Child health: where Prince Albert falls

City of Prince Albert. -- Herald file photo.

A national study was released Sept. 4 by Children First Canada and the O’Brien Institute for Public Health detailing “worrisome” statistics about the state of child health in Canada.

While we weren’t able to access all of the data sets used by the study’s authors, we were able to gather a snapshot of some of the comparable statistics for Prince Albert and the former Prince Albert Parkland Health Region.

Infant Mortality:

A press release sent out over the weekend said Canada’s infant mortality rate is among the highest in OECD, at 4.7 deaths per 1,000 it’s still far better than the U.S., New Zealand Russia, China, South Africa and India, among other countries. Canada performs better than 14 countries in the rankings.

While Saskatchewan has the highest infant mortality rate of the prairies at 5.8 deaths per 1,000 live births, the Prince Albert Parkland Health Region data from Statistics Canada shows a mortality rate of nine deaths per 1,000 live births as of 2010-2012, the most recent data publicly available.

Mental Health:

The last ten years have seen a 66 per cent increase in emergency department visits and a 55 per cent increase in hospitalizations of children and youth aged 5-24 for mental health concerns. A total of 1,906 Sask. Children were hospitalized in the 2016-2017 fiscal year for mental health issues.

While specific emergency department data for Prince Albert Parkland Health Region wasn’t available, during an interview with media at the opening of a new playground at the Victoria Hospital child and youth mental health inpatient unit, a spokesperson said about 525 patients come through the unit each year. In terms of suicide, Canada has one of the top five highest child suicide rates globally, and Saskatchewan’s Child and Youth Advocate has found that suicide rates among Indigenous children and youth far outpace the non-Indigenous youth population.

Physical health:

Canada’s obesity and overweight rate is 27.9 per cent. Saskatchewan has 30.58 per cent of children classified as overweight or obese.

According to the 2015-16 Canadian health characteristics, about 1,300 youth between the ages of 12-17 in the former Prince Albert Parkland Health Region, an estimated 35.2 per cent, are either overweight or obese. An estimated 74.7 per cent received an average of 60 minutes of physical activity per day, 81.4 per cent have a regular health care provider and a little less than half had a flu shot in the 12 months prior to the survey.

The results of that survey are estimates based on extrapolation from area results.

The survey also found that 78.2 per cent of children surveyed had good or excellent perceived mental health, while 62.5 per cent had good or excellent perceived physical health.

Income and housing

Saskatchewan has one of the lowest rates of children living in low-income housing, the report found, at 17.8 per cent of all children. Nationally, 10.7 per cent of families with children under the age of 6 experienced food insecurity.

Statistics Canada data, while similar, was not directly comparable.

According to the latest census, The prevalence of children under the age of 18 living in a low-income family in Prince Albert based on the low-income measure after tax was 27.2 per cent, and 32.6 per cent of all children under the age of 5.

The prevalence of children living in a low-income family based on low-income cutoffs after tax was 14.4 per cent, or 18.4 per cent for those under 5.

A survey with data from 2012 estimated that 92.6 per cent of children between the ages of 12 and 17 in the former Prince Albert Parkland Health Region were food secure, meaning less than eight per cent would have food insecurity issues.