Determinants of Health

8. Child Development

Infants and children who are neglected or abused are at higher risk for injuries, a number of behavioural, social and cognitive problems later in life, and death.1

The first 6 years of human life shape brain development, school readiness and health in later life. At the same time, all of the other determinants of health affect the physical, social, mental, emotional and spiritual development of children and youth.

A young person’s development is also influenced by things like housing, neighbourhood and family income. Other important influences include:

  • the level of parents’ education
  • access to healthy foods and exercise
  • genetic makeup
  • access to dental and medical care

A neglected child – as well as one who is physically and/or sexually abused – is more likely to be injured, to have lower self-esteem, to be involved in high-risk behaviour and to have more difficulty problem-solving throughout life.

[L]ogic would suggest that it takes more than information, leaflets and condoms to combat the forces in a person’s life that might make them likely to engage in risky sexual behaviour. What is required is action that acknowledges the many and varied influences on an individual, including childhood experiences, employment, immigration and partnership rights.2

Several studies have discovered a link between high-risk behaviour, a history of abuse or neglect and HIV. The Public Health Agency of Canada suggests a number of policy directions to address the HIV and AIDS epidemic in this country.3

  • Ensure the physical and emotional security of children and youth during their formative years. Health Canada has noted, for example, that many behaviour patterns are established that will affect a young person’s risk of HIV infection – both within this time span and throughout his / her adult years. Early intervention is an important step in helping youth to adopt and to maintain protective behaviours.
  • Provide sexual-abuse counselling as an integral part of HIV prevention and treatment efforts, and HIV / AIDS risk-reduction counselling as an integral part of any effort directed at sexual abuse.
  • Develop a partnership between the National Children’s Strategy and the Canadian Strategy on HIV / AIDS, in recognition of the former’s ability to contribute to the latter. This combined early-childhood development strategy will reduce the number of people contracting the HIV virus in the future.
  • Consider the health outcomes and costs associated with HIV / AIDS treatment and care when determining the cost / benefit associated the National Child Benefit and its impact on family poverty.

Some things worth thinking about when considering women and HIV.



More from Shared Health Exchange

1What Makes Canadians Healthy or Unhealthy?, Underlying Premises and Evidence Table, Public Health Agency of Canada, online as of June 20112 HIV/AIDS and Health Determinants, A Discussion Paper for the Ministerial Council on AIDS, Prepared by Martin Spigelman Research Associates, January 2002 — quoting Worrall, 20013 HIV/ AIDS and Health Determinants: Lessons for Coordinating Policy and Action, Public Health Agency of Canada, online as of June 2011