Certain groups of children in our region, such as those from low-income families or children from certain ethno-cultural minority groups, face greater health problems compared to other children. The processes in which children gain advantages and disadvantages during childhood and then throughout life are affected by factors within their social, built, and natural environments. Neighbourhood environmental risk factors make an important contribution to poor health outcomes and to the differences in health among children. Currently, however, there is little evidence from Southwestern Ontario (SWO) on the long-term effects of social, built, and natural environmental risk factors on child health.

The overall goal of our new program of research is to address this knowledge gap by developing a way to assess how various neighbourhood environment factors affect the health of children in SWO. We refer to this as the Paediatric Healthy Living Index (PHLI). We believe the PHLI is needed to monitor: 1) changing neighbourhood environmental risk factors that affect children’s health and (2) the relationship between neighbourhood environmental factors and health outcomes, as these factors are expected to affect health differently across time, location, and according to individual and community sociodemographic characteristics (e.g., ethnicity, socio-economic status). The PHLI will help to identify children who are at-risk of poor health and will contribute to the development of more targeted programs and policies in SWO.