Healthy Communities Forum kicks off Jan. 20

Hope's low literacy rate and high number of vulnerable children on the agenda

Literacy has become a pressing issue in the Hope area.

Statistically the community has one of the lowest literacy rates in the province, the highest number of vulnerable children entering kindergarten, and a large high school drop out rate in youth 18 and under.

“The more vulnerable a child is entering kindergarten, the greater chance that he/she will drop out of school and function poorly in society,” said Christine Proulx, with the Hope Early Year’s Committee.

This connection will be explored in greater detail during the Hope Healthy Communities Forum at Hope Secondary School on Jan. 20. The event, sponsored by the Healthy Communities Committee, the Hope Early Year’s Committee and School District 78, will attempt to address many challenges in the area, including low literacy/numeracy, mental health issues, criminality and poverty.

“This forum is about shedding light on a very serious issue within our community, to educate people about the importance of early education,” said Proulx.

“Parents, I think, understand the importance of early childhood development and the forum is our opportunity to educate the rest of the community.”

Ron Plowright will kick off the forum with a presentation of the Community Health Status data for the area, determinants of health, and community-level ways to address chronic disease prevention. Plowright is a community health specialist for Chilliwack, Mission and Hope.

This will be followed by Dr. Clyde Hertzman’s seminar on the research findings indicating that a healthy early childhood can prevent future developmental issues.

Hertzman is a professor in the school of population and public health at UBC, director of the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) within the College of Interdisciplinary Studies at UBC, and the Canada research chair in population health and human development. He played a central role in creating a framework that links population health to human development, emphasizing the special role of early childhood development as a determinant of health.

“Hope may have some of the lowest literacy rates in the province, but we are also one community that is doing something about it,” said Proulx.

“Programs such as Story Time in the Park are making a significant impact on the statistics already. According to health data indicators, children’s language and cognitive development has improved by 16 per cent in the Hope area.”

Hope residents can register for the free event at 604-869-2411 or by calling the School District by Jan. 13.

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