Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, there is widespread recognition that the early childhood years are crucial to the development of healthy children. From conception to age five or six, all children develop the foundation of their physical, social, emotional and intellectual skills and attitudes. Delays in this early development can result from many risk factors during both the prenatal period and early childhood. Potential difficulties in school and later life can be minimized or prevented through
programs and services to support children and their families during these early years.
Today I would like to announce the Healthy Children Initiative in partnership with my colleague, the Honourable Kelvin Ng, Minister of Health and Social Services. The vision of the initiative is healthy children born to healthy parents, growing up in strong and supportive families in caring communities. This year $3.75 million has been allocated this year to help communities support the healthy development of their young children. A formula has been developed to distribute funding to each community. A similar amount will be proposed in the department's 1998/99 business plan.
The Department of Education, Culture and Employment and the Department of Health and Social Services have developed a framework that describes the vision, principles, scope and options for action. The document is designed as a guide for community members, community government, service delivery boards and agencies and government departments in developing and implementing early childhood intervention programs and services. Any project proposed under this initiative must meet its vision and principles.
The framework document and information on how to apply for funding will be sent to communities and stakeholder groups shortly. Further information on how to apply for funding can be obtained from regional offices of the Department of Education, Culture and Employment.
Mr. Speaker, the Healthy Children Initiative represents an investment in our most important resource, the children of the Northwest Territories. I look forward to seeing the range of programs and services that communities develop to meet the needs of young children and their families. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.