Surprisingly little is known about the health of Canadian children and the consequences of early health issues later in their lives. The Applied Research Group for Kids (TARGet Kids!) is focused on learning about the health of Canadian children, their long-term health as they grow and develop, and how to improve the quality of primary health care for children in Canada. By leveraging Canada’s extensive primary care practice model we are studying how children grow and develop to discover the factors which may be interfering with healthy growth and development.
Children are enrolled in the TARGet Kids! registry through their pediatrician or family doctor’s offices during regularly scheduled doctor’s appointments. Information is collected such as height, weight waist circumference, lifestyle factors (nutrition, physical activity and amount of screen time) and a blood sample. Blood work done on this young age group is outside the standard of care for normal well-child visits in Canada and provides our researchers and primary care physicians with an in-depth view of each child’s health status.
Why is this study important?
Increasingly, Canadian children are at risk of life threatening chronic illnesses. The statistics are cause for concern. According to Statistics Canada one in four children is overweight or obese. Canadian children are, on average, sedentary for almost two-thirds of their waking hours. As a result they are at risk for Type II diabetes and heart disease. Developmental disorders in children have increased by 15% in the last 10 years, with autism spectrum disorder now affecting more than one in 100 children. Over the next 20 years 90% of Canadian deaths will be the result of chronic diseases many of which we believe are preventable in childhood. For the first time ever, children born today are projected to have a shorter lifespan than their parents.
Primary healthcare is an ideal venue to learn about children’s health because over 90% of Canadian children are seen at a primary healthcare practice in the early years. Further, the primary care practice serves as the child’s entry point into the health care system and provides access to preventive physician services and a myriad of community services to promote healthy growth and development. This is an ideal venue to develop and test new interventions to keep Canada’s children healthy.