Healthy Living in the North

Radon: What you need to know

Family in house.

Knowing the radon levels within your home allows you, as a homeowner, to make informed decisions about how to best protect your family.

November is Radon Awareness Month in Canada and it’s a great time to test your home for radon gas.

Did you know that radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers and kills approximately 2,000 people in Canada each year? This was news to me, which is why I wanted to connect with Environmental Health Officer Shane Wadden to learn more.

Here’s what Shane told me:

What is radon?

Radon is a radioactive gas. It has no smell, no colour, and no odour. It is naturally occurring in many northern soils and can build up in your home. The only way to know if a home has high indoor radon levels is to test.

What are the health effects of radon?

Exposure to radon increases your chance of getting lung cancer:

  • Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer, after smoking.
  • Radon is the primary cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.
  • Radon causes approximately 10% of all lung cancers worldwide.
  • Radon kills approximately 2,000 people in Canada each year.
Radon test kit

The only way to know for sure whether your home is high in radon is to test. Long-term radon test kits can be purchased from Northern Health Public Health Protection offices.

How do I test my home?

The only way to know for sure whether your home is high in radon is to test. Health Canada recommends that homes be tested for a minimum of three months (preferably 12 months), ideally between October and April. The detectors should be set up in the lowest lived-in level of your home where you spend at least 4 hours of your time each day. Testing is easy and relatively inexpensive. Long-term radon test kits can be purchased for $25 at one of nine local Public Health Protection offices.

When should I take action?

Radon is measured in bequerels per meter cubed (Bq/m³). This measurement is used to determine the concentration of radon in the surrounding air. The current Canadian Guideline for Radon is 200 Bq/m³. Health Canada recommends that that you take steps to reduce (mitigate) radon levels in your home if you detect radon concentrations greater than 200 Bq/m³. The higher the radon concentration, the sooner the remedial measures should be conducted.

Reducing the amount of radon in your home is easy. Radon levels in most homes can be reduced by more than 80% for about the same cost as other common home repairs such as replacing the furnace or air conditioner. Techniques to lower radon levels are effective and can save lives.

This fall, take a few minutes of your time to test your home to ensure that you and your family are safe. Knowing the levels within your home allows you, as a homeowner, to make informed decisions about how to best protect your family.

Where can I find more information?

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog.

Share

“The village helped to raise our child”: A Smithers family reflects

Young man sitting in a restaurant wearing a Sport Chek uniform

With the support of a microboard and various community members, Jesse recently joined the workforce in Smithers.

When you walk into Sport Chek in Smithers and see Jesse Clegg unpacking garments and hanging gear, you may not realize the significance of that moment.

You may not realize the number of people, programs, time, and advocacy that created that moment. You may not realize that moment wouldn’t have been possible just ten years ago, or that it shines a light on some ongoing challenges facing families. You may not realize that what you’re seeing is a powerful example of a healthy family supported by a healthy community.

And this is exactly why Jesse’s story is so important to share.

“When you have a child with a disability,” said Anita Clegg, Jesse’s mother, “there are no days off.” Jesse, now 21 years old, was born and raised in Smithers. Jesse has Down syndrome and, throughout his life, the Clegg family was committed to breaking ground in the community. “We put ourselves and Jesse out there,” shared Anita, “because it was important for us to show that everyone has abilities. As people learn more and connect with Jesse, we’ve seen shifts in thinking.”

When Anita says that “the village helped to raise our child,” this is not a cliché. While Jesse’s parents continue to assume a strong advocacy role, the impact of community members, organizations, and businesses on Jesse’s life is profound.

Consider the local bowling alley …

“Anything round that moved, Jesse was on it!” said Anita. “So bowling was a good fit. Jesse couldn’t start with Special Olympics until he was a teenager so, when he was 10, we asked about joining the town league. The bowling alley was very supportive and Jesse joined a team with typical kids. One year, he was the high scorer for the teen youth league! Jesse still loves to bowl and the bowling alley is a safe, welcoming, and familiar place for him.”

… and the pediatrician …

“Our pediatrician truly went to bat for Jesse. He understood Jesse’s needs, made connections that others wouldn’t have made, and helped to advocate for Jesse from birth right until he turned 18.”

Young man holding a wrench

In addition to being an artist and photographer, Jesse has taken up industrial iron furniture making.

… and the family friend …

“Safe and reliable respite is so important for families,” shared Anita. “We were very fortunate to have a family friend offer to take Jesse one day each week, starting in his last year of high school. They started out by just playing cards with me around but now they spend the afternoon together. Jesse has dinner with her family.”

… and the local business owner …

“Jesse is now in the workforce,” said Anita, “and that involved a lot of people coming together. It was a lengthy process but well worth it! When we told Jesse that the employment plan was going to be possible, his exact words were: ‘Everything is perfect!’ This process started with Jesse’s microboard (nine family members and community members) working with Jesse to create a picture of his skills, interests, and strengths. Jesse shared that he’d love to work at Sport Chek – which came out of the blue to us since he’d never been there! Our local WorkBC office asked the manager if they’d be interested in a supportive employment opportunity. The manager instantly said yes and went even further, integrating Jesse as a full team member, without a support person. His colleagues trained him and have been fantastic – many of them knew Jesse from school.”

Young man sanding stool top.

Jesse puts the finishing touches on a bar stool he built.

These supportive community experiences, however, also point to some of the challenges that Jesse’s story illuminates:

  • Access to health and social services is an important determinant of health. Unfortunately, Jesse’s pediatrician – whose role cannot be understated – recently retired. Anita identified this, along with some other changes to local social service delivery, as a challenge.
  • Respite for families is crucial. The Cleggs benefited from the generosity and support of their friend. Unfortunately, Anita shares that funding for organized respite and semi-independent housing for young adults with disabilities is being spread thinner and thinner.
  • Jesse’s new work life is a fine example of how integration has made a huge difference for him. This hasn’t always been the case. As Jesse made his way through the school system, the Cleggs experienced both integration and segregation, often changing based on policy and funding. They chose to home-school Jesse for a period of time when the school system was unable to meet his needs.

What does this boil down to for Anita Clegg?

“Smithers is a wonderful place and an amazingly generous community. My son knows way more people than I do,” she laughed, “and people watch out for him. There are just a few missing pieces, especially for some of the day-to-day, nitty-gritty challenges of raising a child with a disability.”

Concepts like healthy and inclusive communities can be hard to define, but in Jesse’s case, they are clear and their impact is profound. It’s the friend offering respite, the welcoming bowling team, and the local business eager to offer him work.


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

 

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog.

Share

Building spaces where everyone can play

Playground

Healthy community projects don’t happen overnight. Quesnel’s first accessible playground – with a grand opening scheduled for September 15, 2016 – provides a blueprint for success.

Brooke and MacKenzie are twin sisters who cannot play together at Quesnel’s playgrounds. While MacKenzie scampers up and down stairs and slides, Brooke’s chase stops the moment her wheelchair gets stuck in the pea gravel. To help the girls play together, Brooke’s parents carry her around the playground.

Brooke and MacKenzie’s situation is hardly unique, and neither is the fact that Quesnel didn’t, until recently, have any accessible playgrounds. Chances are the playground closest to you has pea gravel, steps, ladders, and other features that make it difficult for kids and adults alike to enjoy. Because it’s not just Brooke and MacKenzie who can’t play together. It’s the family with the baby stroller that can’t roll through the gravel to watch their toddler go down the slide; it’s the grandparents with walkers who are left watching grandkids from afar when a ledge gets in the way; it’s the children with leg braces who can only look on as their friends race over traditionally uneven surfaces.

But this is all about to change in Quesnel and, as it turns out, the answer to the question, “how can Brooke and MacKenzie play together?” provides a valuable blueprint of how a healthy community project can take shape in your town.

Two people assembling playground equipment.

The Quesnel Accessible Playground was a project four years in the making for Sandy Meidlinger (right), who was involved in the project team that made it happen.

Fresh from the excitement of a long-awaited playground build event on May 28, 2016, I chatted with Sandy Meidlinger with the Quesnel & District Child Development Centre, who tells the story from here:

This project started in 2012 when Brooke and MacKenzie’s mom came to me and asked for help to get an accessible playground built in Quesnel. I’m a member of the Parent Child Resource Team (a group of service providers and parents) and we agreed this would be a valuable long-term project for us to take on. Having a team was crucial! Our committee included parents, health care professionals, local agencies, government and school district representatives, and others.

When we asked community members for letters of support for this project, the response was overwhelming! Why? Until now, there was no playground in Quesnel accessible to people with mobility needs. I’m talking baby strollers, walkers, leg braces, scooters, and more. In Quesnel alone, there are over 100 children who, because of complex developmental profiles, can’t participate in many play activities on typical playgrounds. These kids are cut off from a typical family activity of playing at the park. An accessible playground increases physical activity levels for everyone, promotes inclusive family enjoyment, and helps children with mobility issues develop independence.

Volunteers assembling playground

On the day of the build, 25 volunteers and professionals came together to assemble the park.

Our first step was to present to the City of Quesnel and Cariboo Regional District joint planning committee. Both groups agreed in principle to support the idea. Connecting with government early was key to getting support for things later in the process like ongoing playground inspection and maintenance. There’s a wonderful legacy component to this project, too, as the city has committed to incorporating accessible aspects into all future park updates.

With government support in place, we looked for a location. The Quesnel & District Arts & Recreation Centre had an old playground in disrepair so we asked about making this the site of the new playground. The Centre and their governing bodies were on board! This location was ideal because it’s central and on a bus route; the Centre will be using the playground daily for inclusive programs; and they offer accessible parking, doors, and washrooms.

Levelling rubber surface.

The recycled rubber surface replaced pea gravel, which is difficult to use for those with mobility needs.

The next step was to research playground developers. We settled on Habitat Systems. They took our ideas and created a design. We then asked therapists, play specialists, parents, and children about the plan; Habitat tweaked the design. The final proposal was about more than just mobility – there are sensory toys, considerations for visual impairments, and other equipment for integrated, inclusive play.

We then started the long and sometimes frustrating work of fundraising. We wrote lots of grant proposals; I presented to local agencies; we wrote letters to local businesses; and we all chatted with anyone interested in accessibility. Our generous community really stepped up! We managed to fundraise over $200,000!

We finally got to the day of the build. About 25 volunteers and professionals spent 13 hours assembling the park. The recycled rubber surface was poured the following week. The park is open for use this summer and our grand opening is scheduled for September 15!

It’s hard to believe that it took four years but MacKenzie and Brooke – and hundreds of other Quesnel residents – are now able to play together! We now have a space where everyone can play.


The Quesnel Accessible Playground is still fundraising for its last few pieces. To support this project with a tax-deductible donation, contact Sandy Meidlinger at the Quesnel & District Child Development Centre: 250-992-2481, SandyM@QuesnelCDC.com

For project photos and a list of donors, visit the Quesnel Accessible Playground on Facebook.


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

 

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog.

Share

“A gateway to many opportunities for Elders”: The Nadleh Whut’en First Nation Push, Pull, or Drag an Elder program

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.


The number of people aged 65 or older is growing faster in northern B.C. than it is elsewhere in the province. As you may have noticed on the blog recently, this has made healthy aging a very important focus for all of us!

A key part of Northern Health’s Healthy Aging in the North: Action Plan is to support healthy aging in the community. Older adults enjoy living independently in the community and want to stay there! To make this happen, they need a variety of opportunities to stay active and involved in community life.

Staff supporting elder on a bicycle

The Push, Pull, or Drag an Elder event series has gotten Elders moving, eating healthy, connected, and socializing.

Near Fort Fraser, the Nadleh Whut’en First Nation provides a model to do just that!

With the support of an IMAGINE grant, the Push, Pull, or Drag an Elder event series has gotten Elders moving, eating healthy, connected, and socializing. With some donated space, local expertise, and equipment purchased with an IMAGINE grant, Push, Pull, or Drag an Elder is a great example of how one idea – getting Elders moving at a monthly gathering – can blossom and create so many additional benefits!

What became clear early in the program is that Push, Pull, or Drag an Elder was about more than just getting Elders moving, its original goal. According to Lisa Ketlo with the Nadleh Whut’en First Nation,

This event has accomplished many things: healthy eating, socializing, physical activities, [assessing] health concerns or issues, [and] monitoring wellness of Elders and community members.

For the physical activity component of the project, Nadleh Whut’en “had Elders and community members out walking, using a 3-wheel bike, or using the chair gym. [We] made members realize no matter how old we are, if we don’t use it, we lose it!” According to Ketlo, the program encouraged connections across generations, too, as it “opens the doors for many younger generations to get physically active and take care of their bodies inside and out.” The 3-wheel bike, for example, helped youth test their balance and made some local office workers realize they didn’t do enough physical activity! The Push, Pull, or Drag an Elder event now regularly sees up to 16 participants ranging in age from 19-81.

Three people walking

Social connections have been a key feature of the Push, Pull, or Drag an Elder project.

In addition to the physical activity benefits, Ketlo reflected on the impact related to social connectedness – a key piece of healthy aging.

I was shocked with some members who attended Push, Pull, or Drag an Elder. Some of these Elders never leave their home and now look forward to attending the event. I also see them at more community events and socializing with others […] Elders get to be involved with community events and not isolated at home. We had one Elder [who had been] isolated and depressed at home. Since she began attending Push, Pull, or Drag an Elder, she has been going out to more community events and going out to shop for herself!

Push, Pull, or Drag an Elder is not just about connecting Elders with one another and with youth in the community. The program also let Elders connect directly with health care professionals in a non-medical setting, which was huge!

This event has opened many doors for the community members, frontline workers, and nurses […] The members involved with the event are able to socialize with community members and frontline workers – to have someone to talk to and not be judged. When trust comes into play, then Elders will open and share any health, financial, or abuse issues – or just to admit they are unable to do tasks they once were able to achieve and ask for help […] We are able to visit with Elders and members with health issues, the nurse is able to monitor members with any health concerns or catch any signs of health issues arising […] To have community nurse on site really helps her to build trust with Elders. They are more willing to do blood pressure, sugar testing, [and discuss] any issues they have developed and what medication they are taking and how important it is to take medication […] We achieved goals [we weren’t] able to achieve before, like getting blood pressure, blood sugar, and pulse [measurements] on a regular basis.

Ketlo believes that Push, Pull, or Drag an Elder can be re-created by others. For Nadleh Whut’en, the IMAGINE grant provided funds for various pieces of equipment to support safe and healthy physical activity: runners, umbrellas (for shade in the summer), 3-wheel bikes, chair gym equipment, weights, snowshoes, ice grippers, high-visibility vests, and more!

Elder on a tricycle

“This grant is a gateway to many opportunities for Elders and community members through physical activities.” What kind of gateway to health can you create in your community?

Ketlo has a few suggestions for other communities looking to initiate a similar program:

  • Feed guests and visitors! By providing healthy snacks and drinks, more community members were encouraged to take part and the event was able to teach Elders and all participants about the importance of healthy eating and drinking.
  • Never hold an event for Elders on Old Age Pension day! The very first Push, Pull, or Drag an Elder event took place on pension day and only one participant attended.
  • Involve local experts. Push, Pull, or Drag an Elder benefited from the expertise of a physical therapist able to suggest appropriate exercises and resources for Elders.
  • Meet people where they’re at. Many Elders at the community event were much more open to getting a checkup from the local nurse than they would be at the Health Centre.

Ketlo sums up the impact of the IMAGINE grant, the Push, Pull, or Drag an Elder program, and healthy aging work in this way:

This grant is a gateway to many opportunities for Elders and community members through physical activities.

What kind of gateway to healthy living can you create in your community?


IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to community organizations, service agencies, First Nations bands and organizations, schools, municipalities, regional districts, not-for-profits, and other partners with projects that make northern communities healthier. We are looking for applications that will support our efforts to prevent chronic disease and injury, and improve overall well-being in our communities. The next call out for IMAGINE Community Grants will be September 19, 2016.

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog.

Share

“Local solutions to local problems”: The Open Gate Garden Project in McBride

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.


Garden entrance gate

For project organizers, the Open Gate Garden in McBride demonstrates “local solutions to local problems.”

The Robson Valley Community Learning Project in McBride received an IMAGINE grant for their Open Gate Garden Project.

We recently checked in with the project and asked how their story might inspire others. Here’s what they shared:

One of the interesting aspects of our story is that the Open Gate Garden has become established during a major economic downturn. Our project seems to be demonstrating local solutions to local problems.

The principles of inclusion, diversity and consensus structure the work of the Community Literacy Task Group. For this reason, most of the gardeners take ownership for the project and there is a high level of unity and commitment. The Open Gate Garden is an example of what is possible when we work together, using our gifts and combining our skills. Growing food is what most of the old timers in the community know how to do. For the newcomers, like the retired urban teachers, it’s what they want to learn. There is a transmission of knowledge in an easy and relaxed manner.

Potatoes dug up and laying above ground.

Potatoes grown and sold as part of the community garden project help to sustain the Open Gate Garden.

The metaphor of ‘community as a garden’ and/or ‘garden as a community’ could be used to tell this story. Our garden design is an asset to the McBride community because of its beauty. The beds are as unique as the gardeners who tend them.

Others would be inspired by the possibility that a healthy community can come from the wide range of folks that reside there. We believe that building the capacity, the optimum human resources of the tiny population in our valley, is what it will take to restore a stable economy. So often, we hear about ‘attracting outside investments’ to solve our economic problems. Yet, we all eat. There is a market for locally grown, whole foods. Most are aware of threats to food security, climate change, and environmental devastation. Surely developing independent food systems could be a start to establishing a local economy! Our story shows that community gardening is a start. From this start, engaged citizens are emerging, other related projects are blossoming, folks are becoming connected, and we are beginning to generate revenues from growing potatoes to sustain the Open Gate Garden.

Woman bagging potatoes

“We walk, bend, stretch, dig, rake, shovel and eat fresh, local food. We co-operate, collaborate and communicate in meaningful ways. Gardening together in the Open Gate Garden is a real joy.”

We also asked Nancy Taylor, Community Literacy Outreach Coordinator (pictured during harvest time in the garden), about the impact of the Open Gate Garden and the IMAGINE Community Grant they received:

Our IMAGINE grant funding has helped to pay for the infrastructure of the Open Gate Garden where lots of good stuff happens. Folks from all walks of life are included in the project. We share information, skills, and knowledge. We walk, bend, stretch, dig, rake, shovel, and eat fresh, local food. We co-operate, collaborate, and communicate in meaningful ways. Gardening together in the Open Gate Garden is a real joy. We are grateful for the support we have received from Northern Health. Our community is healthier because of the Open Gate Garden.

What project might serve as a start in your community? You can start planning now because the next call out for IMAGINE Community Grants is coming soon!


IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to community organizations, service agencies, First Nations bands and organizations, schools, municipalities, regional districts, not-for-profits, and other partners with projects that make northern communities healthier. We are looking for applications that will support our efforts to prevent chronic disease and injury, and improve overall well-being in our communities. The next call out for IMAGINE Community Grants will be September 19, 2016.

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog.

Share

Planting seeds, fighting stigma, and growing community: Healthy Minds Community Garden

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.


Fox in a community garden

How can a community garden reduce stigma around mental health concerns? The Healthy Minds Community Garden in Fort St. James accomplished just that – promoting social connections and healthy lifestyles along the way!

The Healthy Minds Peer Support group in Fort St. James offers a safe and confidential venue for those impacted by mental and emotional health issues. The group aims to break isolation, promote healthy lifestyles, support integration into the community, and reduce stigma around mental health concerns. Healthy Minds Peer Support also organizes public awareness campaigns with speakers from the RCMP and local mental health practitioners. They meet every Monday at 7:00 p.m. at the Stuart Lake Hospital and welcome everyone to join them.

At first glance, one might ask how a community garden fits into this vision. For facilitators and Mental Health & Addictions Advisory Committee members Greg Kovacs and Sandi Taylor, there are so many worthwhile connections between a community garden and mental wellness. They highlighted these when they first proposed this project to the IMAGINE Community Grant program:

A healthy diet of fruits and vegetables and physical activity can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and mental health problems. We also know working with the soil, planting, and harvesting is therapeutic and conducive to those on their road to recovery and healthy living principles. Community gardens have proven successful in numerous communities worldwide in providing valuable educational tools and skills acquisition for those most in need.

For Kovacs and Taylor, there was a crucial social piece to this project, too:

Isolated mental health clients gain socialization skills, confidence, and practical life-affirming experience. [The garden] is a great way to keep fit, socialize, and an excellent form of therapeutic exercise for participants.

After a successful IMAGINE Community Grant application in 2015, Kovacs, Taylor, and the rest of the Healthy Minds Peer Support group got to work.

Empty lot

A look at the garden space before the Healthy Minds Community Garden took shape. Construction involved over 50 volunteers and over 1,500 volunteer hours.

How did the project go? Kovacs and Taylor provided an inspiring update:

This project exceeded expectations on many levels. The construction of the garden space involved over 50 volunteers, from children to seniors across all socioeconomic and racial divides. Together, we logged over 1,500 volunteer hours. This garden has provided socialization opportunities [and] improved the mental and physical health of many community members. Through these interactions, awareness of mental health, physical health, and environmental health has been raised.

Two classes from David Hoy Elementary School helped in the construction and planting of garden beds. The grade 9 woodworking class from the high school built two flower garden beds for us. We also had involvement from adult mental health service users. Friendships were made, and a sense of community bonding was achieved. We were able to produce many pounds of fresh, organic vegetables – from lettuce to corn and peppers. Also, with seven local newspaper articles on the garden project, mental health and community gardening has been highlighted, and these topics have become common conversations around all community events. Raising awareness of mental health is the first step in reducing, and eventually eliminating stigma around it.

Community garden

A look at the completed garden space reveals the transformation that took place. For the project coordinators, a similar transformation occurred in the lives of those involved in the garden as the “unifying space” helped them to develop social connections.

One of the most important goals of sharing projects supported by IMAGINE Community Grants is the opportunity to share the lessons learned from different projects. Everyone who has been involved in a big project – whether it’s a personal home renovation, organizing a local sporting event, or getting a project off of the ground in a community – knows that it’s not always rainbows and sunshine! With the benefit of hindsight, Kovacs and Taylor shared what they learned:

All in all, it has been a very positive experience. There were, however, some challenges. It was difficult to get people involved in the actual construction. A lot of skilled labour was required, and in short supply … Being the project lead, it was difficult at times to gauge the skill level of volunteers … Volunteers often require close supervision. It is important to allow people some freedom, while discerning what projects they can succeed at. We could have used some more help with the administrative duties … If we undertook this type of project in the future, we would not make funding applications, or commitments, until we had people committed to certain duties.

The takeaway for Kovacs and Taylor, though?

The successes greatly exceeded the challenges. We have been approached by many strangers complimenting the work our group is doing. The word is out, and most of our beds are already reserved for the 2016 planting season. This garden is poised to become a new standard in community gardening. With a focus on aesthetics, as opposed to just food production, our garden has become a popular lunch, and socialization place for local workers and all community members. There is a lot of pride in this community garden. It is known as a very tranquil and serene sanctuary, overlooking the beautiful Stuart Lake. Seeing the faces of people who see the garden for the first time—priceless! … Be prepared to get projects off the ground with a few dedicated and imaginative people, and once things begin to take shape, others will join.

Two people paint a sign.

Volunteers put the finishing touches on the sign welcoming gardeners, guests, and visitors to the Healthy Minds Community Garden in Fort St. James.

The impact of the Healthy Minds Community Garden and the Healthy Minds Peer Support group really comes to light when you ask Kovacs and Taylor for one thing that they want to share about the project:

It is extremely difficult to list only one, as there are so many! … The greatest benefit, among many, is that of community bonding, or socialization. People that would not normally mix are working, laughing, and talking with each other. With so many phenomena dividing people in society today, the garden is a unifying space. One participant in particular, who wishes to remain anonymous, has been suffering from a life-threatening illness and has been isolating for over a year. We managed to get her out to the garden one day, and that resulted in her riding a bicycle to the garden every weekend to help and mostly just to socialize. She has reserved a garden bed for 2016. Largely as a result of stigma, many people experiencing mental health issues suffer in silence. Our objective is to reach as many of these people as possible, and the Healthy Minds Community Garden is accomplishing this. We also have to mention that the health benefits of growing and eating whole foods has not been lost on those participating in the garden.

Clearly unable to contain their excitement, pride, and desire to share more about the community garden, Kovacs and Taylor’s “one thing” continues to a list of community partners:

The involvement of the school kids, and the excitement in their eyes when they see what they have grown, is priceless. We believe that many of those kids will continue to garden and eat healthy throughout their lives. We also have to mention that the school this year is going to plant three beds as a result of the success of the program.

We have also reserved a bed for the Key Resource Centre in Fort St. James, and two beds are reserved for a local women’s wellness group. So far, we have two beds reserved for seniors as well. We have built two extra height beds for people with mobility issues. The entire garden is wheelchair accessible. We strongly believe that this garden will continue to grow and be of great benefit to all in this small community.

This project is, beyond any reasonable doubt, a resounding success.

Garden bed

Growing so much more than just healthy, local food, the community garden has become first and foremost a health-promoting gathering space where people can connect.

Do you have ideas to promote social connections, reduce stigma, boost healthy eating, and make your community healthier? Start gathering your team and brainstorming your project – the next round of IMAGINE Community Grants will start September 19, 2016.


IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to community organizations, service agencies, First Nations bands and organizations, schools, municipalities, regional districts, not-for-profits, and other partners with projects that make northern communities healthier. We are looking for applications that will support our efforts to prevent chronic disease and injury, and improve overall well-being in our communities. The next call out for IMAGINE Community Grants will be September 19, 2016.

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog.

Share

Looking back: The top 5 posts of the blog’s first 4 years!

Happy birthday to you!

Happy birthday to you!

Happy birthday dear Northern Health Matters bloooooooooooog!

Happy birthday to you!

Happy birthday candles

The Northern Health Matters blog is four years old! To celebrate, we’re looking back at the five most popular posts!

OK, I’ll admit that the song doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but it’s a special time for the Northern Health Matters blog nonetheless. On Saturday, the blog celebrated its fourth birthday! For four years, our contributors have been sharing stories, health tips, contests, resources, and more to help improve overall health in northern B.C.

Birthdays are a great time to reflect and reminisce so, for our 4th birthday, instead of balloons and cake, we thought we’d look back with a list of the top five most popular blog posts we’ve ever published.

When the blog launched in 2012, Dr. Ronald Chapman opened the site with his hope that it would provide “a window into the exciting activities being undertaken by Northern Health staff and our community partners across the region to improve our overall health.” I believe that the top five posts below do just that and more, as they also provide a unique window into what you, our readers, have found the most interesting, inspiring, and informative.

Thank you for being a part of the last four years and we look forward to sharing more stories that, going back to Dr. Chapman’s opening remarks, “showcase the idea that northern health matters.”

Enjoy the look back!

Top five blog posts of all time

#5: Let’s get cooking: Man Cave Chowder

#4: Men: why not nursing?

#3: Know the signs of stroke: It can happen to anyone

#2: “I always knew that I would come back to nursing”: Richelle’s story

#1: The making of a flash mob

Given that it’s the most popular of all time, it seems fitting to end with the flash mob video!

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog.

Share

Staff profile: Licensing officer Lisa Rice shares her thoughts on quality child care

Woman fishing

As a licensing officer, early childhood educator, and former child care provider, Lisa Rice has seen all sides of the child care world!

Lisa Rice is a licensing officer, early childhood educator and former child care provider. She has seen all sides of the child care world and shared this knowledge with me! With lots of families looking at child care arrangements for the summer months as the end of the school year approaches, it’s the perfect time to share Lisa’s expertise, which was originally featured in Healthier You magazine. Check out the full issue at the end of the article. If you want more information about licensing and providing safe, quality child care, visit our Community Care Licensing site.

I started by asking Lisa a few quick-fire questions about herself!

  • A bit about yourself: I’m a Newfoundlander who moved to British Columbia in 1991. We lived in Bella Coola and Smithers prior to coming to Prince George in 1998. I’m an early childhood educator and have been working in different child care roles since graduating with a diploma in Early Childhood Education in 1988. I became a licensing officer in 2004. I’m married and am the mother of two sons and the grandmother of an 18-month-old granddaughter.
  • Favourite activities: Biking, snowshoeing, and eating healthy.
  • Favourite food: My green smoothies – blend banana, orange, spinach (or anything green), and peanut butter!
  • Favourite part of your job: Seeing the work we do pay off. We support child care settings to become structured, rich, happy, and healthy environments. I recently saw a child care space where 3-4 year olds were taking part in an election activity – it’s great to see creative and inspiring things like that!
  • Who is your role model? If I had to choose one person, it would be my sister, who is bravely battling cancer. Beyond her, I feel like all people who are trying to live a healthy, positive lifestyle are important role models.
  • What is your motto? Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Man and woman skiingGiven Lisa’s experience in all aspects of the child care world, I asked her a few questions about her work and thoughts on quality child care:

What is community care licensing?

Northern Health’s Community Care Licensing program provides regulatory oversight for any facility that provides care to three or more people who aren’t related to the caregiver. This includes child care spaces. Providing oversight means ensuring that care providers are meeting minimum standards to protect the health, safety, and well-being of children. Standards cover everything from staffing to hygiene, physical requirements, nutrition, playtime, and more.

Why is licensing important for safe child care?

By establishing and monitoring minimum standards, licensing lowers the risk of negative health and safety outcomes for children. As licensing officers, we represent families so that they can be assured that the care providers looking after their loved ones are following health and safety principles.

What does a day in the life of a licensing officer look like?

It can be varied! My day might include an unannounced inspection, following up on an incident or complaint, processing a licensing application, or supporting care providers through education and outreach. A lot of what I do on a daily basis is taking upstream health principles and applying them downstream, where kids and families are seeking care.

Three people climbing cutbanksWhat does quality child care look like?

I look for environments that are safe, well-organized, free of hazards, and that invite children to learn and grow. Caregivers should also have open, positive relationships with a child’s family.

What’s interesting is to see how quality child care can be a role model for families. When kids are exposed to healthy behaviours in child care, they take this home to their families. One facility, for example, started their day with all of the kids washing their hands. They later shared that many of their families had adopted this practice at home. When kids came home from daycare, the whole family would wash their hands before doing anything else!

What does a healthy community look like to a licensing officer?

For me, a healthy community models healthy behaviours. A healthy community has families that are well-versed in healthy practices like hand hygiene, healthy eating, and the importance of outdoor play. Licensed child care spaces model these behaviours and the families take these lessons out into the community.


Check out Lisa’s original story and lots of other information about child health in the Summer 2016 issue of Healthier You magazine:

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog.

Share

10 tips for a happy and healthy first five years

How can we ensure that our children, families, and communities are as healthy as possible? I had the chance to ask some Northern Health experts for their thoughts and here are ten tips (in no particular order!) that they shared.

Do you have ideas on growing up healthy in northern B.C.? We want to hear from you! Look for a free community meeting in your community or join the conversation online via Thoughtexchange!

10 tips for a happy and healthy first five years!

Child outside with sun glasses

Get outside and play, follow the routine immunization schedule, and model healthy eating are three of our 10 tips for a happy and healthy first five years! What can you do to ensure that our children grow up healthy in northern B.C.?

#1: Get outside and play

Children who play outside tend to have better health, spend more time playing, have better social interactions, are more creative, and have greater resiliency. Studies show that children who explore and take risks in supportive environments have the chance to figure out their own limits and do not see an increase in injuries.

#2: Wear the gear

Teach your child to keep their head safe. Put a fitted helmet on every time they tricycle, toboggan, bike, skate, or ski. Out on the water? Have your child in the right sized, fitted lifejacket for all water activities. Model safe behaviour yourself!

#3: Follow the routine immunization schedule

Immunization is one of the best ways to ensure your children stay healthy and are protected from certain vaccine preventable diseases. The routine immunization schedule ensures your child is protected as soon as they can be and is based on the best science of today. Learn more.

#4: Be aware of hazards

Scrapes and bruises won’t slow a child down for long, but serious injury can change their life forever. Identify and move anything that could burn, choke or poison your child. Move furniture away from windows. Lock up poisonous items like medicines, vitamins, alcohol, tobacco, and cleaning supplies. Keep hot liquids out of reach. Lower your tap water temperature to prevent scalds.

#5: Take time to give love, hugs, smiles and lots of reassurance

Emotional attachment is one of the keys to raising a happy, confident child. Ensure a close connection by spending time face-to-face with your baby each day, observing your baby, and getting down on the floor with your baby. Check out Vanessa’s article in Healthier You magazine for more tips.

#6: Raise children in tobacco-free families

Children who are exposed to second-hand smoke have increased health risks including respiratory problems and sudden infant death syndrome. They are also more likely to become smokers themselves. Reduce these risks in your family! Visit QuitNow.ca for resources to help you quit and access free nicotine replacement therapy products or medications through the BC Smoking Cessation Program.

#7: Find quality care

Looking for child care? Look for licensed child care providers who are warm, caring, respectful, and attentive to children’s individual needs. Daycare activities should recognize the value of play and happen in safe, well-planned environments that invite children to learn and grow. Learn more about licensing in the summer issue of Healthier You.

#8: Stop cavities and smile brightly

Brush children’s teeth daily with a rice-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Limit drinks and food to scheduled meal and snack times and use a lidless cup to drink water for thirst. Start regular dental visits at age one or after teeth start appearing. Learn more.

#9: Crawl, dance, and play your way to 180 minutes!

According to the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, children aged 1-4 should accumulate at least 180 minutes of physical activity at any intensity spread throughout the day. Try various activities – crawling, walking, playing outdoors, and exploring – that develop movement skills in different environments. As children age, play can get more energetic – progress toward at least 60 minutes of energetic play per day by age 5.

#10: Model healthy eating

Eat with your child whenever possible, as this helps them learn from you. Provide regular meals and snacks. Offer a variety of nutritious foods from all four food groups. Allow your child to decide if and how much they want to eat.

Learn more from trusted resources:

This article was originally published in Healthier You magazine. Check out the Summer 2016 issue below!

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog.

Share

Workplace tragedy is preventable: Steps for Life

This time of year provides us with many opportunities to reflect on the issue of health and safety in the workplace. April 28 is the National Day of Mourning for Persons Killed or Injured in the Workplace and the first week of May is set aside as Occupational Safety & Health Week across North America.

Geneviève Fox is a community member in Prince George who is passionate about this issue and keen to raise awareness of health and safety in the workplace. She firmly believes that every worker should be coming home safe at the end of each day and has become involved in shining a light on this issue in Prince George.

I had the pleasure of asking Geneviève a few questions about workplace health and safety and the Steps for Life event that she is helping to organize in Prince George.

Steps for Life poster

“The only work is safe work; workplace tragedy is preventable.” Join Steps for Life in Prince George on May 1st at Masich Place Stadium.

The Steps for Life event in Prince George on May 1st marks the start of North American Occupational Safety & Health Week. Why will you be walking? Why is health and safety at work important to you?

In February 2015, I contacted Steps for Life to ask them when the walk would be coming to Prince George, a community that has been deeply affected by workplace tragedy. They told me it was not planned to come to Prince George and subsequently asked me if I would like to bring the walk to the community. I said yes, and our event will be happening May 1 at Masich Place Stadium. I think this walk is important because of the impact workplace tragedies have had here. It will also promote awareness of the services Threads of Life offers to those families and individuals in need.

What are some key messages for workplace safety that event participants would like residents of northern B.C. to know?

I cannot speak on behalf of the participants as I imagine each would have their own unique message to share. But if I were to generalize, I would say that for all of us involved there is a core, shared belief that every worker in Canada should be coming home safe at the end of each work day.

April 28 is the National Day of Mourning for Persons Killed or Injured in the Workplace. What does the Day of Mourning mean to you?

The Day of Mourning is a vital day for all Canadians. We take time on that day to remember the unnecessary loss of life due to workplace tragedy. The Day of Mourning is not only a day for us to pay our respects to, and remember, the fallen, but it also serves as a sombre reminder that we must always stay vigilant and diligent with workplace health and safety, continuously improving our policies, procedures, systems, and practices.

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about this important topic?

The only work is safe work; workplace tragedy is preventable. Get involved with health and safety at your workplace and stay informed. Remember that you are an important part of the internal responsibility system.

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog.

Share