This week commemorated the 20th anniversary of the House of Commons’ unanimous resolution to end child poverty in Canada by the year 2000. Unfortunately, the week also saw the release of data indicating that BC continues to have significant numbers of children and families living in poverty. The annual Child Poverty Report Card reported that almost 1 in 5 children (18.8%) are living in families with incomes below Statistics Canada’s Low Income Cut-Offs. Further, over half of BC’s children living in poverty came from families where at least one adult had a full-time full-year job (55.7%).
PHABC President Ted Bruce noted his concern over the debate that seems to arise without fail when poverty statistics are released: “We need to remember that there are children and families behind these statistics. Too often, the issue seems to get derailed to a discussion about the numbers when it should be focused on what can be done.”
Why should we be concerned? Public health has long recognized that poverty is a barrier to health. Research evidence tells us that poverty has a profound impact on the well being of children and families and can hinder the development of children.
The Chief Public Health Officer of Canada’s recent report on the health of Canada’s children outlines the impact of social and economic conditions for children living in poverty. The report notes: “Canadian researchers have reported that family income plays a significant role in influencing child development. Of 27 factors identified as having an impact on child development, up to 80% were seen to improve as family income increases.” Compared to children living in higher-income families, research has shown children in low-income families to be more likely to facing substandard housing; living in problem neighborhoods; more likely to have a problem with basic abilities (i.e., vision, hearing, speech, mobility); more likely to exhibit delayed vocabulary development and many other impacts.1
The mandate of our Association is to identify and advocate for healthy public policies that can increase the health and well being of all of our population. Public Health successes often include the inclusion of targets and timelines which foster accountability. PHABC is calling for the development of a crosssectoral provincial poverty reduction plan that would outline the steps and goals to eliminating poverty in our province. “Considering the implications of poverty on our health and social systems” notes Bruce “reducing poverty is a real opportunity to address concerns of health care sustainability”.
PHABC is a voluntary, non-profit, non-government organization whose mission is to preserve and promote the public’s health. For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact: Michael Barnes, Executive Director of Public Health Association of BC.
1 From: Chief Public Health Officer of Canada. Report on the state of Public health in Canada 2009 Growing Up Well – Priorities for a Healthy Future. Available:http://www.cecwcepb.ca/sites/default/files/publications/en/Report-Public_Health_2009EN.pdf, p. 30.