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November 12, 2007
New report highlights disparities in young children’s health in Toronto
A new report released today by Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. David McKeown maps an uneven picture of child health in Toronto. The report, presented to the City’s Board of Health, calls on the provincial and federal governments to adopt a child poverty reduction strategy with identified targets and timelines.

“The majority of Toronto’s young children are healthy, safe and developing normally,” said Dr. McKeown. “However, we have identified significant disparities in young children’s health that are related to neighbourhood and family income, family structure, and country of birth.”

There are 160,000 children aged one to six living in Toronto, which is 20 per cent of the province’s total. Of these, more than 50,000 live in low income families. The report highlights that children living in low income situations have poorer health outcomes, are more likely to be overweight or obese, have asthma, be unintentionally injured or be victimized.

A healthy weight during childhood is important because it affects both short and longer term emotional and physical health. The report states that one-fifth of Toronto’s young children are overweight or obese. More than one-quarter of two- and three-year-olds and close to half of children aged four to six are not eating the recommended amount of vegetables and fruits each day.

Good dental health is also an important part of healthy childhood development, and children should visit a dentist within six months of their first tooth or by the age of one. The report found that 42 per cent of young children in Toronto had never had a dental visit. Further, early childhood tooth decay rose from 9.8 per cent among five-year-old children in 1999/2000 to 11.6 per cent in 2005/2006.

“There is some good news to report,” added Dr. McKeown. “We know that childhood asthma attacks can be triggered by second-hand smoke, and we’re pleased that in 2006, 93 per cent of Toronto households with young children reported being smoke-free. This is a significant jump from 74 per cent in 2002.”

“The Health of Toronto’s Young Children - The Growing Child” is the third in a series of child health reports. The first two were presented to the Board of Health in February 2006. The reports are available at

Toronto is Canada’s largest city and sixth largest government, and home to a diverse population of about 2.6 million people. It is the economic engine of Canada and one of the greenest and most creative cities in North America. In the past three years, Toronto has won more than 70 awards for quality, innovation and efficiency in delivering public services. Toronto’s government is dedicated to prosperity, opportunity and liveability for all its residents.

Media contact:
Susan Sperling, Toronto Public Health, 416-338-7974,



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