British Columbia

Checkup on B.C. children's health finds 'concerning' disparities between regions and genders

A check-in with B.C.'s children finds good news, but 'concerning' disparities depending on where the child live and which gender they are.

Cyberbullying decreasing as youth decide it's 'just not cool anymore,' but other problems remain

A report from the Office of the Provincial Health Officer takes the temperature of B.C's children and youth. (Office of the Provincial Health officer)

A check-in with B.C.'s children finds good news but also "concerning" disparities depending on where children live and what gender they are.

The Office of the Provincial Health Officer released a report Thursday titled Is "Good", Good Enough?, which is meant to act as a check-up on the health of B.C.'s children and youth.

The study was done to measure how young British Columbians are faring when it comes to everything from tooth decay to suicidal thoughts in an effort to improve child health over the long term.

This reports follows a similar report in 2013 called Child & Youth Health and Well-being in B.C. This study tried to define and measure health indicators.

More children end up in provincial care in northern parts of B.C., where it happens at more than twice the rate of other parts of the province. (Office of the Provincial Health officer)

Regional, gender gaps

Overall, the current outlook is good, said provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall.

Child mortality is decreasing, B.C. has the highest breastfeeding rate in the country and young people in this province report high self-esteem.

But there are some regional and gender disparities that are "concerning," he added.

Girls seem to be struggling more with bullying and suicidal thoughts.

And, overall, urban children seem to be faring better than children who live in rural or remote areas, he said.

Of the 960,000 children and youth in B.C., 60 per cent live in the Lower Mainland.

A recent check-up of some of B.C.'s 960,000 children and youth revealed some good news, like a decline in infant mortality and a stellar rate of breast feeding in this province. (Office of the Provincial Health officer)

Rural areas faring worse

Rural youth seem to be struggling more in areas around mental health and suicide.

In the parts of B.C. where the ratio of children to adults is higher, many also report lack of access to a trusted adult.

"I found it shocking that many of the indicators were a lot worse in the northern areas of B.C.," said Morgan Peever, 17, of student advocacy group B.C. Student voice.

Peever took some of the data back to North Peace Secondary School in Fort St. John and came up with some innovative ideas to help.

She described how her school "changed our Aboriginal support worker to our school's 'glorified mother' ... so she could touch base with more students."

Peever said the tactic worked.

Morgan Peever, 17, took some of the report's data and put it to students in the north who came up with specific ways to help teens feel connected to a 'trusted adult.' (CBC)

Economic factors

While there has been a decrease in the number of children reporting they go to bed hungry, seven to 10 per cent still reported the "most severe form of food insecurity," according to the report.

The report says the percentage of unemployed parents increased after the 2008 economic downturn, especially in northern parts of B.C.

The report also highlighted that the province has the second-highest number of children under 18 living in low-income households in Canada.

Northern youth have higher rates of suicide than their Lower Mainland counterparts according to data from the report released today by B.C.'s Provincial Health Officer. (Office of the Provincial Health officer)

Bullying remains a problem

Bullying remains a problem — especially for girls

Girls report that they are bullied more often and report suicidal thoughts more than boys, according to the report.

But research in the report shows there has been a marked decrease in cyberbullying. While researchers are not sure why, they credit media campaigns.

"There's been a shift in thinking. It's just not cool anymore. It's seen as weak and picking on people. It's a change in culture," said Dr. Bonnie Henry.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, deputy provincial health officer, says the health and safety of B.C. children is everybody's business. (CBC)