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Lake Cowichan kids island’s least prepared for school

Dr. Paul Hasselback - Peter W. Rusland/file
Dr. Paul Hasselback
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland/file

More than half of the children in the Cowichan Lake area are entering school for the first time without the required skills to start.

This is according to Island Health, which has confirmed the community has the worst Early Development Index — essentially a measure of children’s well-being prior to entering school — on Vancouver Island.

“When children are showing up for school for the first time, they are not ready to start as well as what they were two, four and six years ago,” said Dr Paul Hasselback from Island Health at last Tuesday’s regular council meeting at the town hall in Lake Cowichan. “Our message to council is that there is a greater need to pay attention to this. Over 50% of the children in the Lake Cowichan area are not prepared to start school,.”

This news came as part of an update Hasselback was making to council on the state of healthcare and well-being in Lake Cowichan and the surrounding areas.

“A large percentage of Lake Cowichan’s population is in the 50 to 70 years of age range. For us, this is a large geographic area that expands all the way out to Ditidaht, but it has a low population. The life expectancy is approximately the same as the island, which is the same as B.C., and that is affected by that low population, so I wouldn’t interpret that with too much depth.”

Councillor Frank Hornbrook had some suggestions on the poor EDI stats.

“If both parents are working until 5 p.m. and then they have to pick their child up and just get them ready for bed, maybe then they just can’t see them as often as they should or can do,” said Hornbrook.

Hasselback agreed and stated he’s heard all kinds of theories.

“There could well be a link between the amount of time the parents see their kids during the day as well as the environment that a child is being raised in,” he said.

Nevertheless, Hasselback chose to end the conversation on a high note and praised the recent influx of healthcare professionals to the town, as well as the work of Choose Cowichan Lake.

“There is a high rate of asthma and chronic lung disease in the Cowichan Valley, but that is lower in Lake Cowichan.”

Mayor Ross Forrest finished by saying that he hopes to see current Lake residents who are heading outside of the area to visit a doctor or gain medical aid and advice return home, so the new healthcare professionals in town “stay busy so we can keep them.”

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