Physical Health & Well-being
Physical health and well-being includes, but goes beyond, the absence of disease. Core markers of child and youth physical health and well-being include healthy starts (breastfeeding, immunizations, and prenatal care); healthy body weight; healthy eating and sleeping habits; accessible preventive dental care; and developmental screening. A sense of vitality, opportunities for recreational activities, physical fun and challenges, and access to traditional food sources are also important. Sub-dimensions of physical health include injury prevention and safe environments.1
The indicators for physical health and well-being reflect a life course approach. Pregnancy and the perinatal period are recognized as being important for mothers’ health as well as to the future health of children and youth, and four indicators incorporate this time: low birth weight, smoking during pregnancy, alcohol use during pregnancy, and infant mortality. Key physical health and well-being indicators for the early years include breastfeeding, hearing screening, dental health, immunization rates, and physical motor skills. Key indicators for the physical health and well-being of older children and youth include healthy weights, positive self-rated health, physical activity level, frequency of tobacco use, binge drinking, marijuana use, chlamydia incidence, and teenage birth rate. Finally, there are indicators that span these time periods, including fruit and vegetable consumption, asthma prevalence, and serious injuries.
- In BC, the proportion of low birth weight babies has remained stable over the past several years.
- The percentage of mothers who reported smoking during pregnancy decreased; however, there is a considerable range in the percentage of smoking during pregnancy based on geography.
- In this report, binge drinking among women in their reproductive years is used to explore alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Over the last 11 years, binge drinking among woman of reproductive age in BC increased substantially.
- The infant mortality rate has decreased over the last 30 years.
- In BC in 2012, approximately 40 per cent of mothers exclusively breastfed their babies for the first six months, which is high compared to other provinces, but there is still room for improvement, especially in northern BC.
- Almost all children age 0–3 in BC are being screened for hearing and supports are being offered in a timely way.
- There has been an overall decrease in the number of children with visible tooth decay in BC, but there are again geographic disparities with children in northern BC not faring as well as other children.
- While there is evidence that most parents believe that vaccines are safe, effective, and important to children’s health,2 it is concerning that almost one-third of children are not up-to-date in their immunizations by the time they turn seven.
- There has been no improvement over time in the results of assessments of kindergarten children’s fine and gross motor skills.
Children and Youth
- A high percentage of BC students reported eating fruits or vegetables; nevertheless, there is still room for improvement, as 6 per cent reported that they did not eat any fruits or vegetables the previous day.
- One in four students has an unhealthy weight based on their self-reported height and weight.
- Most youth rated themselves as having “good” or “excellent” health.
- Geographic differences in BC indicate that a higher percentage of students participate in daily physical activity in rural areas as compared to more urban areas, and there is a striking difference in physical activity rates between sexes.
- While youth tobacco use is decreasing overall, there are substantial geographic differences in this use.
- The percentages of BC youth who have ever used tobacco, consumed alcohol, or used marijuana have decreased. Additionally, the percentages of youth who use tobacco, who binge drink , and who use marijuana on a regular basis have also decreased.
- Given that the incidence of chlamydia is an indicator of risky sexual activity, it is concerning that there has been little progress in this area over the last 10 years.
- There has been a substantial decrease in births to teenage mothers since 1989; however, for the health authorities, there is a five-fold difference between the highest rate (Northern Health) and the lowest rate (Vancouver Coastal Health).
- The prevalence of asthma, which is an indicator of chronic disease in childhood, remains essentially unchanged over the last decade, at one in 10 children in BC.
- Serious injuries among children and youth show a downward trend, but there is an almost two-fold difference across the geographic areas in the province.
Explore the Indicators:
- Canadian Institute for Health Information. Child and youth health and well-being indicators project: CIHI and B.C. PHO joint summary report. Ottawa, ON: Canadian Institute for Health Information; 2013 Feb.
- Statistics Canada. Childhood National Immunization Coverage Survey, 2013. The Daily. Ottawa, ON: Statistics Canada; 2015 Jul 21 [cited 2016 Apr 6]. Available from: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/150721/dq150721c-eng.htm.