This spring, UNICEF released Report Card 11 ranking the well-being of children in rich countries. Well-being is measured by a wide range of factors that make life better for children including healthy behaviours, positive relationships with peers and parents, high educational achievement and low levels of child poverty.
Here’s how Canada’s children rank:
1. Our children are “stuck in the middle”
It may surprise you to learn that Canada ranks 17th out of the world’s richest 29 countries in overall child well-being. We seem to be “stuck in the middle” since this overall ranking hasn’t changed in a decade.
2. We rank high for educational achievement
Canadian children rank second out of 29 countries when it comes to educational achievement.
3. Canadian children know to say “no” to smoking cigarettes
Children in Canada have a very low rate of cigarette smoking; in fact, we rank third out of 29 countries.
However, high levels of alcohol consumption and cannabis use remain a concern. Maintaining open lines of communication with children before and during the adolescent years about the risks associated with these behaviours can go a long way towards reducing detrimental choices.
4. Our children are still not as healthy as they should be
When it comes to healthy weight, Canada continues to rank very poorly – 27th out of 29 countries. We can all promote the maintenance of healthy weight by choosing healthier food options, eating fresh, unprocessed foods packed with nutrients, and decreasing our intake of sugar and sodium.
5. Bullying is a serious issue for our children
The rate of bullying in Canada amongst children and youth is high and a cause for concern. In this area, we rank 21st out of 29 countries. There is more that governments can do to address this issue but there is also much we can do as individuals, communities, families and in school settings. Modelling kindness and good conflict resolution, speaking up when we see bullying, and demanding help for all concerned from responsible authorities are simple but powerful ways to curb bullying anywhere it occurs.
We all have a role to play in improving the lives of children and youth in Canada – our own and other children – and this includes listening to children and youth about what they think is needed to address the challenges they face.
To see pictorial displays of more statistics from this report, see the full article (PDF).
To learn more about child well-being in Canada, including information about how to take action, please visit: unicef.ca/irc11
This article was originally published in the Fall 2013 issue of For Every Child, a publication of UNICEF Canada, and is reprinted with permission.