The Wellesley Institute and Upstream have partnered to bring to you a closer look at the health impacts of the policies that our national parties are putting forth. We know that social factors — where you live, age, play and work — have a big impact on your health, so we ask, what are our political leaders doing to address them?
Over the next few weeks as we count down to election day, we will be looking at social issues that impact our health and reporting on how the party platforms lineup. Our health should be considered in all policies.
A health-enhancing early childhood education and care program in Canada would address issues of affordability and ensure Canadians have equal access to high quality early child education and care programs.
Access to early childhood education and care is an important social determinant of health. Because the first six years of life are a critical time for cognitive development, early childhood learning and care has a large impact on children’s health and well-being, as well as their later development. High quality early childhood education and care programs are well-documented to have positive impacts which last throughout the life course: low income children in high-quality infant and preschool care are found to have lower juvenile crime rates, lower drop out rates, and higher adult earnings. And, beyond low-income children, the benefits of universal high quality early childhood education and care centres have been found for children of all income groups, with higher grade-school performance outcomes: Research evaluating school performance of 8 and 13 year olds found that school performance was significantly higher for those who started child care before the age of 1 (11% and 7%, respectively), and at age 13 school performance was lowest among those who never attended out of home care.
Further — affordable and available early childhood education and care for all families ensures both better employment and higher incomes for families with children. Access to affordable early childhood education and care ensures that parents are able to make the decision to work and/or pursue education and training opportunities that will improve the family’s income potential: Available and affordable early childhood education and care has been shown in Quebec to increase women’s labour force participation by 3.8%. These increases in employment and income are important for ensuring a high quality of life and health for families.