Healthy Living in the North

Distracted driving: What’s the risk?

Bumper sticker that reads: "I pledge to power off while I drive"

If you think car crashes only happen to others, have a word with yourself. (preventable.ca)

People are busy. Increasing efficiency and multitasking are the norm. Smartphones, texting, talking, music, movies, dogs, kids, friends, the never-ending “to-do” list, and the ridiculous driver who just cut you off. Distractions are everywhere we go, including our cars.

What do you think about when you hear distractions and challenges while driving? Is it just someone else’s problem?  Is distracted driving really an issue we need to talk about?

Consider the facts:

  • Every day across B.C., an average of 1,200 people will need medical treatment for a serious injury, four people will die, and thousands of dollars will be spent on treating those seriously injured. Families, workplaces, and communities will be disrupted temporarily or forever.
  • Traffic-related injuries continue to be a leading cause of death and hospitalization.
  • About one-quarter of all fatal crashes in B.C. are the result of distracted driving, resulting in over 90 deaths.
  • Talking on a cellphone? You are four times more likely to be involved in a crash.
  • Texting while driving? You are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash.

You may not be thinking about the real risk of your distraction when making that quick trip to soccer practice, when dropping the children off at school, when racing to work just in the nick of time, when plugging another movie in for the kids while cruising down the highway, when trying to find that great new song on your handheld, or when making that quick call that will “only take a moment.”

Are you still thinking that distracted driving is just an issue for the other drivers on the road?  Is this just an issue for new drivers? Or, do we all see ourselves as a driver, passenger, pedestrian, or other road-user trying to get about our day? Distractions put everyone at risk.

What choices can you make, today and every day, to ignore the distractions and focus on driving? For more information, ideas, and tips on preventing distracted driving, please visit preventable.ca, parachutecanada.org, and icbc.com/road-safety/crashes-happen/Pages/Distracted-driving.aspx

This article was first published in A Healthier You, a joint publication of Northern Health and the Prince George Citizen.

Denise Foucher

About Denise Foucher

Denise is an injury prevention coordinator with Northern Health’s population health team and is passionate about working towards health and wellness for everyone in Northern B.C. When not at work, Denise can be found out at the lake, walking her dog, planning her next travel adventure, or snuggled in a cozy chair with a good book.

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Water play: the safe way

Beach towel; sand; preventable.ca

Show us how you play safe in and around the water this summer and be entered to win a beach towel from Northern Health and preventable.ca. Email your photo of playing in and around the water safely to prevent.injury@northernhealth.ca
(Photo from preventable.ca)

There is nothing like a warm summer day near the water: sun shining, jewel-like reflections and a gentle breeze. These are the makings of great summer memories. That’s just the point: memories. You need to remember your fun in the sun and an injury may stop that from happening. In honour of drowning prevention week, we wanted to remind you about the safe fun you can have around the water!

Before you think that only other swimmers or boaters drown, have a word with yourself. (preventable.ca)

Did you know?

  • Drownings are most likely to occur from May to August, when the warm weather draws us to the water.
  • Nearly 90% of boaters who drown are not wearing, or are not properly wearing, their lifejacket.
  • Two-thirds of drownings in Canada occur in natural bodies of water such as rivers, lakes, and oceans.

Dipping into that pool or lake, or getting out on the boat, canoe or kayak are what make for great summer memories. But, also consider the following:

  • There were 74 drownings in B.C. last year.
  • Drowning is a leading cause of death for children.
  • Near-drownings can result in lengthy hospital stays and can have life-long effects, such as brain damage.
  • 90% of boating drownings can be prevented by wearing a lifejacket or personal floatation device (PFD).
  • 20% of Canadians believe that a child under age six is safe near the water without a lifejacket as long as they aren’t swimming, but almost 80% of children who drowned entered the water unintentionally.

But, there are things you can do! Here are some tips for a safer summer:

  • Boat and swim sober.
  • Everyone wears a lifejacket or PFD.
  • All children under age six wear lifejackets when in, on, or around water.

What do you do to keep play time fun and safe so that you get to build great summer memories?

Denise Foucher

About Denise Foucher

Denise is an injury prevention coordinator with Northern Health’s population health team and is passionate about working towards health and wellness for everyone in Northern B.C. When not at work, Denise can be found out at the lake, walking her dog, planning her next travel adventure, or snuggled in a cozy chair with a good book.

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Seniors’ falls prevention week: write your own story

Denise's family and friends.

Denise’s family and friends from the old neighborhood.

I grew up in a Prince George neighborhood with a wonderful blend of multi-generation Canadian families and first generation families from Italy, Yugoslavia, Sweden, Denmark and Greece. They all brought a rich diversity of languages, home decorating flare, meals that could humble any international food festival, and crazy MacGyver-like creativity that they applied to both everyday tasks and complex problems. Often, they didn’t have their families close by. Looking back, I was so fortunate to spend my youth surrounded by these families who worked very hard to put down roots in their new communities and build a sense of belonging with their neighbors. Those families stayed in that neighborhood over the years, and if they did move, they kept in touch with the neighbors that had become dear friends.

A few (okay, many) years have gone by now and those men and women who had such fascinating life stories are aging. These folks have always been so independent – maybe it was always their nature – their fierce independence that was built over time, out of necessity. Whatever the background, they are now in their 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond in years. They still want to live their life, writing their own story as much as any of us can. Staying connected and living in their community while maintaining their independence in their senior years is critical to their well-being.

This week, our Injury Prevention: Falls Across the Ages awareness campaign is shining light on the issue of seniors’ falls. We are encouraging seniors and anyone who cares about the seniors in their lives to learn about maintaining independence and preventing a fall. There are some body changes that come with aging, but there are also many choices we can make to keep ourselves well, strong and safely on our feet as we go about living and writing our life stories. Some choices are easy to make; others take a bit more commitment. All are proven steps, helping to prevent slips, trips and broken hips.

1.   Be active

  • Poor balance and weak muscles are not a normal part of aging, but do increase your risk of falling.
  • Exercise for strength, balance and coordination. You’ll feel great.

2.   Take your time

  • Rushing through everyday activities can contribute to falls.
  • Slow down, do one thing at a time, look where you are going and be sure you have your balance before you start walking.

3.   Make your home safe

  • Remove things that you might trip over such as electrical cords, throw rugs, shoes and books.
  • Use sturdy handrails, bathroom grab bars, non-slip bath or shower mats and well-fitted shoes.
  • Light your way inside and outside your home. Use night-lights at night.

4.   Have regular check-ups

  • Medication use can increase your chance of falling, so have your doctor or pharmacist review all the medication you take.
  • Have your vision and blood pressure checked regularly.

Join this week’s challenge. Send us pictures of you, your family, friends and neighbors staying active, healthy and connected in your community. Show us that you have considered falls prevention!

For more information, links and resources please visit the Preventing Seniors’ Falls webpage.

Get involved and show us how you are staying healthy, active and falls-free.

Denise Foucher

About Denise Foucher

Denise is an injury prevention coordinator with Northern Health’s population health team and is passionate about working towards health and wellness for everyone in Northern B.C. When not at work, Denise can be found out at the lake, walking her dog, planning her next travel adventure, or snuggled in a cozy chair with a good book.

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A Focus on injury prevention

Preventing seniors' fallsHave you ever watched America’s Funniest Videos? Without fail, I find myself giggling or laughing out loud at the montage of videos showing people falling, tripping, tumbling and crashing off their bikes, over their dogs, off their decks, etc. I don’t want to be that person who laughs at other people’s misfortunes, but sitting on my sofa in the comfort of my home, it all seems so harmless and comical.

Now I ask you, have you ever had the chance to sit and listen to a parent describe the gut-wrenching screams of their child who broke a bone or sustained a head injury from a fall? Have you ever chatted with a senior when they describe the shock and pain of falling and breaking their hip, having to give up the comfort of living in their home in their neighborhood because they could not regain their previous level of independence? What do you think about all the professional athletes who have died, taken their own life, or never again played at the same level as a result of a concussion? Do you know someone who has had to change their life, either for a weekend, season or long-term because of the painful, confusing and unpredictable symptoms after suffering a concussion? Suddenly, the risk of serious injury from a fall is not at all harmless or in the least bit comical. Everyone knows someone who has had their life changed as a result of a fall.

While I’m shining a light on the serious risk of injury that accompanies a fall, let me challenge your assumptions about injuries in general. Did you know that most injuries are preventable? Injuries are the fifth leading cause of death in Canada and BC; they are the third leading cause of death in northern BC. We have higher rates of injury from motor vehicle crashes, suicides and falls than our provincial counterparts, and like the rest of the province and country, we have populations who are more vulnerable to the cost, pain, disability and tragedy of injury, such as seniors, children and youth, men and Aboriginal peoples.

Do injuries have to be a part of life? No. Can we still live full, fun, active, healthy lives while managing the serious risks of fall-related injuries?  Yes, we can! As preventable.ca challenges us, have a word with yourself.

Show us how for a chance to win prizes!

Do you live your life actively and fully while managing your risk for injury? Show us. Send in your pictures, stories, videos, and artwork of how to bring awareness to preventing injuries and you’ll have a chance to win weekly prizes. Visit our contest page for full details!

Join us in weekly contests this month to raise awareness about seniors’ falls prevention, childhood falls prevention, and concussion awareness. And for more information about preventing seniors’ falls, preventing childhood falls and concussion awareness and management, visit our Injury Prevention website.

Denise Foucher

About Denise Foucher

Denise is an injury prevention coordinator with Northern Health’s population health team and is passionate about working towards health and wellness for everyone in Northern B.C. When not at work, Denise can be found out at the lake, walking her dog, planning her next travel adventure, or snuggled in a cozy chair with a good book.

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Staying surefooted in the winter: Seniors’ Fall Prevention Awareness

fall prevention awareness week poster

(Click the image for a larger version)

I love this time of year.  My brain tells me I should be grumpy with the colder, shorter days of November but I always get a thrill when I bundle up and get outside to walk my dog and breathe in the crisp, still air. The quiet calm after a fresh snowfall and the crunch under my feet as we tread across the frosted ground never ceases to remind me what a beautiful part of the world I live in.

I am, however, also aware that while I’m out enjoying the seasonal changes in my community, it’s often a challenge to stay safely on my feet.  Slippery, winter conditions pose an additional challenge to seniors trying to prevent a fall while still staying healthy and active.

Icy conditions are not the only fall-related risk factor. This week, November 5-11, is the 6th annual Seniors’ Fall Prevention Awareness Week in B.C. It’s an opportunity to learn about maintaining balance for healthy, active aging.

Here are some great resources around fall prevention that we should all know and share with seniors that we know:

As you can see, there are a number of actions you can take to keep yourself, and those you care about, on steady feet and aging well.  Check out the Seniors’ Fall Prevention Awareness Week in BC website for more information on activities and resources.

Denise Foucher

About Denise Foucher

Denise is an injury prevention coordinator with Northern Health’s population health team and is passionate about working towards health and wellness for everyone in Northern B.C. When not at work, Denise can be found out at the lake, walking her dog, planning her next travel adventure, or snuggled in a cozy chair with a good book.

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Preventable’s advice: Have a word with yourself!

English Bay statues wearing lifejackets

Vancouver’s statues at English Bay wearing lifejackets for Preventable’s water safety campaign. (Photo borrowed from preventable.ca)

Last month, Preventable launched their water safety awareness campaign with oversized lifejackets on the laughing statues in Vancouver. When I saw the promotions for this campaign, I wondered where we could have ‘dressed’ local mascots and statues to draw attention to water safety in communities across Northern B.C.?

The media release for this campaign noted that every year in B.C., at least 60 British Columbians drown. Ninety percent of those who drown while boating do not wear a lifejacket or personal floatation device (PFD).

The Preventable campaign, in partnership with the Canadian Red Cross and BC Hydro, took over Vancouver’s much-loved sculpture “A-maze-ing Laughter” at English Bay. They dressed the sculpture in oversized orange lifejackets and set out a sign beside the display, reminding people to have a word with themselves before they think drowning only happens to other people.

I encourage everyone to check out the Preventable website for great information and thought-provoking discussions that might help you start thinking about the right things before you get out on the water: Are you wearing appropriate safety equipment, including approved personal floatation devices (PFDs)? Are you taking appropriate safety precautions while operating a boat? Or are you ignoring obvious risks by thinking that bad things only happen to “other people?”

The goal is to get us all thinking about risks, consequences and choices we make every day at work, home, at play and on the road. Before you jump into that pool or lake, or climb onto the Jet Ski or boat, and think that drowning only happens to other people, have a word with yourself.

What mascots or statues in Northern B.C. do you think would look great with a lifejacket on?

Denise Foucher

About Denise Foucher

Denise is an injury prevention coordinator with Northern Health’s population health team and is passionate about working towards health and wellness for everyone in Northern B.C. When not at work, Denise can be found out at the lake, walking her dog, planning her next travel adventure, or snuggled in a cozy chair with a good book.

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