Oakville Healthcare: Protecting Our Children: A Health Advocates Perspective

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Oakville Healthcare: Protecting Our Children: A Health Advocates Perspective

About the Author

Gary J. Machan

Gary J. Machan

Gary Machan serves on the Community Advisory Research Committee for the Canadian Index of Wellbeing. Through the course of his career he has received several provincial awards including the 2nd Stage of Medicare, Ontario Tobacco Network Innovation Award for Excellence, and Food Champion Award. In addition, Mr. Machan is an associate with the Centre for Inner Freedom where his work was featured by Tom Harpur in his best selling book ‘Finding the Still Point’.

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Few would dispute that there is something inherently tragic when a young person dies, whether it be by a car accident, or some incurable disease. However, when it is by their own hand, as an increasing number of young people are doing, it is nothing less than an indictment on our society. Indeed, what better marker of progress than the health and wellbeing of our youngest members.

All the more troublesome these days is less that young people are not reaching out for help, but rather when they do there is a significant lack of timely and age appropriate services. According to one recent study, there has been a 33% increase of Ontario children and youth forced to visit emergency rooms because there are no other options.

Why? In part, because of the lack of adequate funding for children’s mental health centres. According to Kim Moran, CEO of Children’s Mental Health Centres, “6,500 children and youth are waiting for more than a year for proper treatment”! Can you imagine what it must feel like to be the parent of a child or teen in such high distress?

And yet, necessary as it is to address this significant shortage in services, there is another story that needs to be told. One that speaks to the larger forces at play that are giving rise to the significant increase in mood disorders both for children and youth in the first place. This important, since until such time that we get to the root issue, we will forever being trying to catch up.

One lens that can be extremely helpful in offering insights that point to community interventions is the Canadian Index of Wellbeing. Consider, whereas there has been a significant increase in the amount time children and youth spend playing computer games, there has been significant drop in frequency of teens eating meals with their parents.

On a typical day in 1992, 63.7% of teens aged 15 – 17 had one meal a day with their parents, a proportion which dropped to 50.5% in 1998 and 34.8% in 2005. And we wonder why our children are getting messed up?! Talk about a red flag. Not to mention, given these stats is it any wonder childhood obesity and diabetes is on the rise, given most kids are forced to fend for themselves.

All of which brings me to the launch of the Canadian Index of Wellbeing, and the comments of the Honorable Roy Romanow, who at the tail end of his presentation, quietly took off his glasses and said, “something that should give us all cause for serious reflection is this is the very first generation of youth that have a lower health status than any preceding generation.”

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