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Social factors important to child and youth health in Eastern Ontario, CHEO report says

November 19, 2014, OTTAWA – A new report by the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario focuses on social factors like poverty, housing, education and health behaviors that have a major influence on child and youth health and well-being. It shows that 15% of children and youth in our region live in low income families, that the number of lone parent families is growing, and that one in 4 kindergarten children are starting school with low developmental scores.

CHEO and the Child and Youth Health Network for Eastern Ontario analyzed Statistics Canada data from the Eastern Ontario region for the report, called: Using Population Health Data to Profile the Health and Well-Being of Children and Youth in Eastern Ontario. The data is from 2011.

“The way our communities support families, children and youth has a big impact on their lifelong health and well-being,” says Alex Munter, President and CEO of CHEO. “We hope this data will help agencies and communities across the region to better plan services and programs for children and youth.”

This is especially important since the number of kids in the Eastern Ontario region is growing rapidly. In fact, the number of children in the region has increased by over 2,000 between the 2006 and 2011 censuses, and is expected to increase by a further 20% or 64,000 children and youth over the next 20 years.

One of the most important social issues studied was household income, which has a significant impact on children who are dependents, and it was shown that nearly 15% of children in Eastern Ontario lived in low income households. Furthermore, couple families had double the median incomes of lone-parent families. Since the number of lone-parent families in the region went up 9% from 2006 to 2011, and as much as 17% in some areas, this could have future implications for child and youth health.

Looking at healthy, active living, report findings showed that:

  • 29.1% of youth aged 12 to 19 in Ottawa report being inactive, up 4% over 3 years

  • 3 out of 5 students in Ottawa have more than 2 hours of screen time every day

  • 19.3% of youth in the region reported their Body Mass Index as “overweight” or “obese”. The rate went up 1% in the region, but in the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, the rate shot up 13%, from 21.6% to 34.7%.

Looking at mental health, CHEO found:

  • 16.6% of youth aged 12 to 19 reported high levels of stress in their lives, down 5% across the region

  • 8.7% of children aged 12 to 19 reported contact with a health professional about mental health, up from 6%

In relation to income, CHEO also found:

  • Median income in Ottawa is high but can be up to $30,000 lower in rural Eastern Ontario

  • Median income of lone parent households is nearly half that of dual-income families and there are 57,800 lone parents families in Eastern Ontario – an increase of 9% 

  • Overall unemployment in Eastern Ontario is only 7%, but is 17.9% for youth aged 15 to 24, showing a 4% rise

Access to necessities such as shelter, food and health care is another important factor in health. CHEO’s report found:

  • Lone parent households are 2½ times more likely to spend over 30% of total income on housing than coupled parents, although the number of families this affects has gone down 3%

  • 5.8% of households in Ottawa are too small for their number of occupants (according to National Occupancy Standards) 

  • 6.9% houses in rural Eastern Ontario are in need of major repair

  • Just under half of the children in this region eat the recommended 5 servings of fruit and vegetables in a day; this improved by 1% in Ottawa and worsened in rural areas up to 8%

  • Over 20% of Eastern Ontario’s children have had no contact with a doctor in the past year. This has improved by 5%.

The report was prepared with assistance from the Champlain LHIN, the Ottawa Social Planning Council, and the Parent Resource Centre.

With the child and youth population growing in our region, it is important to remove any barriers that would limit their ability to reach their full potential and build strong, healthy communities. CHEO, through initiatives like Connected Care, is committed to this mission.


Connected Care represents a shift in how CHEO does business, from treating a particular illness to an integrated health care strategy. This approach goes beyond the patient to include their families, communities, and any other social determinants that might impact patient health, or should alter patient care. CHEO strives to deliver Connected Care with the help of the hospital’s multiple community and organization partners and outreach programs.

Ways in which Connected Care is ensuring that children and youth receive optimal health care include:

  • CHEO’s pilot project with the Centretown Community Health Centre focuses on providing assistance to vulnerable populations, such as refugee children.

  • CHEO has been collaborating with northern communities for several years and has recently renewed its partnership with the Qikiqtani region of Nunavut in an effort to offer the best health care to children and youth in northern communities.

  • CHEO’s partnership with the Children’s Aid Society resulted in the establishment of the Child and Youth Protection Clinic, which helps the most vulnerable children and youth in the community.

  • CHEO’s partnership with Pro Bono Law Ontario supports families who cannot afford the legal services needed to overcome obstacles to caring for their child.

  • CHEO’s Complex Care Program streamlines health care for children who need to see different specialists and relieves the burden on families by coordinating their child's care more effectively. In some cases this means a parent can go back to work, when they had to stop work to care for a very ill child.

  • CHEO’s Adolescent Obstetrics Outreach Program assists pregnant and parenting youth in the community.

  • CHEO’s Centre for Healthy Active Living is dedicated to treating children and youth with weight related health problems.

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For media inquiries, please contact:

Alyssa Nader
Communications Coordinator
Office: (613) 737-7600 x 3785

Cell: (613) 291-8059

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