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Decade-long study shows kids' health connected to income gap

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WINNIPEG — A 10-year study on Manitoba children published today shows gains in health and social outcomes but comes with some sobering findings that kids from lower-income areas often do more poorly than those from high-income areas.

The study painted a positive picture overall, showing a 10 per cent decrease in teen pregnancy, a 29 per cent decrease in grade repetition and a seven per cent increase in high-school graduation over the period between 2000 and 2010.

The data wasn’t all rosy, however. The highest mortality rates came from children in northern regions and the lowest income areas of the province. The rates were more than three times higher in the lowest-income areas compared to highest-income areas, with injuries as the leading cause.

Results were similar in education, where children from poorer areas did worse.

But the study found the disparities were not as great as in the area of health.

In fact, lead author Dr. Marni Brownell said that the study shows opportunities exist to reduce gaps and improve outcomes at early levels.

For example, children from lowest-income areas were more likely to be vulnerable in Kindergarten and not meet expectations by the time they reached Grade 3. But they were also more likely to change course over time — "A higher percentage of children with poorer backgrounds went from being vulnerable to doing fine in Grade 3, than children from high-income areas," the study’s summary says.

The Faculty of Medicine report, titled How Are Manitoba’s Children Doing?, is published by the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy.

It looked at almost all children in the province who were 19 and under from the Years 2000 to 2010.

The study assessed children’s well-being in four areas — physical and emotional health, safety and security, education, and social engagement and responsibility.

 

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