Early Childhood Health and Screening Programs
The Ministry of Health is committed to detecting conditions in infancy and early childhood that, if left untreated, affect long-term health and development. Early childhood screening strategies are part of an integrated, cross-ministry strategy to address dental, hearing, and vision concerns in the early childhood years (birth to five years).
Dental health has a significant impact on the general health and well-being of children. Poor oral health impacts social function and can lead to limitations in communication and social interactions. The Early Childhood Dental Program is delivered by health authority public health staff and includes health promotion, early childhood interventions such as fluoride varnish application, dental screenings and education and support for families of children 0 to 5 years of age.
The BC Healthy Kids program helps low income families with the costs of basic dental care and prescription eyewear for their children. Eligible clients include dependent children under 19 years of age who receive Medical Services Plan premium assistance through the Ministry of Health.
- Healthy Smiles for Life: B.C.’s First Nations and Aboriginal Oral Health Strategy: Healthy Smiles for Life is a go-to guide for public health and community efforts to improve the oral health of First Nations and Aboriginal children aged 0-18 and their caregivers.
The critical period for a child's language development is during the first two years. The younger a child is when auditory and language stimulation occurs, the better the chances of establishing language brain centres. The BC Early Hearing Program provides newborn hearing screening for all infants in the province. It includes follow-up hearing assessments and coordination of early language services and parent support for children identified with a hearing loss.
Healthy vision is important for a child's learning. Delivered by B.C.’s health authorities, the provincial Early Childhood Vision Screening program provides vision screening for children in kindergarten with referral to vision specialists for diagnostic testing and follow up.
- BC Early Childhood Vision Screening Program Evaluation Report (PDF, 3.2MB)
- Provincial Vision Screening Training Manual (PDF, 1.0MB)
Families have a large role in helping their children maintain a healthy lifestyle through regular physical activity and healthy eating habits.
The Ministry of Health is actively involved in health promotion programs to help all British Columbians improve their health and well-being at every stage of life. Visit Healthy Families BC and HealthLink BC to find useful information and links to resources about healthy lifestyles, including physical activity and healthy eating.
The BC Newborn Screening program, offered to all babies born in B.C., allows for the early detection and treatment of 22 disorders. Early diagnosis may prevent or greatly reduce the health concerns associated with these disorders.
Safe Sleep Practices
Smoke-free environments, breastfeeding, and placing a baby to sleep on his back on a firm, flat, separate sleep surface without pillows, blankets and clutter are protective factors that may help decrease the risk of Sudden Infant Death syndrome. It is important to keep your baby safe for every sleep, including nap time. See the following resources to help your baby sleep safely:
- Every Sleep Counts! (PDF, 1.0MB)
- Healthy Families BC: Safe Sleeping
- The Period of Purple Crying
- Honouring our Babies: Safe Sleep Cards and Guide
Starting at two months of age, children need immunizations to protect against diseases cause by germs such as bacteria or viruses. These immunizations help your child’s body make antibodies to fight diseases.
For more information on how immunizations work, visit Immunize BC.