Healthy Living in the North

A passion for the paddle: Table tennis in Hudson’s Hope

Northern Health’s IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to a variety of groups with projects that make northern communities healthier. Our hope is that these innovative projects inspire healthy community actions where you live! Check out the story below and read more IMAGINE Community Grant stories.

This story was originally published in Healthier You magazine.


Group of people playing table tennis.

With the support of an IMAGINE grant, table tennis is a new, accessible community recreation opportunity in Hudson’s Hope.

Tyler Schwartz is the president of the Hudson’s Hope Table Tennis Group, although Tyler himself will be the first to admit that it’s a grand title for a relatively informal group of table tennis enthusiasts. What makes this group unique is how they worked together to formalize their group through an IMAGINE grant and a partnership with a local school; this process allowed them to include the whole community in their game play.

I recently had the chance to chat with Tyler about his group and how they came together. In his introduction to me, he started off by stating, “We’re just a group of folks in town who have a passion for table tennis.” And that’s all they need to be to make a difference!

What was your experience like in applying for an IMAGINE grant?

It was pretty straightforward – we just happened to have the need right around the same time as the grant window was open. This really was a joint application between our table tennis group and the Hudson’s Hope Elementary-Secondary School. That’s where all of our table tennis tables are.

Why table tennis?

There’s a good-sized group of people in town who play table tennis, but it’s hard for us all to play together. We thought it would be fantastic if there were a central place in town where we could have a handful of tables that would be available for us to play and also be available for community use (and school use, as it turned out).

We wanted to get out of just playing at one person’s house where 2-4 people, maximum, could play at any one time. We really wanted to bring the group together to have 10, 12, 15, or even 20 people all playing at the same time!

What has the response been like?

After receiving the grant, we had received all of the equipment late in the spring and were up and running shortly after that, but because the school closes in the summer months, we were unable to play in July and August. Right now, we are just kicking off the fall season. We participated in the community fall sign-up and had a few new folks in town who wanted to join – so we’ll be starting up with even more people than last season!

Why do you love table tennis?

It’s a sport that I started playing when I was a kid growing up, and I seemed to have a knack for it. It’s fun – and lot more athletic than you think it might be!

You mentioned that new people have signed up to join the group this fall – who seems to be interested?

The high school students have access to the tables as a part of their lunchtime activities, during gym class, or outside of school hours. The other group is mostly adults from the community. Children under 16 are welcome as long as they’re accompanied by a parent or guardian during the evening time slots. There is a wide diversity of adults who play – it spans those from their early 20s up to those who are about 70 years old, and from all walks of life.

Students playing table tennis

A group of table tennis enthusiasts have used an IMAGINE grant to open their game play to all!

Have you had anyone come out yet who’s a first-time player?

One older gentleman who comes out said that he hadn’t played since he was in the army, more than 30 years ago. He’s come out and joined out group. I’ve lived in the community for 15 years and had never met him before – now I know his name, where he lives, and we now play a bit of ping-pong together!

One of the neat things about Hudson’s Hope is that every night of the week there’s at least one sport going on. They alternate because, unlike bigger cities, there’s not a lot of infrastructure to host activities. We’re adding a table tennis night to those selections. There’s a good mix of sports available to our community and we’re glad to be able to add table tennis to this offering.

Any final words you’d like to share about this grant?

I appreciated that we didn’t need to be registered as a non-profit. It made it easier for us to apply to get just a little bit of money to buy these tables. We don’t have directors and society rules and AGMs – we’re an informal group and yet we still perform a level of due diligence on the financial side. We partnered with the school, and that lent credence to our project and application.

I’d like to send a shout-out of encouragement to passionate individuals or organizations that have ideas, or are taking on initiatives that help support healthy activities, to apply. I would encourage them to apply.

One final question… is it okay to say ‘ping-pong’?

Of course! I think the proper name is in fact table tennis – but we call it pong all the time. I don’t sense folks around here are that pretentious!


What made this project stand out to the grant reviewers? For integrated community granting lead Mandy Levesque, three elements jumped out:

  • This represented a new recreational opportunity for the community.
  • There was a strong partnership with the local school, including a great letter of support from the principal.
  • The project was accessible – designed as a drop-in activity offered at no charge to any community members interested in participating.
Andrea Palmer

About Andrea Palmer

Andrea Palmer is a Communications Advisor with the Health Promotions Team at Northern Health. Born and raised in southern B.C., Andrea now embraces the North in large part for all the fun, healthy activities and opportunities uniquely accessible in our region including snowboarding, cross-country skiing, outdoor skating, wild berry picking, hiking, canoeing/kayaking, fishing and the bracing experience of jogging in the snow!

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The Great Northern Scavenger Hunt – Off to a strong start!

The entries have been pouring in to the Great Northern Scavenger Hunt, and we already have a winner!

20160923-vince

Vince points out a great view in Prince Rupert

Congratulations are in order – the “1st across the line” winner with the first entry in the Great Scavenger Hunt contest is Vince from Prince Rupert! Vince shared some great info about his community in response to our Scavenger Hunt clues, including the fact that a great place to borrow a book in Prince Rupert is the Friendship House youth hub. Vince also sent in a great shot of what he considers to be the best view in his area – the view from Mount Blainey.

A lot of Prince Rupert entries (and Scavenger Hunters have been very busy in Prince Rupert and across the northwest!) mention Oliver Lake for fun on the ice and the Skeena River as a great place to fish – it sounds like Prince Rupert has much to offer in terms of healthy options!

At the time of this writing, we have received 40 entries from communities across northern BC. The clue answers reveal a huge level of participation in community life! It looks like everyone who has a branch enjoys getting their books from their local Public Library. Folks in Prince George really enjoy playing at Duchess Park, and many in the northeast buy their locally grown or produced food at the Hudson’s Hope Farmers Market. In fact, across the north, Farmers Markets are coming out strong as the most commonly suggested place for local foods.

In answering clue #5, “Where do you go for the best view in your area?” Moe from Mackenzie really highlighted how tough that decision in that area, “Drive up Morfee Mountain…hike around. There are beautiful vistas along ALL the trails in town….whether they are simply logging trails or a lookout over Morfee Lake”.

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Hudson’s Hope bike crew

We’ve also been getting some really terrific photos of riders with their helmets on. It’s great to see riders starting young and the entries are also revealing that cycling and mountain biking are very popular across the north. Extra mentions of mountain bike trails were included in entries from Burns Lake, Mackenzie, Kitimat, Chetwynd and Prince George.

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Taking it seriously, big wheel style, in Quesnel

Keep those entries coming in – we’ll have our first three weekly winners announced next week and everyone who submits a minimum of 20 answers is in the draw for a $150 grand prize!

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Wish you were here… in Kitimat

Finally, gorgeous shots are coming in of ‘best views’ from all regions, but today I’ll leave you with this striking and moody shot – it’s the view from the gazebo near MK Bay Marina in Kitimat. Thank you to Sandra for sending that in!

Andrea Palmer

About Andrea Palmer

Andrea Palmer is a Communications Advisor with the Health Promotions Team at Northern Health. Born and raised in southern B.C., Andrea now embraces the North in large part for all the fun, healthy activities and opportunities uniquely accessible in our region including snowboarding, cross-country skiing, outdoor skating, wild berry picking, hiking, canoeing/kayaking, fishing and the bracing experience of jogging in the snow!

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From trail to town: How one accessible project led to greater change in Old Massett

Boardwalk in Naikoon Park

When local officials began to improve the famous Tow Hill trail, they decided to prioritize accessibility. Now, “you can wheel all the way down the boardwalk … When the West wind is blowing and the waves are crashing, [visitors] may have the salt spray on their faces … this is very exciting.”

Naikoon Park on Haida Gwaii is a wild and pristine coastal site in the traditional territory of the Haida Nation. Naikoon has long been a place of spiritual and cultural importance for Haida people. Visitors seek it out for the long stretches of unspoiled beach, coastal rainforests, dunes, and wetlands.

A few years ago local officials looked to improve the trails in Naikoon (namely the famous Tow Hill trail) and decided to prioritize accessibility. Ultimately, learning about accessibility went beyond the trail – the whole community continues to benefit from a new perspective in building and development.

John Disney is the Economic Development Officer with Old Massett Village Council and took up the duty to make a wholly new trail type for Naikoon.

We decided to work together [with the Province of BC and accessibility advocates] to run the park in a manner that would be attractive and all-inclusive. On that actual site [Tow Hill], we’ve rebuilt the whole thing. That was our first attempt at launching this new approach and seeing what the result would be.

John Disney, Cecil Brown (Deputy Chief Councillor, Old Massett Village Council), and Rick Hansen enjoy Tow Hill Trail.

One of the first visitors to the new trail was Rick Hansen, who provided his “stamp of approval” and encouraged local officials to continue making other parts of the park accessible.

The first person we took out there, when we first opened it, was Rick Hansen! His face was just beaming! He was up onto the boardwalk and down the beach; we could hardly keep up to him. He told us it was great and he said, ‘You’ve got to keep going in this direction.’ He gave us his stamp of approval!

You can take a virtual hike before you even arrive! Once you’re here, you can wheel all the way down the boardwalk, ending at a platform right on the rocks. Visitors can go up to a sign and feel the braille, or hear a story from one of the on-site ‘talking signs’ in English or Haida. When the West wind is blowing and the waves are crashing, they may have the salt spray on their faces … this is very exciting.

It’s not like Stanley Park here. It’s pristine, it’s raw, and when you’re out, you’re out in the elements. I don’t know why people have ever thought that those living with disabilities aren’t interested in that – they crave it. How can they find it? That’s what we’re learning now.

The positive reception has been gratifying for Disney and his team who toiled on making this project a reality, from securing support and funds, to boardwalk design and the tough work of building it. In fact, support for this project has been so strong that further work on park trails will carry on with a similar focus, extending the wilderness experience for all people in new ways:

I can’t wait to tell you this! Another trail branching off of the current, accessible one is the start of an old homestead trail. It crosses over the island to the east coast. We were going to just upgrade it but I thought to consider making that trail accessible too. I worried that it may be too long, so I called up Rick Hansen and asked him if the idea was insane. He wouldn’t even let me finish my sentence; he said, ‘John, build it!’ So we’re moving forward with this dream. We’re going to build a 10 km trail through pristine old-growth forests and marshlands, ending on the Hecate Strait beaches – and you’re going to be able to do the whole thing in a wheelchair.

The old trail had a bunch of steps, now they’ll have to be turned into ramps so that you can wheel up them, or push a buggy up them. You can ride your bike up them! Suddenly options open up.

Boardwalk

One accessible project has led to greater change and a new lens on projects in Old Massett.

Disney makes it clear that learning about accessibility has deeply impacted his work – and his service has impacted many aspects of visitor and community life:

To tell the truth, I never really understood that there’s a segment of our society that can’t get to these places. It never occurred to me, but now it has and it’s a different way of looking at things. Accessibility is now one of the things we take into consideration when we build. When we build a cabin, is it accessible? Has it got a ramp? We built a 12-unit apartment for the community a few years ago and ensured that one whole floor was accessible. We wanted to be sure that the kitchen, the bathrooms, and everything worked for people in wheelchairs.

Whenever we are building something new we have to make it accessible. We have to be aware that whatever it is, there are people who will want to use it that were never were able to before. I’ve gained a new understanding and it’s brought me a lot of gratification too, to know that now I’ve learned this, I can do something about it.

More information:


This article first appeared in Healthier You magazine. Find the original story and lots of other information about accessibility in the Fall 2016 issue:

Andrea Palmer

About Andrea Palmer

Andrea Palmer is a Communications Advisor with the Health Promotions Team at Northern Health. Born and raised in southern B.C., Andrea now embraces the North in large part for all the fun, healthy activities and opportunities uniquely accessible in our region including snowboarding, cross-country skiing, outdoor skating, wild berry picking, hiking, canoeing/kayaking, fishing and the bracing experience of jogging in the snow!

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Fatherhood, community, and culture: Reflections on parenting in Prince Rupert with Duane Jackson

Duane Jackson and daughter

Between his professional and personal life, Duane Jackson has had the opportunity to glean a great deal of wisdom with a child-centred focus.

Duane Jackson has worn many hats in his years serving children and families on the Northwest Coast. His many positions held include former Aboriginal Coordinator for Success by Six and Regional Coordinator for Children First. He now works with the Hecate Strait Employment Development Society as a Trainer/Facilitator and Employment Counsellor. Jackson is also co-chair on the Aboriginal Steering Committee with the Human Early Learning Partnership.

Most importantly, Jackson is a family man – he and his wife are the proud parents of three children. Between his professional and personal life, Duane Jackson has had the opportunity to glean a great deal of wisdom with a child-centred focus.

Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

I grew up on the Northwest Coast, but I’m Gitanmaax from Old Hazelton. I actually lived at one of the fishing canneries, North Pacific Cannery on Inverness Passage, when it was an operating cannery – now it’s a museum! I’ve been in Prince Rupert the majority of my life, grade 3 on, and went to high school here.

When I was 26, I met my wife, Christine, and we’ve been together for 23 years now. We have three children, a 17-year-old, a 14-year-old and an 8-year-old.

As a father of three, what have you found most unexpected in fatherhood?

I didn’t expect it to be the humbling experience that it was. I realized right from the birth of my first child that the importance of this job was so completely over and above anything that I understood in my life at that point. This small individual was going to encompass me so completely. With my first boy, with Caleb – I actually never put him down once! I carried him everywhere. I never put him in a buggy or a stroller; I carried him. He was in my arms all the time.

The biggest thing was the level of humility that was required, and the beauty of that was how much growth was involved in that process because of the fact that if you don’t embrace that humility, it will totally uproot you.

You graduated from college at age 40 and immediately began your work in serving children and families. How do your life experiences and education combine in your approach to your life and work?

Throughout my Early Childhood Education learning, the one thing that really got me was advocacy. But then of course, according to my culture, as a Gitanmaax person, I must advocate for children. Every child within my society is my responsibility. Not every Gitanmaax child, every child. My culture speaks to it, and as an Early Childhood Educator, my code of conduct speaks to it as well, that every child is my responsibility.

Prince Rupert harbour front

For Duane, Prince Rupert’s many activities and diverse population make it a healthy community for kids. Access to activities, however, can be a challenge.

What makes Prince Rupert a healthy community for children?

We have many activities for children, from minor league soccer and basketball, to the recreation centre for more activities. But we must remember that Prince Rupert is leading the province in unemployment. There is a huge societal barrier to accessing some of these activities. It’s not just Indigenous people who believe these programs just aren’t for them. It’s societal. In Canada we have the lowest percentage, globally, of children and families who access community programming.

We see a lot of families out at some great community events here: the Halloween Fest, the Winter Fest, the Children’s Festival … you see all generations of families out together, from the elders down to the smallest children.

One of the things I am always excited to see is children from diverse backgrounds who speak their language. Not just Indigenous languages, but all cultural groups. When they speak the language of their parents, I think that’s really exciting. You see that a lot here in Prince Rupert because there are many ethnicities represented here.

In your opinion, what small things do you do, that others can do, that may have big impacts in supporting healthy childhoods?

I think it’s in doing things together – doing activities together – and getting kids off of the computer. Getting kids off of screens! We’re steadily raising a generation of young people that will not have the ability to communicate effectively and positively. There’s just no amount of emoticons that you are going to attach to a text message that are actually going to tell me how you feel. This is starting younger and younger. You can go to a restaurant and see a family of four where all four people are on screens, no one is having a conversation. At our table here at home, where we have dinner together every night, there are no phones. My phone goes away. I have that deal with my family – and we talk. At the table – no one is watching TV!

These are the pieces – do things together, be involved, be supportive. And not just going out and watching your children do their activities. One of the most exciting things for me this year was having my daughter come and watch me coach basketball. She would come and watch my team play, and watch me coach. Bring your children with you into a social setting so that they can see how you are in that setting. All of us are different in our own homes than in a social setting. I think the secret is to get your children out with you in social events.

Knowing what you know now – if you were to go back to those early years with your children – what would you try to do more of with them?

Play, play, play. Hold onto them as much as possible, which is what I do now – even with the older boy and my 14-year-old. Squash ’em, squash ’em, squash ’em as much as I can! And never show them anger. I can show them disappointment, I tell my children I can be disappointed with your decisions, but at no time, ever, are you a disappointment.

If I were to go back, punishment would go out the door. I would go with restorative justice. I would walk, and talk, and teach and do nothing else but that.

If I was to talk to a parent, or talk to myself when I was a new parent, I’d tell them just to love and give and respect your children unconditionally. To give them these three things throughout our lives together and expect nothing in return. That’s what I would do … and advise.


This article first appeared in Healthier You magazine. Find the original story and lots of other information about child health in the Summer 2016 issue:

Andrea Palmer

About Andrea Palmer

Andrea Palmer is a Communications Advisor with the Health Promotions Team at Northern Health. Born and raised in southern B.C., Andrea now embraces the North in large part for all the fun, healthy activities and opportunities uniquely accessible in our region including snowboarding, cross-country skiing, outdoor skating, wild berry picking, hiking, canoeing/kayaking, fishing and the bracing experience of jogging in the snow!

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Quitting is hard, what’s your story? Wrap-up and Fitbit winner!

20160614-QuitStoriesWrapUpSince World No Tobacco Day (May 30) Northerners have been sharing their ‘Quit Stories’. I’d like to share a few more of the stories that came in, but first, many congratulations out to Melanie in Fort St. John whose name was drawn in the story entry contest to win a Fitbit Activity Tracker. Congratulations Melanie!

You may remember reading Melanie’s positive quit story. She shared that after several attempts using a variety of methods she is currently 6 months smoke-free! Her parting words:

If you really want something you will achieve it!

We know quitting is hard, and for some, the quit comes when it absolutely has to. As in this story shared by Erica in Prince George:

My brother has smoked for 36 years. Recently he had pneumonia and a collapsed lung. It was only then that he quit. He always wanted to, but said that he would go through such bad withdrawals that he would just start smoking again. A doctor he saw, told him that his lung capacity was only about 38%, and that he needed to quit right away. This scared him so badly, that he quit. The truth was that he was so sick, that he could not smoke, he could hardly breathe. Now he tells me it was the best thing he ever did for himself. It was just too bad that it took such an extreme situation for him to quit.

Nicole, in Terrace, found health a strong motivator too – but realized quickly how much money she saved as well!:

I moved to Terrace in 2008. After 10 years of smoking, and being an asthmatic, I had been hospitalized hundreds of times. Each time becoming more and more serious. When we moved I felt this would be a great time to quit, new town new me. It was incredibly hard. I never thought about the stress of a new town along with the cravings to smoke and at the time my partner was still smoking. I continued and was successful and then was able to encourage my partner who then quit in Dec of the same year. It’s been 8 years now and we are both healthier and happier. The monies we saved from smoking we now use to go on holidays. We continued to move the money we were spending on cigarettes into an account we opened and labelled “holiday” it’s amazing how much money we were spending without realizing it. This gave us a twofold benefit. We are healthier and we have holiday money which we were not previously making a priority.

Many more stories came in and I wish I could list them all, but space will allow me only to thank everyone who shared their quit story and entered the contest. We are all touched by tobacco use and it takes a lot of hard work and determination to quit –but it helps everyone around you when you do.

Do you want to quit? Speak with your health care provider and for information and free support to help you, visit QuitNow or call 1-877-455-2233. You can also ask your pharmacist how to access information and FREE nicotine patches, gum, lozenges or inhalers through the BC Smoking Cessation Program.

Andrea Palmer

About Andrea Palmer

Andrea Palmer is a Communications Advisor with the Health Promotions Team at Northern Health. Born and raised in southern B.C., Andrea now embraces the North in large part for all the fun, healthy activities and opportunities uniquely accessible in our region including snowboarding, cross-country skiing, outdoor skating, wild berry picking, hiking, canoeing/kayaking, fishing and the bracing experience of jogging in the snow!

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True-life quit stories – northerners going tobacco-free!

Quitting smoking is hard, what’s your story?

The “Quit Story contest” deadline is this Friday (June 10th) and so far the submissions have been heartfelt and inspiring.

Before sharing these stories, I should note that your quit story can also involve your experience with the quit attempts of people in your life – we’ve all been touched by tobacco use through our family, friends and work. Many thanks to all who have entered the contest and shared their stories – perhaps these words can help support your decision, or that of someone in your life. You can share your story and enter the contest to win a Fitbit activity tracker until Friday – so keep those quit stories coming!

In Prince George, Carolyn is newly tobacco-free:

“I’ve been a non-smoker for about 3 weeks now, after 20 years of smoking. I feel much better. I can keep up with my sons better, and I’m not coughing and wheezing when we go for walks. It’s been tough, but I’m excited to think that I’ll likely be around for their weddings someday!”

Sandy, from Terrace, talks about how tough quitting can be:smoke-69124_960_720cropped

“I started smoking when I was 16 and quit when I was 40, wow, that’s a lot of years. I sort of tried to quit everytime a new “program” came out; gum, patches, pills, etc. There was something about smoking that I liked though, not just the buzz it gave me but the time away from the kids, household chores, work, life. It was a time for me to zone out for a few minutes or to socialize with other smokers in the back parking lot. I tried to be a courteous smoker, always outside, away from doors and windows and I would justify my addiction by saying it’s really the only bad habit I had. I had lost family members to lung cancer but always thought well, if that’s what’s gonna get me then so be it.

Call it an epiphany, or a light bulb moment, whatever… I sitting on my front step, taking a mom’s time out when I realized that I didn’t want to do it anymore, I didn’t want to leave the kids in the house and hide out so I could have a smoke. That was it, I went to doctor, had a little cry, told him I wanted to try the new drug to quit, didn’t hurt that I was also feeling depressed and needed the anti-depressant part too. I took the drug for 2 months then stopped because of the side effects. I told myself over and over again that I didn’t want to go through all that again, I didn’t want to hide, or disappoint or make excuses for my behaviour. I had two very smart children watching me as well, making sure I didn’t slip. I tested myself once, after about 4 months, stupid thing to do and I don’t recommend it! I took a drag off my friend’s cigarette and was so dizzy and queasy that I couldn’t take another drag, if I did, I would have been right back at it again. I never tested myself again. I always thought I would like to be one of those smokers that only smokes when they have a few drinks, but then I would be an alcoholic.

I loved smoking, I loved the smell, the jolt when the smoke hits the back of your throat, the socializing and even the zoning out. Would I go back? Not on your life. That’s how I stay smoke free, I admit to what I miss and accept it and move on. I can honestly say that I will never smoke again. I said that in 2010 and I am still saying it in 2016, never again.”

I’ll share more stories before the end of the week – I’m excited to read all that come in. Sometimes these aren’t easy stories to tell, thank you for your words.

The contest runs until Friday, the 10th, so enter today! You can win a Fitbit activity tracker to keep you on your toes!

Andrea Palmer

About Andrea Palmer

Andrea Palmer is a Communications Advisor with the Health Promotions Team at Northern Health. Born and raised in southern B.C., Andrea now embraces the North in large part for all the fun, healthy activities and opportunities uniquely accessible in our region including snowboarding, cross-country skiing, outdoor skating, wild berry picking, hiking, canoeing/kayaking, fishing and the bracing experience of jogging in the snow!

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Spotlight on an Award-Winner: POWERPLAY

The 2015 Healthier You Awards held late last fall was a wonderful way to highlight the innovative work being done across sectors in improving the health of northerners. Northern Health benefitted with a number of nominations and wins for our staff and partners in healthcare. The strong role Northern Health plays in our communities was well recognized.

Photo of award winner holding a plaque

Healthy Workplace for Small Business Award

Nominated in two categories for the 2015 Healthier You Awards (including The Health and Wellness Innovator Award category), the POWERPLAY program won the Healthy Workplace for Small Business Award. POWERPLAY is a workplace-wellness program with a men’s health focus targeting physical activity and healthy eating. It was developed and implemented in four male-dominated workplaces in Northern British Columbia.

POWERPLAY was designed with messages that would appeal to men, friendly competition and self-monitoring to promote healthy eating and physical activity. The program was piloted by 4 businesses from October 2014 to March 2015: Two in Prince George (Lomak Bulk Carriers and Excel Transportation), one in Prince Rupert (Ridley Terminals), and one in Terrace (City of Terrace). There were significant increases in physical activity after the program was implemented.

This award is shared by many. Through a multi-sectoral partnership between the Canadian Cancer Society, BC Cancer Agency, Northern Health and researchers at the University of British Columbia and Athabasca University (with funding from the Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute), there were almost 20 individuals directly responsible for making this program a great success!

One of those responsible is Cherisse Seaton. Cherisse is a Research Coordinator at the Centre for Healthy Living. We had a chance to ask Cherisse a few questions about her work; her answers show her passion for the program and northern BC:

1.) You were nominated for this award in recognition of a particular aspect of your work – why do you think this project stands out to people?

There has been an increasing focus on men’s health, in part because there is a real gender disparity in health – men access health care at lower rates than women do. There is a need for innovative strategies for reaching more men. The POWERPLAY program was developed to help fill this need and the program was designed to be flexible so it could be implemented in a variety of workplaces in northern BC.

2.) What would you most like people to know about the work you do?

About half of all cancers can be prevented and we know that lifestyle changes such as stopping smoking, as well as healthy eating, and active living can reduce the incidence of cancer. Northern Health, The Canadian Cancer society, and the BC Cancer Agency are working together to ensure strong and unified services to northerners, and this project will help inform future harmonized work. As researchers, we are collaborating with the health-care agencies to target cancer prevention strategies in northern B.C.

Together the team designed and delivered the POWERPLAY program and ensured that it was evidence-based. For example, we conducted a systematic review of the literature for “best practices” for men’s health promotion. We also brought the preliminary program components to focus groups of men in Prince George to get their feedback and input making the program designed for and by northern men.
Finally, conducting research also allows us to evaluate the effectiveness of our programs. For the POWERPLAY program, we completed surveys with the program participants both before and after the program was implemented, so we could determine what worked and what didn’t. The feedback we got from program participants is now being used to make further modification to the POWERPLAY program before it is offered at future worksites.

3.) What do you love about living and working in Northern BC?

Although in my position with this project I am a UBC employee, I am located here in Prince George to oversee all the research activities. I am from Prince George, and I value the opportunities to embrace the outdoors, being close to my family, and the close-knit community with all the City amenities.

Would you like to see POWERPLAY in your community? Resources to support POWERPLAY implementation in a variety of male-dominated worksites are under development, and the team is now looking for partners in order to continue to offer the program in workplaces across northern BC.

If you are interested in partnering with us to offer the award-winning POWERPLAY program please contact the Research Coordinator, Cherisse Seaton (Cherisse.seaton@ubc.ca).

Andrea Palmer

About Andrea Palmer

Andrea Palmer is a Communications Advisor with the Health Promotions Team at Northern Health. Born and raised in southern B.C., Andrea now embraces the North in large part for all the fun, healthy activities and opportunities uniquely accessible in our region including snowboarding, cross-country skiing, outdoor skating, wild berry picking, hiking, canoeing/kayaking, fishing and the bracing experience of jogging in the snow!

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Family health over the holidays

In the now-classic Canadian tale of holiday mayhem, Stuart McLean’s Dave Cooks the Turkey, befuddled husband, father, and record store owner Dave realizes with alarm (on Christmas Eve) that not only has he been tasked with cooking the Christmas turkey – but that in fact this means he should have actually purchased one. While amusing to hear, Dave’s ensuing story of holiday-prep turmoil may have been a difficult lived experience. Balancing family and workplace commitments while shopping, cooking and entertaining make this time of year busy and stress may not be avoidable – but there are ways we can manage holiday pressures end enjoy the season.

The Canadian Mental Health Association offers some great, practical tips on staying grounded, calm and capable during the holidays. As they say, it’s hard to think of Peace on Earth without peace of mind!

Family wearing snowshoes

What traditions or activities will you try this season to connect with family and friends? The Lamont family (2015) enjoys some winter snowshoeing!

Plan ahead. If you’re entertaining, use the “keep it simple” strategy. Try menus you can make ahead of time or at least partially prepare and freeze. Decorate, cook, shop, or do whatever’s on your list in advance. If you’re visiting (or supporting your guests), consider a plan for getting home safely at the end of the festivities – many communities offer special holiday transportation services and/or free ride programs like Operation Red Nose. Then you can really relax and enjoy visiting friends, relatives and co-workers.

As much as possible, organize and delegate. Make a list and check it twice. Rather than one person cooking the whole family meal, invite guests to bring a dish. Kids can help with gift-wrapping, decorating, baking, or addressing or decorating cards.

Practice mindful eating and drinking. The holidays are great time for the giving and receiving of delicious nibbles and drinks. Eating “one more cookie” or partaking in “one more drink” are normal parts of holiday celebrations but be mindful of how your body is feeling. You can help maintain your regular sense of well-being by eating regular meals and snacks and engaging in enjoyable physical activity. This is a great time of year to combine indoor pleasures with outdoor fun-times like snowman-building or rambles through now-sparkling neighbourhoods!

Stay within budget. Finances are a huge source of stress for many people. Again, eliminate the unnecessary. Set a budget, and stay within it. A call, a visit or a note to tell someone how important they are to you can be as touching as and more meaningful than a gift. You can also enjoy free activities like walking or driving around to look at holiday decorations, going window shopping without buying, or making your own decorations or presents. Craigslist and swap events are great places to find inexpensive brand-new items, and excellent-condition used items.

Remember what the holiday season is about for you. Make this your priority. Whether it’s the usual holiday advertising that creates a picture that the holidays are about shiny new toys, always-happy families and gift giving, remember that this season is really about sharing, loving, and time spent with family and loved ones. Develop your own meaningful family traditions that don’t have to cost a lot of money. Also, remember not to take things too seriously. Finding fun or silly things to do, playing games or watching movies that make you laugh, playing with pets, and spending time alone or with a partner or friends are all good ways to reduce stress.

Invite others. If you have few family or friends, reach out to neighbours. Find ways to spend the holidays with other people. If you’re part of a family gathering, invite someone you know is alone to your gathering.

Connect with your community. Attend diverse cultural events with family and friends. Help out at a local food bank or another community organization.

When the weather outside is frightful… Some people get the winter blahs each year, and a much smaller number (2-3%) develop seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Paying attention to nutrition, exercise and sleep and being careful with alcohol are also important if you have a history of depression. If your low mood carries on into the New Year and starts to affect your daily life, you should see your family doctor.

Dave’s family did enjoy a turkey in the end, albeit one achieved through rather non-traditional means involving a hairdryer, a hotel, and a bottle of scotch. Dave somehow managed to deliver on his commitments to his family, but had he been better at delegating and sharing his tasks, he may not have spent precious time ladling gravy on top of lightbulbs that night to make the house smell like he actually cooked the bird.

This is a time of year we may all catch ourselves making big promises – and we would be well-served to remember that delivering on small ones, like simply enjoying each other’s company, has more substantial effects in the end. Enjoy your holidays, be they in company of family, friends, faith or in quiet contemplation.


This article was written by Andrea Palmer in partnership with Dr. Sandra Allison, Northern Health Chief Medical Health Officer. A version of this article first appeared in the NCLGA newsletter.

Andrea Palmer

About Andrea Palmer

Andrea Palmer is a Communications Advisor with the Health Promotions Team at Northern Health. Born and raised in southern B.C., Andrea now embraces the North in large part for all the fun, healthy activities and opportunities uniquely accessible in our region including snowboarding, cross-country skiing, outdoor skating, wild berry picking, hiking, canoeing/kayaking, fishing and the bracing experience of jogging in the snow!

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