The Young Canadians Roundtable on Health launches YouthHealthRights.ca

A national campaign rallying Canadian youth to advocate for better health

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The Young Canadians Roundtable on Health (YCRH) is empowering Canada’s youth to be participants in their own health and to take action for better health in their communities.

YouthHealthRights.ca is an online education and advocacy platform created by youth to increase health advocacy by and for young Canadians. In collaboration with AstraZeneca Canada’s Young Health Program, YouthHealthRights.ca will educate, motivate and support young people to advocate for change. 

The YCRH developed the YouthHealthRights.ca platform after uncovering a glaring gap in the knowledge of Canadian youth about their health rights and how to exercise them. In a recent survey of over 140 youth from across Canada, young people told the YCRH they are struggling to be informed, and struggling to access the health care they need:

  • 80% agreed that they did not know their legal health rights.
  • 89% said that time barriers (clinic hours, availability of family doctor, wait times etc.) hindered them from accessing services.
  • 56% felt it is a priority to have better access to mental health services.
  • 54% wanted better access to information and services for youth specifically.

Guided by research findings by the University of Toronto’s Joint Centre for Bioethics, the YCRH held focus groups in communities across the country. They learned about other young Canadians’ individual experiences, and discussed opportunities for meaningful improvement. Together, they identified three key youth health rights priorities for Canada’s leaders:

  1. Establish a youth advisory council to include the youth voice in health policy
  2. Develop a strategy to ensure Canada’s youth are aware of their health rights
  3. Set wait time targets for youth mental health services

The YCRH invites young Canadians to call on their local MPs to support these youth health rights priorities by visiting YouthHealthRights.ca and taking part in a customizable letter writing campaign. On the website, youth can also explore province-by-province information about their important health rights including the Right to Privacy, the Right to Consent to Treatment, and the Right to Access Health Care.

Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for the Early Years released today

Too much screen time prevents young tots from meeting healthy movement guidelines

New guidelines outline the right amounts of moving, sleeping and sitting children aged four and under need for healthy growth and development

Canadian kids aged four and under are spending too much time in front of screens. For example, although it’s recommended that preschoolers have no more than one hour of sedentary screen time per day, 76 per cent of them do.  This current reality demonstrates that today’s release of the new evidence-based Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for the Early Years – one of the world’s first for this age group - couldn’t come at a better time as they help inform how much moving, sleeping and sitting children aged four and under need for healthy growth and development.

The Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for the Early Years combine physical activity and sedentary behaviour guidelines into one, and include sleep, showing the interrelationship between all three behaviours. These Guidelines were developed by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP), the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group (HALO) at the CHEO Research Institute, the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation at the University of Alberta, the Public Health Agency of Canada, ParticipACTION and a group of leading researchers from Canada and around the world, with input from over 600 national and international stakeholders.

“All types of movement matter, and a balance of moving, sleeping and sitting is required for optimal health,” says Dr. Mark Tremblay, Director of HALO. “Even if a child is getting sufficient physical activity in a day, the health benefits can be reduced by too little sleep, or too much sedentary behaviour - especially if that time is spent in front of screens. Following these guidelines through the early years is associated with healthy growth, better learning and thinking, improved motor development, higher fitness level, increased quality of life and reduced injuries.”

Only 13 per cent of preschoolers meet the new Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines, and the time being spent in front of screens is keeping this percentage unacceptably low. Although not all sedentary time is harmful–like reading or storytelling with a caregiver–excessive screen time before age five is as it is linked with language delays, reduced attention and lower school readiness.

“Parents and caregivers must help young children move, sleep and sit the right amounts,” says Elio Antunes, President and CEO of ParticipACTION. “If kids are too tired to get enough physical activity during the day, and not active enough to be tired at night, it can become a vicious cycle. We need to limit screen time and encourage children to participate in a range of enjoyable and safe play-based and organized physical activities in a variety of spaces, places and seasons, in all types of weather.”

According to the new guidelines, a healthy 24 hours includes:

  • For infants (under 1 year old):

MOVE: Being physically active several times in a variety of ways, particularly through interactive floor-based play, but more is better. For those not yet mobile, this includes at least 30 minutes of tummy time spread throughout the day while awake.

SLEEP: 14-17 hours (for those aged 0-3 months) or 12-16 hours (for those aged 4-11 months) of good-quality sleep, including naps.

SIT: Not being restrained for more than one hour at a time (e.g. in a high chair). When sedentary, engaging in pursuits such as reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged. Screen time is not recommended.

  • For toddlers (1-2 years old) and preschoolers (3-4 years old):

MOVE: At least 180 minutes spent in a variety of physical activities at any intensity spread throughout the day, but more is better. Include energetic play for both age groups, with preschoolers getting at least 60 minutes of it.

SLEEP: 11-14 hours of good-quality sleep for toddlers, and 10-13 for preschoolers, which may include naps, with consistent bedtimes and wake-up times.

SIT: Not being restrained for more than one hour at a time (e.g. in a stroller) or sitting for extended periods. When sedentary, engaging in pursuits such as reading and storytelling with a caregiver is encouraged. Sedentary screen time for those younger than two years old is not recommended, and no more than one hour for those aged 2-4, but less is better.

To download a copy of the complete Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for the Early Years please visit www.csep.ca/guidelines and participACTION.com.

“For young children to be their healthiest, they need the right amount of sleep and physical activity during their day,” said the Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Health. “Healthy habits in childhood lead to good health throughout life. These new Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for the Early Years are an important tool to help parents and healthcare professionals support healthy growth and development for Canadian children.”

Here are some tips to help parents and caregivers get the most out of the 24-Hour Movement Guidelines:

  • For infants, supervised activities could include tummy time, reaching and grasping, pushing and pulling, and crawling
  • For toddlers, energetic play could include running or dancing, playing outside and exploring the environment
  • The older children get, the more energetic play they need, such as hopping, jumping, skipping, swimming and bike riding
  • For quiet activities, try storytelling, crafts, puzzles or reading, not screens. Even if shows are educational, kids don’t take in information from screens the same way as they do when interacting with a caring adult
  • Develop healthy “sleep hygiene” by having a calming bedtime routine, consistent bedtimes and wake-up times, even on weekends and avoid screen time before sleep

“Restoring physical activity as the norm rather than the exception supports an integrated approach to healthy living and chronic disease prevention,” says Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam. “Our work with CSEP, ParticipACTION and other partners, including the development of these Guidelines, continues to make Canada a leader in healthy living."

Study finds asthma and food allergies predictable at age one

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Children at one year old who have eczema or atopic dermatitis (AD) and are sensitized to an allergen are seven times more likely than other infants to develop asthma, and significantly more likely to have a food allergy by age three.

This new finding from the Canadian CHILD Study will help doctors better predict which children will develop asthma and allergies, according to a paper published today by The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

It has long been known that infants with eczema or atopic dermatitis (AD) are more likely to develop asthma and allergic rhinitis in later childhood, a progression known as “the atopic march.” But predicting precisely which children with AD will go on to develop these conditions has been difficult.

The CHILD researchers did find that having AD alone, without sensitization to an allergen, did not significantly increase children’s risk of developing asthma.

“Over the years, the clinical community has struggled to explain the atopic march,” said Dr. Malcolm Sears, founding director of the CHILD Study, a professor of medicine at McMaster University and a researcher at the Firestone Institute for Respiratory Health at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton.

“These findings help us to understand the interactive effects of AD and early allergic sensitization on the risk of asthma and food allergy, and show that in combination they pose a significant risk for future allergic disease.”

Using data from more than 2,300 children from across Canada participating in the CHILD Study, the researchers evaluated the presence of AD and allergic sensitization at age one. When the children were three years of age, the researchers performed a clinical assessment to determine the presence of asthma, allergic rhinitis, food allergy and AD. The combined effect of AD and allergic sensitization was found to be greater than the sum of their individual effects, both on the risk of asthma and on reported food allergy.

“Our findings are useful to help predict which children may develop asthma and allergies,” said the study’s first author, Maxwell Tran, a BHSc graduate from McMaster University and AllerGen trainee who is now studying medicine at the University of Toronto.

“There are certain genetic variants that we know are risk factors for allergy, but genotyping is not widely used in clinical practice, so this research offers healthcare professionals an alternative method of identifying at-risk children.”

The findings build on another CHILD study finding, which showed that children who avoid cow’s milk products, egg, and peanut during the first year of life are at increased risk of allergic sensitization to these foods later on. Contrary to previous advice for parents to avoid feeding these foods to infants, it is now known that early introduction is beneficial in promoting tolerance and reducing the risk of food sensitization and food allergy.

“Much of what happens to us later in life is related to the exposures we encounter in early childhood,” said Sears.

“Governments are realizing that we cannot learn about healthy aging if we don’t understand what happens to a child during the first few years of life and even to the mother during pregnancy,” added Dr. Judah Denburg, a professor of medicine at McMaster University and Scientific Director and CEO of AllerGen NCE, the national research network funding the study. “That’s why CHILD, which has been following 3,500 Canadian children and their families from before birth, has such enormous value in answering questions about the origins of chronic diseases.”

Source: McMaster University and AllerGen NCE Inc.