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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
- Health promotion
- 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.
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