Fit for School, Fit for Life
Fit for school, fit for life: Child health and school readiness
Dr. Catherine Birken, Hospital for Sick Children
What was the study about?
Childhood obesity and adult heart disease and diabetes have been identified as national health priorities. We are learning that growth and weight changes in early childhood may impact school readiness and school achievement. In addition, other child health factors such as physical activity, sleep, nutrition and development in early childhood may also impact school readiness and achievement. School readiness is an important outcome of health and development in early childhood.
In Canada, school readiness is assessed in Kindergarten using a reliable and valid tool called the Early Development Instrument (EDI). The EDI uses information provided by Kindergarten teachers’ observations of children in their classrooms in five domains: physical health and well-being, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive development, and communication skills and general knowledge. The EDI is used to report on groups of children in different communities. It is not used to assess children individually, or for making a clinical diagnosis such as a learning disability.
There are critical gaps in knowledge about how child growth, health and development in the early years influence school readiness. By linking data collected through TARGet Kids! with information provided by the EDI, this important study aims to address those gaps.
What was the study's goal?
The objectives of this long-term study are to determine if growth trajectories in early childhood (age 0-3 years) are associated with school readiness (at age 4-5), as measured by the EDI. We will also determine if physical activity, sleep duration, nutritional factors, and development are associated with school readiness, using the EDI. We will ask teachers of children enrolled in TARGet Kids! to complete the EDI when children are in Junior and Senior Kindergarten.
Why was the study important?
Evidence generated from this study will contribute to primary care screening interventions for growth and development, and identify new targets for promoting school readiness. This evidence as a whole can be used to identify, implement, and evaluate early interventions aimed at promoting school readiness in young children in Canada.