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Reviewing the Health of Canada’s Children

In: Social Issues

Submitted By SuperDancer
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Canada, by international standards is a rich country; however, Canada has plenty of families struggling to make ends meet. It can be seen in “The Health of Canada’s Children” by Dennis Raphael, (2010) many social determinants influence health. One of the major determinants of health is living circumstances. The many different qualities of living within Canada have resulted in the health inequalities among children. This article in particular gives the reader the information needed to understand how living circumstances come about as well as how they affect health. Infant mortality rate or the number of newborns who die within their first year of life is considered to be one of the best ways to judge how healthy a population is. Low birth weight is also very important because it is affiliated with a wide range of health problems throughout a person’s lifespan. While there are many circumstances that play a role in infant mortality and low birth weight, a major component is living conditions the expected mothers are exposed to. This can be linked to the financial status of the parents. In Canada, the infant mortality rate is 60% higher and the low birth rate is 43% higher in the poorest income quintile than the richest quintile (Raphael, 2010). The effects of income on health are best portrayed by the living conditions to which children are exposed to. Income not only has a direct relationship with children’s health but various developmental outcomes as well. Income is a great indicator for the quality of nutrition, clothing, and housing children receive as well as the opportunities they may have available to them when it comes to education and recreation. There is a concern rising for Canadians because income inequalities among families are increasing while the housing and food security situation is decreasing. This is a problem because children are being affected by this and there is evidence that shows experiences that occur during one stage in life tend to affect the health status later in life (Raphael, 2010). Policies to fight children poverty include earning policies, income policies, and investments in the human capital of poor children. Earning policies deal with preventing poverty by increasing parents’ employability, increasing minimum wage, improving both the accessibility and affordability of quality child care, and helping to cover the cost of dental care and prescription drugs. Income policies include support programs such as welfare, tax reductions, and child support regulation to help single-parent families. Last, but not least the investments try to alleviate the detrimental effects of poverty by helping out in areas such as health care, housing, and education (Lefebvre and Merrigan, 2003). Improving children’s living circumstances would benefit health in many ways such as by reducing material and social disadvantages; amplify community, family and personal environments, which in turn will boost cognitive, emotional and social development. Some possible areas where adjustments could be implemented to help would be enhancing child benefits for low-income families, restoring and expanding eligibility for employment insurance, increase federal work taxes, increase minimum wage, more funding for social housing, improve the affordability of early childhood education, and most of all, funding to help allow equal opportunities for all children. These improvements would be very beneficial, especially since one of the social determinants of health that is most relevant to children would be early childhood development. Early childhood development is often shaped by the availability of materials needed to ensure proper nutrition, housing, as well as cognitive and emotional support within family environments. The reason most people are not able to ensure of these things are due to the parents’ employment situation and wages, the availability of affordable housing, educational and recreational opportunities, and the opportunities for social assistance (Raphael, 2010). One possible way to help with the inequalities would be for the government to consider spending money on income support to the working-age population and social services. Income support would include family benefits, wage subsidies and child support paid by the government. This would help low-income individuals and families to get out of poverty. Social services would include counselling for individuals as well as families and employment support for those seeking jobs due to being laid off or being unemployed. In class, we looked at a study that showed the most amount of money goes to the health care system; however there are other things that play a bigger role in a person’s health (Smith, 2013). The article I have discussed certainly backs up the study by proving that living circumstances while being a child can play a huge role in health. I feel our country is very much reactive instead of proactive which needs to change if we want things to get any better. Why is it that we need to see people suffer before we decide to help? I think it is very important for Canada to use surveys like Statistics Canada to see where improvements are needed. The government needs to actually act on these issues instead of brushing it off until it’s too late to improve and must be completely revamped. I feel it is also very important to realize families come in multiple variations such as single-parent and two-parent. Subsidies need to be used so that whether you have two parents bringing in income or just one, the children do not suffer the consequences of not being able to participate in activities whether educational or recreational due to lack of money. I feel the reason the government is having a hard time with this is because birth rates and fertility rates are beginning to descend due to mothers needing to work and make a living in order to afford housing. If more women are out in the work force, you would think that less money would be needed to assist families but in fact, more is needed due to the rise in housing rates. One thing I have noticed in the recent past is the expansion of income support programs for the elderly. This cannot be comparable to the programs set for young families with children. In recent years, the government has been so caught up in helping the elderly that young families have been suffering with less generous subsidies. One way this can be seen is through the federal government abandoning its universal Family Allowance program which supported young families with children. The shift has gone from more seniors being considered poor, to more children being poor. I think this raises concern because children are completely dependent on their parents for their well-being. I believe this is a huge issue because children are the future of this country and so we need to make sure they are being taken care of. If there is one thing, I have learned during lectures in this class, it would be how others in the family can affect you physically and emotionally. Stress leads to outcomes such as cancer, illness, weight gain and so on. Parents not being able to support their family financially because of losing a job, a recent divorce, or even loss of a loved one will feel all kinds of stress. This is an issue because it truly does affect the children. In these situations, social support is very important. Everyone deserves to have someone they can confide in whether it is a loved one, or even a counselor. The government needs to pull up their socks and begin to change circumstances for people in order to stop the circle of events causing children poverty.

References:
1. Lefebvre, P., & Merrigan, P. (n.d.). Assessing Family Policy in Canada.Choices. Retrieved February 28, 2013, from www.irpp.org/choices/archive/vol9no5.pdf
2. Rahael, D. (n.d.). The Health of Canada's Children. Choices. Retrieved February 20, 2013, from www.irpp.org/choices/archive/
3. Smith, T. (Director) (2012, January 14). Sociological Perspectives on Family and Health. Health and the Family. Lecture conducted from Nipissing University, North Bay.

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