News Release
April 4, 2022

On Monday, April 11, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa will present a report to the Toronto Board of Health on the health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on school-aged children and youth and make recommendations to the Board to address the ongoing effects and inequities the pandemic has created. The report and meeting agenda are available on the City’s website.

Local data show that children and youth have generally experienced less severe outcomes from COVID-19 infection relative to older age groups. Serious outcomes and loss of life due to COVID-19 in this age group are rare, but nevertheless have occurred in Toronto and are tragic outcomes for those who have been impacted. While COVID-19 hospitalizations for this age group represented less than 0.1 per cent of all hospital cases in Toronto since the start of the pandemic, youth have experienced a wide range of physical and mental health impacts throughout the pandemic as a result of school closures and lost educational days.  Although school closures and other public health measures were necessary to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, evidence shows that they have impacted youth in the areas of mental health, substance use, nutrition and physical activity, as well as access to dental care and vaccines against preventable diseases.

Global studies report that rates of anxiety, depression, stress, and loneliness have more than doubled from pre-pandemic levels, with anticipated long-term consequences. Toronto hospitals observed an increase in emergency department visits related to self-harm among children and youth, from 467 visits in the 15 months before the pandemic to 606 visits in the 15 months since the start of the pandemic. In a 2020 Toronto District School Board survey assessing students’ pandemic and remote learning experiences, 30 per cent of students reported feeling worried about coping with their fear and anxiety; 23 per cent expressed the need for support with social/emotional learning skills; and 21 per cent voiced the need for mental health and well-being supports.

While the direct provision of mental health services falls outside of Toronto Public Health’s (TPH) mandate, the report responds to the Board of Health’s request for an update on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on school-age children and youth, including current programs operated by TPH to support this population. Dr. de Villa will present her recommendations to the Board for consideration at the April meeting including:

  • TPH to work with the Province and local school boards to conduct further research and establish a baseline assessment of the mental health and well-being of youth in Toronto
  • TPH to work with local school boards to assist in the development of short- and long-term approaches to promote the mental health and well-being of children and youth in Toronto
  • Request additional resources from the provincial government to address the service backlog of School Immunization and Dental Screening Programs delayed due to the pandemic and expedite this work
  • Request that the Ontario Ministry of Health implement a provincial electronic immunization registry as soon as possible
  • Request that the Ontario Ministry of Health work with local partners to explore and implement approaches and activate more channels to further facilitate access to vaccines for children and youth, including those administered as part of the School Immunization Program

TPH continues to carefully monitor COVID-19 activity and collaborate with local school boards and school communities to support the health and well-being of Toronto’s children and youth.

The full Board of Health report is available on the City’s website.

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Toronto Public Health Media Relations