8 out of 10 Canadians are concerned about the impact of misinformation on parents’ decisions about their child’s health

OTTAWA, Ontario, June 09, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- After more than two years of pushing through a global pandemic, parents continue to grapple with mis- and disinformation about children’s health, new public opinion polling shows.

  • 82 per cent of parents polled said they’re concerned about the impact of misinformation on decisions parents are making about their child’s health
  • 40 per cent say they’ve seen misinformation about children’s health on social media
  • 28 per cent say they’ve heard misinformation about children’s health from family or friends

Parents want to make the best health decisions for their kids, and they’re calling on all levels of government for more accessible, timely and evidence-based child health information they can trust.

A recent survey, conducted by Abacus Data in partnership with Children’s Healthcare Canada and the Pediatric Chairs of Canada, shows more than 90 per cent of parents want to see more government action in providing health information and investing in research specific to children and youth.

“Kids have been largely missing from the conversation throughout the pandemic, with public health communications primarily focused on Canada’s adult population,” says Emily Gruenwoldt, President and CEO, Children’s Healthcare Canada and Executive Director, Pediatric Chairs of Canada. “Parents have been left scrambling to identify credible, science-based sources of information on everything from public health safety measures to vaccination, and Canada’s kids are paying the price.”

As Canada plans for the roll-out of adult booster shots and approaches vaccine approval for kids aged 0-5, the majority of young children still only have a single dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Canada’s vaccine coverage rates show only 41 per cent of kids aged 5-11 are fully vaccinated, compared to over 85 per cent of adults. And coverage for other critical childhood vaccines – as well as those administered to youth and teens – has fallen during the pandemic.

“This gap in vaccine coverage for Canada’s children and youth is deeply troubling and unacceptable,” says Bruce Squires, Board Chair, Children’s Healthcare Canada and President, McMaster Children’s Hospital. “With the coming approval of vaccines for children aged 0-5, we have another opportunity to get this right and improve overall vaccination uptake among Canada’s kids. To be successful, parents must have access to the health information they need from sources they trust.”

According to the survey, parents say children’s hospitals are their most trusted source for credible child and youth health information. But between social media and peer networks, parents can be influenced by less credible sources before encountering the facts and evidence they need to know. Nearly 90 per cent of parents support more investments to help children’s hospitals and other child and youth health organizations communicate information about child and youth health.

“Parents are telling governments of all levels that we need to do more, and we need to do better,” adds Gruenwoldt. “Children’s Healthcare Canada is encouraged by the decision of the House of Commons Committee on Health to undertake a child health study considering pandemic impacts beginning this month. But this is a first step down a long path, and parents can’t afford to wait. Children and youth must be a top priority as governments develop plans, policies, and public health communications to guide pandemic recovery.”

About Children’s Healthcare Canada 
Children’s Healthcare Canada is a national association representing health service delivery organizations serving children and youth across the continuum of care. Through purposeful partnerships, Children’s Healthcare Canada accelerates excellence and innovation in health systems caring for children and youth. 

About Pediatric Chairs of Canada 
Pediatric Chairs of Canada represents the Department Heads (Chairs) of Pediatrics within the 17 Canadian medical schools. Collectively they provide national leadership in research and education to promote the health and healthcare of children and youth in Canada. 
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Jennifer Madigan