Canadian Public Health Association2008 Annual ConferenceHalifax, Nova Scotia Aboriginal Head Start On Reserve Oral Presentation Aboriginal Early Childhood Development and the Social Determinants of Health
What is the Aboriginal Head Start On Reserve program?(AHSOR) • Established in 1998 AHSOR is an early childhood program designed to help prepare young First Nations children living on reserve, 0 to 6 years of age, for their school years (school readiness), by meeting their emotional, social, cultural, health, nutritional and psychological needs. • 2008 marks our 10 year anniversary. • Provides services to over 9,000 children (15%) in approximately 400 of the 635 First Nation communities in Canada.
AHSOR - Six Components • Culture and Language • Nutrition • Health Promotion • Parental and Family Involvement • Social Support • Education / School Readiness
AHSOR - The Approach • Supports the development of locally designed First Nations controlled programs based on First Nation community identified priorities; • Provides opportunities for pre-school children to develop a positive sense of themselves; • Encourages a desire for life long learning; • Provides opportunities for children to develop fully and successfully throughout their lives;
AHSOR - Community Linkages • The AHSOR program promotes linkages with other community based services including: • First Nations and Inuit Child Care (HRSDC); • Canadian Pre-Natal Nutrition Program (HC); • Kindergarten (ages 4-5 - INAC); • Brighter Futures Initiative (HC); • FASD (HC); • Other community health / education / cultural resources; • Encourages community in-kind contributions;
Child Participation in the Program* • Kindergarten teachers are really impressed with the behaviour and the achievement of Head Start children: • They notice a huge difference in the children’s self-esteem; • Head Start graduates appear to be more attentive than non-Head Start children; • They have better listening skills, and better communication skills; • Their behaviour is appropriate; • Children are more independent and confident; and • They have better basic skills. *Source: 2002 AHSOR Evaluation Phase I report
Health Promotion and Nutrition* • Health strategies for children include: • establishing daily hygiene schedule; • scheduling regular health check-ups; • screening and vaccinations; • positive role modeling; • Health strategies for parents: • child development, early drug prevention; • healthy living habits, hygiene and disease prevention; • Most programs provide nutrition related activities; • 60% provide nutrition support to parents; *Source: 2002 AHSOR Evaluation Phase I report
Successes to Date* • Children graduating from the program into regular school programs were well adjusted emotionally, socially and cognitively and a demonstrated level of school readiness; • Sites provided nutritional meals and snacks. Hot lunch programs in some sites go a long way towards meeting children's nutritional needs; *Source: 2002 AHSOR Evaluation Phase I report
Benefits of AHSOR • Supports full time employment primarily for First Nations women; • Supports increased First Nations community capacity development; • Supports training and educational opportunities for First Nations women; • Supports traditional roles of Elders as teachers of First Nation cultural knowledge to children;
First Nations demographics • Based on 2001 Statistics Canada findings, only 26% of First Nations between 18 and 29 living on reserve have a high school or post-secondary diploma, compared to 54% of the general population • In 1998, Statistics Canada issued a special report on Aboriginal languages based on 1996 data. Out of 50 Aboriginal languages in Canada, only 3, Inuktitut, Cree and Ojibwe were flourishing with over 20,000 who identified an Aboriginal mother tongue. • ” What these statistics demonstrate is that even our two major Aboriginal languages that were considered “safe” are now becoming threatened. (Assembly of First Nations)
First Nations demographics • First Nations are twice as likely not to complete high school than Canadians, and more than three times less likely to not complete university degrees. • First Nations perceive the state of their personal health as poorer than other Canadians. It is repeatedly documented that First Nations’ life expectancy is 5 to 7 years lower, infant mortality 1.5 times higher, and a suicide rate 2.5 times higher than the Canadian public.
World Health Organization (WHO) • “Early Child Development: A Powerful Equalizer” Lori G. Irwin, RNArjumand Siddiqi, Clyde Hertzman, • “The early child period is considered to be the most important developmental phase throughout the lifespan. Healthy Early Child Development (ECD)—which includes the physical, social/emotional, and language/cognitive domains of development, each equally important—strongly influences well-being, obesity/stunting, mental health, heart disease, competence in literacy and numeracy, criminality, and economic participation throughout life.”
World Health Organization (WHO) • A healthy start in life gives each child an equal chance to thrive and grow into an adult who makes a positive contribution to the community - economically and socially.
World Health Organization (WHO) • Sensitive periods in brain and biological development start prenatally and continue throughout childhood and adolescence. The extent to which these processes lead to healthy development depends upon the qualities of stimulation, support, and nurturance in the social environments in which children live, learn and grow (Richter, 2004).
World Health Organization (WHO) • Among all the social determinants of health, early child development is the easiest for societies’ economic leaders to understand because improved early child development not only means better health, but a more productive labour force, reduced criminal justice costs, and reductions in other strains on the social safety net.
Aboriginal Head Start On Reserve • Whaleewun, Meegwetch, thank you for the opportunity to present this information to you today, I hope it has helped to increase your understanding of the AHSOR program and its impacts on First Nation children, their families and communities in Canada