t ready to learn in one domain or another,” he said.

One of the recommendations of the report, Neudorf said, is the 18 by 18 goal, which is to cut the proportion of children entering the school system as “vulnerable” to 18 per cent, from the current 30, by 2018.

“This is a classic example of the need for inter-sectoral action,” he said, adding that communities need to rethink ways of re-allocating resources and how to link up vulnerable families and children with services early on.

Muhajarine and Neudorf were joined by Cassandra Opikokew-Wajuntah, a graduate student at the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy and associate director of the Indigenous Peoples’ Health Research Centre.

The conference also featured keynote presentations by Queen’s University law professor Nicholas Bala, Advocate for Children and Youth Bob Pringle and Chief Commissioner David Arnot of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, as well as panel discussions on the youth justice system, the child welfare system and children as learners and leaders.

The event was organized by the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, a partnership between the Universities of Regina and Saskatchewan.


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