Aboriginal Head Start in Urban and Northern Communities

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  • Early Childhood (ages 3-5) icon
  • Community/ Neighbourhood
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  • Health Literacy
  • Healthy child development
  • Healthy Eating
  • Home
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  • Oral Health
  • Oral Health
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  • Social environments
  • Social Relationships That Respect Diversity
  • Social Support Networks

Determinants of Health: Language and culture, Personal health practices and coping skills, Education, literacy and life-long learning, Social environments, Food security, Social relationships (including those that respect diversity), Social support networks, Access to health services, Self determination, Healthy child development, Social inclusion

Overview

The Aboriginal Head Start in Urban and Northern Communities (AHSUNC) Program is a community based early intervention children’s program funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada. AHSUNC focuses on early childhood development (ECD) for First Nations, Inuit and Métis children and their families living off reserve.
The overall objective of the program is to provide Aboriginal children living in urban and northern
communities with a positive sense of self, a desire for learning and opportunities to be successful as young people.

The program is based on a holistic model of health that recognizes the multidimensional aspects of wellbeing for Aboriginal children and their families. It supports the spiritual, emotional, intellectual and physical development of Aboriginal children, while supporting their parents and guardians as their primary teachers.

AHSUNC sites typically provide structured half day preschool experiences for Aboriginal children focused on six program components:

  • Aboriginal culture and language
  • Education
  • Health promotion
  • Nutrition
  • Social support
  • Parental involvement

The program has had a positive effect on school readiness, specifically improving children’s language, social, motor and academic skills. Performance results have also demonstrated effectiveness in improving cultural literacy. The program also has positive effects on children’s access to daily physical activity as well as determinants of health, such as access to health services.

The program engages communities and is based on an empowerment model through which local ownership and decision making are encouraged and fostered. To the greatest extent possible, project staff are hired from within the Aboriginal community.

Primary Source Document

Public Health Agency of Canada, The Impact of the Aboriginal Head Start in Urban and Northern Communities (AHSUNC) Program on School Readiness Skills Public Health Agency of Canada

Contact information of developer(s) and/or implementer(s)

Government of Canada (GOC) specifically the Public Health Agency of Canada

Intervention Focus

Intervention Goal / ObjectiveLevel(s) TargetedEquity Focus
Provide information about, and access to, community health professionals.
  • Community level
  • Individual level
  • Interpersonal level
People living in conditions of disadvantage are explicitly stated to be a target population of the intervention.
Provide parents and families the opportunity to participate directly in the program, in order to support their role as the primary teachers, and caregivers, of their children.
  • Community level
  • Environmental level
  • Individual level
  • Interpersonal level
People living in conditions of disadvantage are explicitly stated to be a target population of the intervention.
Strengthen early literacy and school readiness skills.
  • Individual level
  • Interpersonal level
People living in conditions of disadvantage are explicitly stated to be a target population of the intervention.
Provide culturally-appropriate and linguistically-sensitive activities.
  • Individual level
  • Interpersonal level
People living in conditions of disadvantage are explicitly stated to be a target population of the intervention.
Improve the health and social development of Aboriginal children aged 0-6 and their families through the promotion of healthy and active lifestyles.
  • Community level
  • Environmental level
  • Individual level
  • Interpersonal level
  • Societal level
People living in conditions of disadvantage are explicitly stated to be a target population of the intervention.

Health Issue(s) that is/are addressed by the Intervention

Health Promotion

  • Healthy Eating
  • Oral Health Promotion
  • Heathy Literacy
  • Mental Health
  • Physical Activity
  • Obesity Prevention
  • Other
  • Oral HP Infants/Preschool
  • Oral HP Vulnerable Pop

Risk Reduction

  • Prevent injury
  • Prevent violence

Specific Activities of the Intervention

  • Educational health information offered
  • Information sessions offered about a risk factor or condition
  • Training offered to deliver the intervention
  • Community event/forum
  • Group process/program
  • Partnership development
  • People living in conditions of disadvantage were included in decision-making processes.

Priority/Target Population for Intervention Delivery

Life Stage

  • Early childhood (age 3-5 years)

Settings

Educational Settings

  • Early learning environment (ages 0-5)

Community Setting

  • Home
  • Community/neighbourhood
  • Other

Outcomes

Outcomes and Impact Chart
Level of ImpactDescription of OutcomeEquity Focus
Interpersonal LevelSchool Readiness: Carefully designed program performance studies demonstrate that AHSUNC has had a measurable, positive effect on participants’ language, social, motor and academic skills. Length of time in the program correlates to higher school readiness scores: children with prior participation in the program had significantly higher school readiness scores at the beginning of the school year than new registrants of the same age. In addition, although AHSUNC participants begin the program with lower school readiness scores than the normative sample (i.e. age-matched peers), at the end of the year AHSUNC participants have scores that are comparable to or above those of the normative sample. These findings were also supported during the case studies, where parents and teachers described a variety of impacts on children ranging from improved confidence as well as social and verbal skills to greater cultural awareness and comfort with routines.Reported outcomes do not distinguish findings specific to people living in conditions of disadvantage.
Interpersonal Level

Case study observations, parent feedback and performance data indicate that the language and cultural component of the AHSUNC program is highly valued. According to these same sources, it appears that this component has led to increased exposure to Aboriginal culture and language skills. Parents and staff view the culture and language component as key to fostering a sense of pride and identity for parents and children.

A performance study using a quasi-experimental design compared Aboriginal children who have participated in AHSUNC to Aboriginal children who have not. This study used data from the Statistics Canada Aboriginal Children Survey, which collected data about First Nations, Inuit and Métis children under six years of age living off-reserve in urban, rural and northern communities. This analysis revealed that there is a small statistically significant increase in AHSUNC participants’ feeling that Aboriginal culture is important to them, which speaks to cultural literacy. As well, the analysis revealed a statistically significant increase in exposure to cultural activities that was associated with hours per week of AHSUNC participation. In other words, AHSUNC participation was positively associated with an increase in participation in cultural activities such as telling stories, singing songs and participation in traditional or seasonal activities.

Reported outcomes do not distinguish findings specific to people living in conditions of disadvantage.
Community Level155 AHSUNC early childhood educators attended Early Childhood Education training (e.g., webinars, activities).Reported outcomes do not distinguish findings specific to people living in conditions of disadvantage.
Individual Level19 sites are delivering AHSUNC in the North (Yukon, NWT and Nunavut) Reported outcomes do not distinguish findings specific to people living in conditions of disadvantage.
Individual Level45% des sites vont de la sensibilisation auprès de familles vulnérables Reported outcomes do not distinguish findings specific to people living in conditions of disadvantage.
Individual Level75% of parents/caregivers report having adopted positive change (nutrition or physical activity practices, healthy parenting practices, consultation with health professionals) Reported outcomes do not distinguish findings specific to people living in conditions of disadvantage.
Interpersonal Level75% of parents/caregivers report having adopted positive change (nutrition or physical activity practices, healthy parenting practices, consultation with health professionals) Reported outcomes do not distinguish findings specific to people living in conditions of disadvantage.
Interpersonal Level63% of families report increase exposure to Aboriginal culture as a result of their child participating in the program Social, emotional & spiritual health: pro- social behaviour, self- regulation child’s self- esteem, coping skills and overall emotional well-being.Reported outcomes do not distinguish findings specific to people living in conditions of disadvantage.
Community LevelLes données sur le rendement indiquent que le Programme a des effets positifs sur l’accès des enfants à des activités physiques quotidiennes ainsi qu’à des soins dentaires et de santé. D’une part, il semble que la participation au PAPACUN fasse augmenter la fréquence à laquelle les enfants consomment des aliments sains, et d’autre part, il est clair que la participation au PAPACUN encourage la consommation d’aliments traditionnels. Dans de nombreux centres, les parents semblent avoir profité de l’occasion pour faire du bénévolat, assister aux activités de formation et obtenir un plus grand soutien social.Reported outcomes do not distinguish findings specific to people living in conditions of disadvantage.
Community Level55% of stakeholders report accessing knowledge products. Reported outcomes do not distinguish findings specific to people living in conditions of disadvantage.
Community LevelPerformance information revealed that the program has positive effects on children’s access to daily physical activity as well as health and dental care. There is some evidence that AHSUNC participation may increase the frequency with which children consume healthy foods and consistent evidence that AHSUNC participation encourages consumption of traditional foods. At many sites, parents appear to have benefited from the opportunity to volunteer, attend training events and gain increased social support.Reported outcomes do not distinguish findings specific to people living in conditions of disadvantage.
Organizational Level72 of AHSUNC sites receive in-kind donations.Reported outcomes do not distinguish findings specific to people living in conditions of disadvantage.
Organizational Level67% of AHSUNC sites have leveraged funds from other sources and at an average rate of 19cents per dollar of PHAC funding.Reported outcomes do not distinguish findings specific to people living in conditions of disadvantage.
Organizational Level67%of AHSUNC sites have leveraged funds from other sources and at an average rate of 19cents per dollar of PHAC funding.Reported outcomes do not distinguish findings specific to people living in conditions of disadvantage.
Societal LevelImproved educational outcomes (high school average, attendance, repeating a grade, tutoring & chronic health outcomes) .Reported outcomes do not distinguish findings specific to people living in conditions of disadvantage.

Adaptability

Implementation History

  • Multiple implementations - Different settings/populations/providers - The intervention showed significant adaptability as it has been implemented in different settings or with different populations or by different provider(s). This can include multiple implementations during the same time period. Each implementation of the intervention must have been substantially the same and must have demonstrated positive results for the primary objectives of the intervention.

Expertise Required for Implementation within the Context of the Intervention

  • Specialized skills training provided as part of the Intervention - The intervention does not require individuals or groups with highly specialized training, but requires that individuals or groups be trained as part of the implementation of the intervention.

Are there supports available for implementation

No.

Are there resources and/or products associated with the interventions

Yes. The Brigance Preschool Screen, Early Development Index (EDI), Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ), Work Sampling System (WSS), Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PVTT), and Nipissing District Developmental Screen (NDDS), were used to assess school readiness. The Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale revised (ECERS-R) was used to assess classroom environment.