Community-based screening and triage connecting First Nations children and youth to local supports: a cross-sectional study – CMAJ

Background: First Nations children in Canada experience health inequities. We aimed to determine whether a self-report health app identified children’s needs for support earlier in their illness than would typically occur.

Methods: Children (aged 8 to 18 yr) were recruited from a rural First Nation community. Children completed the Aaniish Naa Gegii: the Children’s Health and Well-being Measure (ACHWM) and then met with a local mental health worker who determined their risk status. ACHWM Emotional Quadrant Scores (EQS) were compared between 3 groups of children: healthy peers (HP) who were not at risk, those with newly identified needs (NIN) who were at risk and not previously identified, and a typical treatment (TT) group who were at risk and already receiving support.

Results: We included 227 children (57.1% girls), and the mean age was 12.9 (standard deviation [SD] 2.9) years. The 134 children in the HP group had a mean EQS of 80.1 (SD 11.25), the 35 children in the NIN group had a mean EQS of 67.2 (SD 13.27) and the 58 children in the TT group had a mean EQS of 66.2 (SD 16.30). The HP group had significantly better EQS than the NIN and TT groups (p < 0.001). The EQS did not differ between the NIN and TT groups (p = 0.8).

Interpretation: The ACHWM screening process identified needs for support among 35 children, and the associated triage process connected them to local services; the similarity of EQS in the NIN and TT groups highlights the value of community screening to opti-mize access to services. Future research will examine the impact of this process over the subsequent year in these groups.

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