The Child, Youth and Family Public Health program of Island Health is a multidisciplinary team that focuses on disease prevention and health promotion to improve the health and wellness of Island Health residents. Public Health staff work with community partners to protect and promote health and prevent injury and illness.
The Child, Youth and Family Public Health program supports the health and wellness of Island Health residents by providing speech, hearing, nutrition, dental and nursing services to individuals, families and communities. These programs are available free of charge throughout Vancouver Island and surrounding islands.
An essential role of Public Health is an immediate response to disease outbreaks such as H1N1, Measles and Covid-19. At such time, some Public Health programs may be temporarily altered in order to provide immediate education, support, testing or vaccinations to the community. Public Health staff are masterful at developing an urgent response to these life threatening disease outbreaks in order to protect the health of our community members.
Community Nutrition Program
Community Nutritionists are Registered Dietitians who work toward creating healthy communities where all people have access to healthy food, accurate nutrition information, and services. Our team of Public Health Dietitians partner with schools, non-profit organizations, local government, farmers and food producers, community organizations and other health professionals to improve nutritional health, support healthy food systems as well as promote environments that promote physical activity, positive body image and mental health. Dieticians provide nutrition expertise and support to Public Health Nurses and other health professionals working with children, youth and families; provide expertise and support in the implementation of food and nutrition policies; and provide programs in schools and school districts. Staff also create and lend educational resources to schools, community groups and families.
The Dental Program offers a range of services to support good oral health and decrease the incidence of tooth decay in young children. Services are community based and may include oral health education and skill building for groups and individuals, resources for professionals working with families, and oral health screening of kindergarten children every 3 years. Across the Island preschools can borrow play-based dental kits from their local health unit. To promote optimum oral health for adults with developmental disabilities, services and support are available for clients, their care providers and other organizations involved in their health care and general well-being. The Dental Program also offers the Children’s Oral Health Initiative in some First Nation Communities.
The Hearing Program offers services to children from birth to 19 years of age, people with developmental disabilities and some adults who receive social assistance from the British Columbia government. The Hearing Program has a variety of programs to support healthy hearing. Audiologists test hearing for babies and children, work together with schools and preschools to offer direct student support, and answer general questions on hearing and hearing services. The Hearing Program also offers hearing screening for all newborns and all children in Kindergarten.
Nursing Support Services
The Nursing Support Services (NSS) Program assists children and youth from birth to 19 years of age with medical complexities to lead healthy lives in their home and community. NSS program nurses provide school staff with care plans and training in order to support medically fragile students attend school. Home care support is provided for children with complex chronic health care needs. Children and youth supported by the NSS program live with chronic health issues such as diabetes, tube feeds, seizures and airway management. Referrals to the NSS Program are assessed on an individual basis. More information is available at
Public Health Nursing Services
Public Health Nursing offers services to women, children and families to support healthy growth and development. Nurses contact all parents of newborns to provide education on infant care and feeding, growth and development, postpartum depression, breastfeeding and immunizations. In addition, Public Health Nursing partners with community agencies to provide mom and baby groups.
Public Health Nurses prevent disease and promote health by offering Child Health Clinics where infants and children are immunized against a variety of life threatening illnesses. Nurses provide School Based Immunization Clinics in all schools to protect grade 6 students from Hepatitis B, Varicella, and Human Papillomavirus diseases and to protect grade 9 students from Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis, and Meningococcal diseases. In addition, Public Health Nurses offer influenza clinics both in health units and in community facilities to members of the public who are eligible for publicly funded influenza vaccine.
Public Health staff work with elementary schools and parents to provide kindergarten vision and hearing screening and follow-up. Earlier identification of vision and hearing concerns can result in better treatment outcome for children.
Professionals from Public Health Nursing, Dental and Nutrition provide service and support within the Comprehensive School Health model to both public and independent schools throughout School Districts 61, 62, 63, 64 and 93. Members of the team support students, parents/guardians, school staff and community groups to identify the priority health needs of the school populations.
Speech-Language services are available for preschool children. Speech-language services are provided to preschool aged children who do not have on-going physiotherapy and/or occupational requirements. Children are seen until they are eligible by year of birth for kindergarten. Children with mild, moderate, severe and profound communication difficulties are served and the goal is to assist children to communicate to their maximum ability prior to school. Speech–language assessments, therapy and parent courses are provided.
(Children with on-going physiotherapy and/or occupational therapy requirements are seen at Queen Alexandra Centre for Children’s Health where their speech-language therapy is provided in conjunction with their other services)
Vancouver Island residents are well supported by Island Health’s Child, Youth and Family Public Health program. Services in Central and Northern Vancouver Island may vary slightly from those in this article; please call your local health unit for local information. Contact information can be found in this magazine or online at