Knowledge Resources & Publications

ISBN (Print) : 978-1-77368-195-5 | ISBN (Online) : 978-1-77368-196-2

Indigenous early childhood development in Canada: Current state of knowledge and future directions

January 2019

Indigenous peoples in Canada experience a disproportionate burden of ill health associated with the socio-economic context of their lives. Investing in quality early childhood development and care (ECDC) programs for young Indigenous children is considered one of the most critical pathways for improving these health imbalances. This paper provides an overview of the current state of knowledge and knowledge gaps on the health and well-being of First Nations, Inuit and Métis young children and highlights future directions for ECDC programs and policies. Specifically, it:

  • sets the socio-economic, cultural, historical and environmental context for Indigenous children’s health and well-being;
  • describes the health status of young Indigenous children across a range of indicators;
  • identifies gaps in knowledge related to health data;
  • discusses the current context of ECDC for young Indigenous children, including best practices in ECDC programs; and
  • identifies tangible actions to address the social determinants of health and promote healthy development for Indigenous children.


The paper draws on data from “Module 7 Indigenous Children and Youth” an online collaborative project between the Canadian Institute of Children’s Health (CICH) and the National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health (NCCAH). One of six currently available modules that evaluate and summarize existing data related to the health and well-being of children and youth in Canada, Module 7 is based on a determinants of health framework that incorporates structural, systemic, community and family factors affecting the health and well-being of Indigenous children and their families. The module includes demographic, health and socio-economic data related to Indigenous status, age distribution, location of residence, socio-economic status, family structure, community supports and challenges, health status, availability of health services, culturally relevant indicators related to identity development, environmental health, and developmental outcomes.

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