Medical Officer of Health recommends measures to address the health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and youth – City of Toronto

Press release

April 4, 2022

On Monday, April 11, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, will report to the Toronto Board of Health on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the health of school-aged children and youth and will recommendations to the Council to address the lingering effects and inequalities that the pandemic has created. The meeting report and agenda are available on the City’s website.

Local data shows that children and young people have generally experienced less severe consequences from COVID-19 infection compared to older age groups. Severe consequences and loss of life from COVID-19 in this age group are rare, but have nonetheless occurred in Toronto and are tragic consequences for those affected. While COVID-19 hospitalizations for this age group accounted for less than 0.1% of all hospitalizations in Toronto since the start of the pandemic, young people have experienced a wide range of health impacts. physical and mental health throughout the pandemic due to school closures and lost study days. Although school closures and other public health measures have been necessary to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, evidence shows that they have had an impact on young people in the areas of mental health, substance use, nutrition and physical activity, as well as access to dental care and vaccinations. against preventable diseases.

Global studies report that rates of anxiety, depression, stress and loneliness have more than doubled from pre-pandemic levels, with long-term consequences anticipated. Toronto hospitals have seen an increase in ER visits related to self-harm among children and youth, from 467 visits in the 15 months before the pandemic to 606 visits in the 15 months after the start of the pandemic . In a 2020 survey conducted by the Toronto District School Board assessing students’ pandemic and remote learning experiences, 30% of students said they worry about coping with their fear and anxiety; 23 percent expressed the need for support for social/emotional learning skills; and 21% expressed the need for mental health and wellness support.

While the direct delivery of mental health services is outside the mandate of Toronto Public Health (TPH), the report responds to the Board of Health’s request for an update on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. on school-aged children and youth, including programs run by TPH to support this population. Dr. de Villa will present her recommendations to the Board for consideration at the April meeting, including:

  • TPH will work with the province and local school boards to conduct further research and establish a baseline assessment of the mental health and well-being of Toronto’s youth
  • TPH will work with local school boards to help develop short- and long-term approaches to promote the mental health and well-being of children and youth in Toronto
  • Seek additional resources from the provincial government to address the backlog of services from school immunization and dental screening programs delayed due to the pandemic and expedite this work
  • Ask the Ontario Ministry of Health to implement an electronic provincial immunization registry as soon as possible
  • Ask the Ontario Ministry of Health to work with local partners to explore and implement approaches and activate more channels to further facilitate access to vaccines for children and youth, including those administered in as part of the school vaccination program

TPH continues to carefully monitor COVID-19 activity and work with local school boards and school communities to support the health and well-being of Toronto children and youth.

The full Board of Health report is available on the City’s website.

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