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Ministry of Health

Early Childhood Screening Programs

Early Childhood Vision Screening Program

Scientific evidence indicates that much of a child's learning is based on vision. Vision screening is vital to detecting and correcting barriers to learning and development among children.

The goal of the Early Childhood Vision Screening Program is to detect vision disorders in children before they reach six years of age. By ensuring children receive screening, early intervention and treatments, the Ministry of Health is seeking to optimize their capacity to learn, adapt and develop throughout childhood.

The Early Childhood Vision Screening Program is delivered by health authority public health staff and includes:

  • vision screening of children in kindergarten by public health staff with referral to vision specialists for diagnostic testing and follow up;
  • piloting vision screening for three year olds to support earlier detection of vision disorders in this age cohort; and
  • case finding for vision concerns in the early childhood population, with referral to vision screening specialists for diagnostic testing and follow up.

Preschool Vision Screening Paper (PDF 342K)

A review of the science underlying preschool vision screening with implications for B.C. (PDF 318K)

Vision Screening Training Manual (PDF 1.0M)

BC Early Childhood Vision Screening Program (PDF 3.2M)

Early Childhood Dental Program

Dental health has a significant impact on the general health and well-being of children. Poor oral health impacts social function and can lead to limitations in communication and social interactions. A recent study revealed that children with dental caries typically experience pain and difficulty with eating and sleeping.

The goal of the Early Childhood Dental Program is to provide public health dental services that increase prevention of early childhood dental decay and improve identification of higher risk, more vulnerable populations of children.

This program is delivered by health authority public health staff and includes education, prevention activities, dental assessments, and family support. The program also involves surveying of kindergarten children in order to track dental public health data on B.C. children.

The BC Healthy Kids Program helps middle and low income families with the costs of basic dental care and prescription eyewear for their children. Eligible clients include dependent children under 19 years of age who receive Medical Services Plan (MSP) premium assistance through the Ministry of Health.

The Ministry of Health has collaborated with the B.C. Dental Association on a media campaign focussing on the prevention of early childhood dental decay. For more information on dental health in general, visit the B.C. Dental Association.

British Columbia Dental Survey of Kindergarten-Aged Children 2009-2010 (PDF 924K)

Dental Survey of Aboriginal Kindergarten-Aged Children 2009-2010 A Provincial and First Nations School Analysis (PDF 501K)

Evaluation of BC Early Childhood Dental Programs Report - July 2011 (PDF 2.4M)

Environmental Scan Oral Health Services in British Columbia for First Nations and Aboriginal Children aged 0 - 7 years (PDF 4.1M)

British Columbia Dental Survey of Kindergarten-Aged Children 2012-2013 (PDF 735K)

Early Childhood Hearing Screening Program

The critical period for a child's language development occurs during the first two years. The younger a child is when auditory and language stimulation occurs, the better the chances of establishing language brain centres.

The goal of the Early Childhood Hearing Screening Program is to provide universal hearing screening for all infants in the province. To date, all Neonatal Intensive Care Units have Early Childhood Hearing Screening Programs in place.

The Early Childhood Hearing Screening Program provides coordinated, equitable, accessible and efficient early identification and intervention services for hard of hearing and deaf babies and their families. Services include:

  • birth screening for congenital hearing loss for babies born in the hospital or at home
  • ongoing surveillance for later onset hearing loss
  • medical and audiological assessment for confirmation of hearing status
  • amplification for optimal use of available hearing
  • early intervention to provide communication development and optimal social-emotional development
  • public education to increase awareness of the importance of early identification;
  • training of service providers, and
  • program evaluation

The Ministry of Health is the lead ministry. Planning and service coordination are the responsibility of the Provincial Health Services Authority, in collaboration with B.C.'s five regional health authorities.

For more detailed information about hearing screening, visit the BC Early Hearing Program.

Child Health Screening Regulation

On Feb. 12, 2008, in the Speech from the Throne, the British Columbia Government reaffirmed its support for early childhood screening programs for vision, dental and hearing screening.

Child health screening programs have been successfully delivered in B.C. schools for several decades.  Health authorities are mandated by the Ministry of Health to deliver provincewide early childhood screening programs for children 0-5 years of age.

On June 23, 2010, the Child Health Screening Regulation was passed in order to support health authorities’ provision of child health screening in licensed childcare facilities and school settings under the Public Health Act. The regulation formalizes existing public health processes in school settings and extends the benefits of existing health authority school health practices to the preschool age population.

Specifically, the regulation provides parents with better access to child health screening services and allows health authority public health staff to use the same processes in licensed child care facilities that are currently used in school settings, including:

  • allowing public health staff to obtain from the operator of a licensed facility (except family care or in-home multi-age child care settings) demographic information for children enrolled, so that parents can be notified and offered child health screening services. 
  • formalizing the existing health authority process of parent notification and the ‘opt-out’ provision.  Parents are notified about the screening service and service date, and that they may either opt out of the screening entirely or just of the disclosure of their child’s screening results. 
  • allowing health authority staff to disclose individual screening results to the child’s school or child care facility operators for the purpose of follow-up and care of the child (unless the parent requests to ‘opt out’ of disclosure). 

For further information click here.