Health Department releases new report on early childhood development in Priority Neighbourhoods

Durham Region Health Department has released a new Health Neighbourhoods report entitled “Making Children the Priority: Early Childhood Development in Priority Neighbourhoods”. This report is available here

The report focuses on early childhood development in the seven Durham Region Priority Neighbourhoods which have been identified by the Health Department. The report analyzes the health and well-being of Durham Region children by examining the percentage of children living in low-income households, the percentage of children receiving the enhanced 18-month well-baby visit, breastfeeding practices for mothers in these Neighbourhoods, school readiness as measured by the Early Development Instrument (EDI) and police-reported domestic incidents with children present.

“Early childhood development is a key determinant of health,” said Jessica Jenkins, Manager, Population Health with the Health Department. “By focusing on this important phase of life, we can better understand the health of our communities, especially in our Priority Neighbourhoods.”

Although the Priority Neighbourhoods continue to have challenges with low income levels and poor health status, data within the report indicates some improvements related to early childhood development indicators. The most improvement was seen in the Health Neighbourhoods of Downtown Oshawa and Lakeview; however, other Neighbourhoods also saw an improvement.

For example, the percentage of two-year old children receiving the enhanced 18-month well-baby visit increased in Priority Neighbourhoods from 45 per cent from 2010 to 2012, to 56 per cent from 2013 to 2015; this improvement was similar to the rate for Durham Region as a whole. Additionally, the Priority Neighbourhoods saw an improvement in the percentage of new mothers who breastfed for six months or longer, which increased from 42 per cent from 2007 to 2012, to 58 per cent from 2013 to 2017.

“The use of health data by neighbourhoods has powerful implications for improving health in our communities,” said Mary-Anne Pietrusiak, Manager, Health Analytics and Research with the Health Department. “With this data, we can continue to work towards achieving equitable health for all residents within Durham Region.”

While the report focuses on areas of improvement, it also identifies areas where the percentage of vulnerable children remain higher in the Priority Neighbourhoods than compared to the rest of Durham Region. For instance, while the percentage of kindergarten children vulnerable in their development in terms of physical health and well-being decreased from 31 per cent in 2012 to 22 per cent in 2015 in Priority Neighbourhoods, this percentage was still higher than the rest of Durham Region in both years.

Other information in the report outlines that Priority Neighbourhoods including Downtown Ajax, Downtown Whitby, and the five Oshawa neighbourhoods of Lakeview, Gibb West, Downtown Oshawa, Central Park and Beatrice North, have the lowest income levels of the 50 Health Neighbourhoods in Durham Region. However, these Priority Neighbourhoods also have many community assets and strengths that can be used to build health and well-being, such as EarlyON Child and Family Centres, community centres and schools.

To access the Priority Neighbourhoods report and more information related to Health Neighbourhoods, visit durham.ca/neighbourhoods. Information is also available by calling Durham Health Connection Line at 905-666-6241 or 1-800-841-2729.

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