Healthy Living in the North

IMAGINE grant: CHAAPS Summer Camps

Two horses with riders in riding arena.

The Cariboo Hoofbeats Assisted Activity Program Society (CHAAPS) gives people living with mental and physical disabilities the chance to interact with horses, providing participants with all sorts of health benefits!

If the bond between rider and horse is understood anywhere in northern B.C., Quesnel is certainly a top candidate. Host of the Quesnel Rodeo – one of the largest annual rodeos in Western Canada – the town is also home to events by the Cariboo Hoofbeats Assisted Activity Program Society (CHAAPS), a group that highlights the same relationship you’d see at the rodeo, but with slightly less fanfare and a very different purpose. CHAAPS gives people living with mental and physical disabilities the chance to interact with horses, providing participants with:

  • Physical and mental exercise and stimulation in a safe and secure environment
  • Education and hands-on experience handling an animal
  • Emotional well-being

It also offers the bond mentioned above. “The companionship of animals decreases loneliness and stimulates conversation,” said Angela Mezzatesta, program director with CHAAPS, “By encouraging touch and giving program participants a responsive animal to work with, interaction with them motivates physical reactions that are very necessary and important in humans. Many times, animals give attention to a person who otherwise might not receive as much. They stimulate exercise, encourage laughter, and facilitate social contact. These benefits add up to an improved sense of well-being.”

Two girls grooming a horse with support from adult.

CHAAPS is making a difference in the community! What types of initiatives support healthy communities where you live?

A recipient of a 2014 IMAGINE grant, CHAAPS operates on a shoestring budget, providing a series of summer camps as well as daily riding sessions to its participants. Regardless of budget, the program is clearly making a difference in the community, one person at a time. “The program helped an 8 year old girl develop patience, build empathy and awareness, and care for others,” said Angela, “Her mother says she’s seen her daughter grow from coming to CHAAPS, telling us:

She sits – this is hard for her – on this horse and is in control of this big thing. It’s living so she can feel it breathing. She has to concentrate her attention – which is very short – and she does this when she is riding. We haven’t been able to get her to do this in other settings. This improves her focusing ability, which is one of our goals. By coming here, she’s learned to be gentle and take care of animals, not scare them. Attending the program has helped her to settle down and be more mindful of living creatures and this is now transferring to others who are around her.

Woman in wheelchair petting a horse.

CHAAPS has been making a difference through therapeutic riding programs in Quesnel since 2008.

Helping people in Quesnel since 2008, CHAAPS is a certified member of the Canadian Therapeutic Riding Association (CanTRA), a registered charity that promotes challenge, achievement, and empowerment for children and adults with disabilities through the use of horses. CanTRA also provides education and instructor certification and offers accreditation to therapeutic riding centres. Additionally, CHAAPS is a member of the BC Therapeutic Riding Association (BCTRA) and the Horse Council of BC (HCBC).


About the IMAGINE Grants

Northern Health’s IMAGINE Grants fund health promotion projects by community partners, including northern groups/organizations and schools or districts, to support the health and wellness of northerners where they live, work, learn, and play. Ideas for projects are inspired and guided by Northern Health’s Position Statements. We’re happy to introduce an ongoing series of blog posts that will highlight past recipients of IMAGINE Grants and share their great work with you!

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Project Assistant in Health Promotions. He started at Northern Health in October of 2013. Mike grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007, when he moved here to pursue a career in radio. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, watching sports, reading, and ice fishing. His favourite thing about the north is the slower pace of life and the fact that he no longer has to worry about traffic every morning.

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Eating 9 to 5 Challenge: And the winner is…

Ross, who won a Vitamix Blender with the Eating 9 to 5 Challenge is pictured.

Congrats to Ross, who won a Vitamix Blender with the Eating 9 to 5 Challenge!

This March was National Nutrition Month and its theme was Eating 9 to 5, which focused on people’s eating habits at the office/work site and their time-strapped schedules around the work day. In support of National Nutrition Month, Northern Health held the Eating 9 to 5 Challenge, which brought four weeks of challenges to northerners who completed tasks for entries into weekly team draws, as well as an individual draw for a Vitamix blender! We truly believe that everyone who took part and experienced a positive change to their eating habits as a result of the Challenge is a winner! Based on the amazing entries that were submitted, a lot of people received a ton of great tips for eating healthier before, during, and after work, and put those tips into action! Before we announce who won prizes, we want to thank everyone who took part and wish everyone good, healthy eats (and drinks) during your 9 to 5, and beyond!

After a brief delay, we’re happy to announce that the grand prize winner of the Eating 9 to 5 Challenge is Ross Knudson! Ross took part in the challenge on his own, literally naming his team “Ross Solo” … which is close to the moniker he uses when fighting the Empire. Ross won a Vitamix blender. Congrats, Ross!

We’d also like to congratulate The Northern Healthy Eaters, who took home our Week 1 prize of four Dietitians of Canada cookbooks; Anita, who entered as an individual, winning the Week 2 draw for four Thermos lunch bags; The District Divas, winners of Week 3’s four travel mugs; and, lastly, team We Love Our Pharmacy, who won two fruit/veggie trays for their next meeting!

Throughout all four weeks, we received fantastic entries that showed how serious people were about eating healthy in the workplace, but it was the Creative Challenges that put the biggest smiles on our faces! Here are a few random highlights:

The text "Make Lunch Fun"  surrounds a pencil crayon drawing of several pieces of fruit.

The Crazy Cantaloupes sent in this lovely piece of artwork, which, ironically, does not feature a cantaloupe.

A cupcake and a doughnut say "Eat us! We are so delicious!" to which team The Steamed Veggies respond, "No thanks, meeting snacks! I will just have my apple! I'm good!"

We know cupcakes and doughnuts are unhealthy, but, according to The Steamed Veggies, they’re actually evil! Stick to those apples!

And, without a doubt, the most adorable creative entry goes to The OR Health Freaks who put one of their kids to the test with this food quiz:

Thanks again to everyone who entered the Eating 9 to 5 Challenge! Feel free to let us know if any of the tips or challenges helped you make positive changes to your eating habits in the comments below.

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Project Assistant in Health Promotions. He started at Northern Health in October of 2013. Mike grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007, when he moved here to pursue a career in radio. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, watching sports, reading, and ice fishing. His favourite thing about the north is the slower pace of life and the fact that he no longer has to worry about traffic every morning.

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Eating 9 to 5: Highlights, Week 1 winners, and taking on lunch during Week 2!

We had some great entries into Week 1 of the Eating 9 to 5 Challenge! In total, 29 team and individual entries made it into the first draw, with the Northern Healthy Eaters taking home the first week’s prize of 4 Dietitians of Canada cookbooks! We’ll get to some Week 1 highlights in just a sec, but first, if you haven’t downloaded the Week 2: Lunch Challenge Sheet, get on it! We want to hear about your leftovers, your soups and sandwiches, and whatever else you and/or your team bring to the office every day as a midday meal, as well as how you make that meal healthy! To enter the draw for the Week 2 prize of 4 Thermos lunch bags, you need to have your sheet submitted by March 15, 2015 at 11:59 p.m. Remember, you can still enter to win the individual grand prize draw for the Vitamix blender by completing all four Challenge Sheets.

So, how did Week 1 go (SPOILER ALERT: the answer is awesome!)? Check out some of the highlights below!

From our Breakfast Recipe Challenge:

A banana is cut to look like a dolphin.

This might not be the quickest meal for during the week, but it’ll definitely entertain the kids!

If you’ve ever wondered how to turn a banana into a dolphin (and who hasn’t?!?), then here’s how you make this masterpiece:

Ingredients

  • 1 banana
  • ½ cup blueberries
  • ¼ cup granola
  • ½ cup vanilla yogurt

Instructions

“Cut 2 inches off the stem end of the banana, leaving the skin and stem on, cutting at an angle so that the end you have cut off sits on the plate like a dolphin’s head coming out of the water. Cut the very end of the stem off leaving the rest for the dolphin’s nose, and cut it from the end towards the base of the stem to make the dolphin’s mouth. Insert a large blueberry into the cut opening. Peel the rest of the banana and slice off just a bit of the outside of the curve so that the banana will sit firmly on the plate, and then cut a angled groove along the length of the banana to make a channel for the yogurt to be added. Add enough yogurt to overfill the groove. Add blueberries on top of the yogurt running the length of the groove. Pile the remaining yogurt on the side of the plate and sprinkle the rest of the blueberries around the plate and on the pile of remaining yogurt. Then sprinkle ½ of the granola over the blueberries and yogurt. Sprinkle the remaining granola around the plate for garnish! The kids will love this delicious and nutritious breakfast, and so will the kid in you!!!” Thanks to team As Healthy As Reasonably Achievable (AHARA) for that!

The tips from our Did You Know… Challenge about saving time in the mornings were pretty unanimous: get your breakfast, lunch, and even clothing choices ready the night before to make for a smooth morning!

In the Creative Challenge, we got a ton of great poems, drawings, and more. Here are a couple examples:

Poems:

An Ode to Muffins

Muffins muffins muffins,

Who doesn’t love muffins

Whole grain’er, no brainer!

Flax, fill to the max!

Pumpkin chai, oh my!

Berries and Seeds, yes please!!

 

Breakfast For a Good Day

Wholewheat bread and farm-fresh eggs,

Oranges and apples too.

Oatmeal, yogurt and bananas,

Are all good for you.

Don’t eat too much,

Don’t eat too late.

Control your portions,

With a smaller plate.

A protein portion in your food,

Will help to fuel a cheery mood.

A nutritious breakfast is the way,

To lift your spirits for the day!

Drawings

A drawing of an orange titled "Le Orange."

“Le Orange”

A great drawing of a dragon fruit!

A great drawing of a dragon fruit!

Another stellar drawing of dragon fruit.

Another stellar drawing of dragon fruit.

...and yet another dynamite dragon fruit!

…and yet another dynamite dragon fruit!

And more…

Breakfast: OJ (like the juice), X (as in eggs), and toast (with a glass) - get it? So clever!

Breakfast: OJ (like the juice), X (as in eggs), and toast (with a glass) – get it? So clever!

Four women have smeared peanut butter under their eyes like war paint.

The Peanut Butter Warriors are ready for battle (yes, that’s peanut butter under their eyes)!

Thanks to all the teams who took part in Week 1! We can’t wait to see what you do for Week 2!

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Project Assistant in Health Promotions. He started at Northern Health in October of 2013. Mike grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007, when he moved here to pursue a career in radio. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, watching sports, reading, and ice fishing. His favourite thing about the north is the slower pace of life and the fact that he no longer has to worry about traffic every morning.

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Leaving a legacy: the Nordic Ski Initiative

Cross-country skiers going down a hill.

The IMAGINE: Legacy Grants are one of many ways that Northern Health worked to create a healthy legacy for the 2015 Canada Winter Games in northern B.C. New skis for the Nordic Ski Initiative in Dawson Creek means healthier, more active kids in the school district!

When the 2015 Canada Winter Games came to Prince George, they brought a symphony of action to the city – the cheers from fans watching hockey in Kin 1, the hustle and bustle of added traffic on Highway 97, athletes and their parents from across the nation wandering the streets of downtown, and, of course, the celebration of competition in Canada. But what will happen as this two week chorus fades with the Games’ closing ceremony on March 1? How will the Games be remembered and what will their legacy be – not only in Prince George, but throughout all of northern B.C.?

To ensure that the legacy is a healthy one that embodies the spirit of physical activity that the Games represent, Northern Health created the IMAGINE: Legacy Grants stream in 2014, which funded 89 projects for a total of nearly $280,000. Northern Health’s IMAGINE Grants have a long tradition of funding health promotion projects led by community partners including northern groups, organizations, schools, and districts, that support the health and wellness of northerners where they live, work, learn, and play. Ideas for projects are inspired and guided by Northern Health’s position statements addressing modifiable risk factors.

One such community partner is School District 59’s Brad Booker. Brad lives in Dawson Creek and has one of the world’s coolest jobs. He’s the vice principal – outdoor and experiential education, which means he gets paid to ensure children are engaged in outdoor activity and physical activity. In other words, Brad makes being healthy fun! Brad, who began cross-country skiing as a hobby five years ago, started the Nordic Ski Initiative – a program that allows teachers to sign out cross-country ski equipment for use by their class for one week intervals – to combat inactivity in youth. When speaking with Brad, his passion for cross-country skiing, the outdoors, and his work becomes clear; however, his enthusiasm is tempered when discussing the current state of children’s health. “It’s not looking good for young people,” said Brad. “If we can pull kids away from screens for just a little while every day, we’re helping.”

Brad said that he started the Nordic Ski Initiative to help fill the demand in the community: “Cross-country skiing is part of the culture in the southeast Peace. We have a great nordic ski club with lots of families and lots of groomed tracks around town. A lot of them are in public parks that are attached to schools, so it’s easy for kids to ski during school time.” With School District 59 owning its own track setter, there is an abundance of cross-country tracks near or on school grounds where teachers can take their classes.

Cross-country skiers in an open field with a blue sky.

It’s easy to see how “nature comes alive for kids” when they’re skiing! With the support of the IMAGINE: Legacy Grants program, the Nordic Ski Initiative will keep promoting sport and physical activity long after the 2015 Canada Winter Games have gone!

Despite cross-country skiing’s place in the community, the cost of quality equipment means that it is not readily available to everyone. Recalling why he did not take up the sport at an earlier age, Brad blames the equipment, “I tried it as a kid, but my equipment was no good and I didn’t enjoy it.” Through the IMAGINE: Legacy Grants, Northern Health has helped fund Brad’s “ski library,” providing $3,000 towards the Nordic Ski Initiative’s purchase of new equipment. “Ski equipment doesn’t become dated quickly,” said Brad of the legacy that this program and funding provide, “The equipment lasts a generation. A single pair of skis might see 30-plus kids, helping them find a new passion and a new sport. The great thing about cross-country skiing is that you can do it at any age – kids to 70- and 80-year-olds. It can be a lifelong sport.”

Greeted with enthusiasm by students, teachers, and the community, the program’s biggest hurdle is people’s attitudes towards winter. “I think a lot of people prefer to not go out in the winter time,” said Brad. “Getting kids excited at an early age is critical [in overcoming this perception]. Instilling in kids that winter is not a cold, desolate time is important. It’s also when nature comes alive for kids,” he continued, building his case. “Looking at tracks, appreciating nature – you are connected with what’s around you; it’s something peaceful.” Brad walks the pro-winter walk, too. His involvement with the program goes beyond managing its inventory as he accompanies students during their first lesson to teach them the skills they’ll need to stay safe while still having fun on the track.

Along with the physical activity that kids are getting through the Nordic Ski Initiative, Brad and his colleagues at School District 59 have noticed a change their behaviour. “The big impact that I see, and that I hear about from teachers, is that kids have gotten rid of energy. But more than that, they’ve calmed down. That’s having a positive impact on their schooling.”

Improved health, better grades, and a new, active hobby for life – these are the types of positive changes that defined the purpose of the IMAGINE: Legacy Grants when Northern Health first planned them. Seeing the impact of this project, and the others like it, ensures that the Canada Winter Games will reach beyond their time and space in Prince George, leaving a healthy legacy that the north can be proud of for generations to come.


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

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Project Assistant in Health Promotions. He started at Northern Health in October of 2013. Mike grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007, when he moved here to pursue a career in radio. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, watching sports, reading, and ice fishing. His favourite thing about the north is the slower pace of life and the fact that he no longer has to worry about traffic every morning.

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Super Bowl Sunday: If you bring it, they will eat

Cupcakes topped with chocolate footballs

The Super Bowl tends to be all about excess so this Sunday, try something new! Instead of football-themed cupcakes and chicken wings, try a football-themed fruit tray and chicken skewers! And remember to plan ahead for a safe ride home!

I have to admit that when it comes to the Super Bowl, I can’t help but watch with mixed emotions. The thing is that as someone who listens to off-season podcasts and follows the draft; someone who reads pre-season reports and monitors every game, every Sunday; and someone who is as serious about his fantasy team as Jerry Jones is about his Cowboys, I can’t help but have respect for the Super Bowl’s history within the game while, at the same time, hating the spectacle that revolves around the big game.

Unlike a regular season game, or even a pre-Super Bowl playoff game, Super Bowl Sunday is an exaggeration of the NFL experience – it is to a regular game what Vegas is to a regular city. There are more viewers – last year’s Broncos/Seahawks matchup garnered 111.5 million viewers in 185 countries in 30 different languages; there’s more media coverage – basically two weeks leading up to the game; and, of course, there’s the star-studded halftime show (this year featuring Katy Perry… roar). Unfortunately, the theme of exaggeration isn’t limited to the game itself, extending to our food and alcohol consumption.

In fact, viewers who watched last year’s Super Bowl consumed more calories during the Super Bowl weekend than they did during “any other time of the year, including Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.” Let’s stop to think about that for a sec. Consider what you ate this holiday season – the treats that started pouring into your office in early December, the baking at friends’ houses when you were out visiting, the mountain of food you called your turkey dinner. Now pack that into one weekend! Ron Burgundy might say he “isn’t even mad, that’s amazing”, but your arteries are definitely singing a different tune! If you’re thinking that can’t add up, chew on this: it’s estimated that Americans ate 1.23 billion wings, 11.2 million pounds of potato chips, and ordered over four million pizzas from Dominos, Pizza Hut, and Papa John’s during the 2013 game!

Because the Super Bowl is a social event, there’s also a party aspect to it and that comes with increased alcohol consumption for many viewers. In America, 51.7 million cases of beer will be consumed this Sunday, which means even more calories and an increase in drunk drivers on the road. Make sure you aren’t one of them and plan for safe ride if you are having some drinks.

Yes, most of these stats are based on American viewers and they’d be significantly lower for Canadians, but the point remains: if you are going to a Super Bowl party, you’re probably eating poorly and your chances of drinking are higher, resulting in a ton of calories over the course of one football game. So, what can you do to make Super Bowl Sunday a healthier one? All you have to do is replace one thing that you love with a different thing that you love that happens to be healthier. For instance, instead of chicken wings, make chicken skewers; instead of nachos and cheese, make taco chips and hummus; and instead of bringing a meat and cheese tray to your friend’s place, bring a veggie tray.

If you’re worried about being that person who doesn’t bring something delicious, consider the Field of Dreams theory of food thought: if you bring it, they will eat it! Plus, making something is almost always cheaper, healthier, and far more appreciated. With all of that in mind, I’ll leave you with two predictions for the game:

  1. You’ll have a healthier Super Bowl if you try to, and
  2. The Seahawks repeat with a 24-20 victory over the stinkin’ Patriots.

Have a healthy game-day recipe you want to share? What about your own scoreboard prediction? Let me know in the comments below!

Have a safe and healthy Super Bowl!

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Project Assistant in Health Promotions. He started at Northern Health in October of 2013. Mike grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007, when he moved here to pursue a career in radio. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, watching sports, reading, and ice fishing. His favourite thing about the north is the slower pace of life and the fact that he no longer has to worry about traffic every morning.

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Spirit the Caribou: training montage

Yesterday, we introduced the newest member of the Northern Health family – Spirit! Today, you can see the rigorous training he’s gone through to prepare to bring health messaging to northern B.C.’s youth:

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Project Assistant in Health Promotions. He started at Northern Health in October of 2013. Mike grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007, when he moved here to pursue a career in radio. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, watching sports, reading, and ice fishing. His favourite thing about the north is the slower pace of life and the fact that he no longer has to worry about traffic every morning.

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Introducing Spirit, the Northern Health mascot!

Northern Health CEO Cathy Ulrich  is pictured with Spirit.

Northern Health CEO Cathy Ulrich meets Spirit for the first time.

There’s a new face of healthy living in northern B.C. He eats a lot of fruits and vegetables, gets plenty of physical activity outdoors, and has some pretty solid gear to protect his head and prevent injuries! Spirit, a caribou designed by 13-year-old Prince George resident Isabel Stratton, is Northern Health’s new mascot and will be promoting healthy living across the province!

Proudly sponsored by the Spirit of the North Healthcare Foundation, Spirit has arrived just in time for the 2015 Canada Winter Games. At his stops throughout the region, Spirit will be encouraging children to develop healthy habits, like living an active lifestyle, eating healthy foods, wearing protective equipment, and more. Getting children excited about their health is key to building a healthier north!

Spirit will be travelling across northern B.C. to take part in community events and to engage the youngest members of our communities on healthy living issues. Spirit will make health more fun and accessible to a young audience, leading to healthy habits for life!

In case you were wondering where Spirit came from, as Isabel tells the story, he has had quite the journey to a healthy life himself!

Isabel's original concept art for Spirit.

Isabel’s original concept art for Spirit.

“When Spirit was young, he was adventurous and loved to explore. Throughout the years, he became big and strong. One day, when Spirit was out discovering the world, he got a really bad cold and had to go visit the doctor. The doctor said that even though it was a minor cold, it is important to be healthy so that Spirit can prevent other diseases. To help prevent other sicknesses, he learned that it is important to wash his hands and get lots of exercise.

Spirit the caribou lives all around northern B.C. It’s important for him to stay healthy so he and his family can stay strong. Spirit really enjoys exercising, eating well, and making the right choices for himself and his body.”

We can’t wait for you to meet Spirit at a healthy event near you!

 

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Project Assistant in Health Promotions. He started at Northern Health in October of 2013. Mike grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007, when he moved here to pursue a career in radio. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, watching sports, reading, and ice fishing. His favourite thing about the north is the slower pace of life and the fact that he no longer has to worry about traffic every morning.

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Community Health Stars: Myles Mattila

A graphic that states, "Nominate a Community Health Star."

The Community Health Stars program aims to shine a light on northerners who are positively influencing health.

Biking, playing hockey, and hanging out with friends: standard fare for a 15-year-old male in northern B.C. Myles Mattila shares these interests, but it’s his other extracurricular hobby that makes him anything but your average teenager; in his spare time, Myles works to promote mental health in youth throughout the Prince George area.

Myles’s mental health work is directly connected to his love for hockey, exemplifying the impact that professional athletes can have as positive role models. A ninth-round draft pick of the Vancouver Giants in the 2014 WHL draft and a midget player in Prince George, Myles was inspired to begin working with mindcheck.ca after reading a newspaper article in the Vancouver Province. The article was about the two-year anniversary of Rick Rypien’s suicide, and the impact that the tragic loss had on his friend and Vancouver Canuck teammate, Kevin Bieksa. In the article, Bieksa talked about the Raise-it-4-Ryp Golf Tournament, a charity event that he hosts in honour of Rypien, which raised $23,000 dollars for mindcheck.ca.

Myles wears a mindcheck.ca shirt, promoting the mental health site.

Myles promotes mindcheck.ca.

“I related to the story,” said Myles of the Vancouver Province article, “because I had a teammate with mental health issues, and was unsure how to help. I came to the conclusion that my peers should have the resources they need to get help, regardless of the mental distress that they’re experiencing.” Having been exposed to mindcheck.ca, Myles would, like Bieksa, strap on a skate of a different kind – one that would help him cut through the stigma surrounding mental health issues in youth.

Mindcheck.ca provided an excellent starting point for Myles. The website – a partnership between Fraser Health, BC Mental Health & Substance Services, and the Provincial Health Services Authority – addresses mental health in a manner that is accessible for youth. It features a broad range of topics, including depression, mood and anxiety issues; coping with stress, alcohol and substance misuse; body image, eating disorders, and more. Offering a range of resources like quizzes, stories, tips, and helpful contact information, mindcheck.ca also has links for friends and family members of youth who are suffering from mental illness and would like to learn more.

Mental health is an often-overlooked health subject, affecting more people than you might think and, unlike many other health issues, there is a stigma surrounding the topic. In fact, according to the Canadian Medical Association, only 49% of Canadians said they would socialize with a friend who has a serious mental illness. A shocking number when considering that one in five Canadians will experience a form of mental illness at some point in their life. Due to the stigma, two in three Canadians will suffer in silence and only one out of five children who require services will obtain them.

The importance of educating youth on mental health and wellness cannot be overstated. Mental health and substance use disorders are the primary health issues experienced by young people in their teens and early 20s. Additionally, 75% of mental health and substance use issues begin by the age of 24, often going unrecognized and untreated, which makes early identification vital to providing help.

Given the above statistics, you can imagine the tremendous challenges faced by youth looking for help. “There is stigma attached to youth,” said Myles, “and even worse is the stigma for a youth who also has mental illness. The belief can be that they are incapable of having insight into what they need so that then others speak for them without necessarily being their voice. While promoting mindcheck.ca, I have realized that talking is important for everyone to raise awareness about mental health. It makes it easier for everyone to open up and share their experiences when they are in need … breaking down the stigma of mental health, trying to make it an issue that everyone can talk about. ”

So, what is the message that Myles wants youth to take away from his presentations and the mindcheck.ca website? “…that they are not alone,” he said. “Many people struggle with mental illness. If they are struggling, they need to be aware that they have resources and contacts who can help them get through these difficult times.” He also recommends that anyone, youth or otherwise, who wants to champion the cause of mental health in youth can find promotional materials at mindcheck.ca.

Northern Health’s Community Health Stars

Northern Health couldn’t be happier to have someone like Myles as a voice for youth and mental health in our region and our first Community Health Star. Community Health Stars is a new and ongoing program that shines the light on members of northern communities who are doing exceptional work, on their own time, to spread the message of personal health and wellness. You can nominate a person who you feel would make a great candidate for Community Health Star at northernhealth.ca.

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Project Assistant in Health Promotions. He started at Northern Health in October of 2013. Mike grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007, when he moved here to pursue a career in radio. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, watching sports, reading, and ice fishing. His favourite thing about the north is the slower pace of life and the fact that he no longer has to worry about traffic every morning.

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IMAGINE Grants profile: Kids Helping Kids

Children take part in an exercise at a Kids Helping Kids event.

Children take part in an exercise at a Kids Helping Kids event.

When two grade seven students at Immaculate Conception Elementary School in Prince George observed that many of their classmates were leading sedentary lifestyles, their principal challenged them to educate their peers to be more physically active. They responded by recruiting more students, Action Schools! B.C., the City of Prince George, and School District 57 to create “Kids Helping Kids” – an IMAGINE Grant funded program that promotes the immediate and future benefits of healthy eating and physical activity.

The growth of the program throughout School District 57 has been remarkable. “The first year was run as a pilot project with independent schools,” explained Sue McDonald, Coordinator with Kids Helping Kids. “Year two, the program was offered to approximately half of the schools in the area, and last year it was offered to all schools in the Prince George area.” According to McDonald, the next phase of Kids Helping Kids is to expand beyond Prince George with the intention to “firmly embed [healthy eating and physical activity] as part of each school’s culture, truly making a difference in the future.”

Students take leadership roles, teaching other students about the value of nutrition.

Students take leadership roles, teaching other students about the value of nutrition.

Along with the program’s expansion, Kids Helping Kids is unique because of its peer-to-peer emphasis that teaches students life-long leadership skills. “…I am so thankful to have been in a leadership role,” said David, a School District 57 student and Kids Helping Kids participant, “teaching younger students and making a difference in their lives.”

“I went from a 15-year-old boy who could barely run a kilometre to a 17-year-old who is healthy, happy, and physically fit,” David continued, describing the impact that the program has had on his life. “I learned keeping healthy isn’t just about being more physically active. It’s about eating properly and making sure you’re not having too many candies, not eating that box of cookies that you have in your cupboard. It is keeping yourself running around, playing games and having fun with what you do. [Taking part in the program] was a lot of work, but it is one of the best decisions I have ever made. It was also one of the hardest.”

Northern Health couldn’t be more proud of Kids Helping Kids and of children like David.

About the IMAGINE Grants

Northern Health’s IMAGINE Grants fund health promotion projects by community partners, including northern groups/organizations and schools or districts, to support the health and wellness of northerners where they live, work, learn, and play. Ideas for projects are inspired and guided by Northern Health’s Position Statements. We’re happy to introduce an ongoing series of blog posts that will highlight past recipients of IMAGINE Grants and share their great work with you!

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Project Assistant in Health Promotions. He started at Northern Health in October of 2013. Mike grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007, when he moved here to pursue a career in radio. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, watching sports, reading, and ice fishing. His favourite thing about the north is the slower pace of life and the fact that he no longer has to worry about traffic every morning.

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IMAGINE Grants profile: Family FUNdamentals

An eight month year old laughing.

Family FUNdamentals is ensuring that kids stay laughing as they grow older through healthy eating and physical activity.

About the IMAGINE Grants

Northern Health’s IMAGINE grants fund health promotion projects by community partners, including northern groups/organizations and schools or districts, to support the health and wellness of northerners where they live, work, learn, and play. Ideas for projects are inspired and guided by Northern Health’s Position Statements. We’re happy to introduce an ongoing series of blog posts that will highlight past recipients of IMAGINE grants and share their great work with you!

Introducing Family FUNdamentals in Terrace, B.C.

Running June 5 to July 3, 2014 in Terrace, Family FUNdamentals —  a program funded by the IMAGINE Grants — is working with children five years of age and younger to prevent eating disorders before they start. Program facilitator, Anne Peltier, explains the need for such a program: “There is growing literature to suggest that children as young as three are aware of weight and body size and commonly express a desire to be thinner. Children at an early age are exposed to messages that emphasize the importance of being thin and looking fit.”

The only program in B.C. designed specifically for parents with children under five, Family FUNdamentals’ goal, as described by Anne, “…is to foster a competent parent/child relationship with food and activity to promote healthy growth and development of children and prevent disordered eating.” They accomplish this goal by focusing on healthy eating, weight, activities, positive body image, and proactive parenting skills that encourage fun through family-based activities.

The program originated from Family Services of the North Shore, expanding upon the work of the Jessie’s Hope Society to ensure that the provincial eating disorders prevention work becomes Jessie Alexander’s legacy. IMAGINE grants funding allowed coordinators to facilitate the program in their community, as well as purchase resources and the food needed to prepare the healthy snacks provided during the program.

Parents and guardians in and around Terrace can register for the program by contacting Anne or Tara at 250-638-1863, toll free at 1-888-638-1863, or by visiting them in person at The Family Place: 4553 Park Ave., Terrace. For parents interested in Family FUNdamentals who are not near Terrace, Anne recommends appropriate online resources or discussing healthy living with professionals, such as dietitians or paediatricians.

Northern Health is proud to help provide a starting point for amazing programs like this!

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Project Assistant in Health Promotions. He started at Northern Health in October of 2013. Mike grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007, when he moved here to pursue a career in radio. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, watching sports, reading, and ice fishing. His favourite thing about the north is the slower pace of life and the fact that he no longer has to worry about traffic every morning.

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