Healthy Living in the North

Plug into Prince George: tapping into trail and friendship networks

boardwalk forest

Many trails around Prince George are accessible-including the Ancient Forest.

Running, walking, hiking, and biking have always been part of my life. When I moved to Prince George in the winter of 2005, I knew I needed to make friends with similar interests, so that spring, I took a “learn to trail run” class. Twelve years later, I’m still enjoying outdoor adventures with people I met in the class!

Over the years, our group has found many excellent trails in and around the city of Prince George to enjoy fresh air and exercise all year round. Often, our dogs accompany us so we make a rather large pack! We feel fortunate to live in a place with such accessible natural beauty.

For those who enjoy a nice stroll, brisk walk, or leisurely bike ride, you can find a list of accessible trails on the Prince George Tourism website. Many are fully accessible and suitable for those using wheelchairs or scooters, or for parents with children in strollers. Feeling ambitious? Complete the entire 11 km heritage river trail circuit for a trip through the city’s history. Ferguson Lake also has trails and docks so you can walk or canoe on site – it’s only 5 km from highway 97 & Chief Lake Road!

forest

Getting outside is a great way to unplug and recharge.

For more adventurous souls, there is the Cranbrook Hill Greenway and its connecting trails, Forest for the World, Otway Ski Centre, and Pidherny Trails. The trails are suitable for hiking, walking, running, or mountain biking – and they have great names like “Kitchen Sink” and “Espresso”. We have seen moose, bears, foxes, and an incredible variety of birds. Oh, yes, and wild blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries – hey, sometimes you need a snack when you’re out on the trail! Just be sure of what berry you are picking – if you don’t know, don’t eat it!

Feel like getting out of the city? How about a bike ride down Willow Cale Road to Buckhorn Lake for a picnic? It’s easy riding with minimal traffic. Want to venture a bit further? Check out the trails maintained by the Tabor Mountain Recreation Society – Dougherty Creek Mobility Trail is fully accessible!

kids posing by tree

Posing with Treebeard, the oldest tree in the ancient rain forest!

Want to make a day of it? Try a hike up Teapot Mountain or take a picnic down the highway to the Ancient Forest with its accessible boardwalk. I love taking my camera and photographing the interesting lichens, and mushrooms – and of course the obligatory shot of the kids standing by the oldest tree in the forest, Treebeard!

And just because the snow is long gone, don’t think these trails are only for summer use! Both Otway and Tabor Mountain have groomed cross-country ski trails in winter. Or break out the snowshoes on some of the connecting trails around the Greenway and Forest for the World. The area is just as beautiful in winter – and no bugs to bother you!

Where do you go to unplug and get active in your community? Do you have a favourite local trail? If you’re in Prince George, I hope to see you out this summer!


Last fall we asked our readers to share how they plug into their communities through the Great Northern Scavenger Hunt!  We received some amazing entries and information about how to get active and plug into communities all over northern BC. Check back for “Plug Into” posts featuring tips and suggestions from those submissions!

Heather Ouellette

About Heather Ouellette

Heather is a Registered Nurse currently working in Population Health as the Regional Nursing Lead, Healthy Schools. Past work experiences include Public Health and teaching nursing at UNBC and in a previous life in Edmonton, home care and acute care nursing. When not outside adventuring with her friends and dogs, she likes to play in her garden during summer and sew quilts and garments in winter.

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Ride into Summer with Bike to Work & School Week

Bike riding on a bike path

Bike paths separated from motor traffic encourage more cycling and improve safety for everyone.

Remember the good old days when your bike was not just your only form of transportation, but your ticket to freedom and independence? The summer would pass in a blink as you racked up countless miles riding anywhere and everywhere on your bike, rolling back home at sunset with “rubber legs” and giddy from all the fun had with friends. I can almost smell the warm summer evening just thinking about it.

Sure, times have changed. We’re adults now. We have jobs, time crunches, deadlines, and commitments. Regardless, we have an excellent opportunity to bring some of that old nostalgia and joy back to the season, as well as set the younger people in our lives on the path to creating their own summer memories: it starts with taking part in Bike to Work (& School) Week from May 29-June 4. I’m guessing once you’ve made a conscious decision to ride rather than drive as much as possible for a week, you will realize so many benefits to cycling that you’ll want to continue this healthy (but fun!) habit for the rest of the summer.

Here are just a few of the benefits:

  • Increased physical activity: Many of us struggle to find the time for physical activity; utilizing active transportation options automatically adds physical activity into our day, which of course brings its own benefits.
  • Increased productivity: The fresh air and adrenaline boost provided by your commute will help you show up at work or school alert, refreshed, and ready to take on the day.
  • Improved mental well-being: Taking the time on your commute home to clear your head and burn off some steam will leave you feeling much fresher mentally when you arrive home than you would be after driving.
  • Increased safety: Increasing the number of people who cycle decreases traffic congestion, increases active transportation user visibility, and makes the roads safer for everyone involved.
  • Financial savings: No fuel or parking fees (or tickets!).
  • Environmental benefits: Reduce your greenhouse gas emissions (Bike to Work BC will let you know exactly what your impact is as you log rides… how cool is that?)
  • Social benefits: Being on your bicycle allows you to connect with other cyclists and pedestrians you meet on your commute; the sight of your grinning face as you sail by may also inspire someone else to park their car and ride instead!

I must confess I have not always been a huge fan of cycling. I loved it as a kid, but as I grew up I became very nervous around traffic. And don’t even get me started on mountain biking! Let’s just say “what goes up must come down,” so I can’t see much mountain biking in my future (insert chicken clucking here). However, over the last year I have been rediscovering my love for cycling on paths and roads while being vigilant to protect my safety, following the rules of the road, keeping my eyes and ears on alert to the traffic around me, and riding accordingly. My confidence continues to grow with practice. I will be participating in Bike to Work Week on a Northern Health team for the first time (officially) this year, but it certainly won’t be my last!

Join a team today; you could be the lucky winner of a cycling trip for two on the Dalmation Coast in Croatia! Register here: https://www.biketowork.ca/ – see you on the road!

Gloria Fox

About Gloria Fox

Gloria Fox is the Regional Physical Activity Lead for Northern Health’s Population Health team. She is a graduate of the University of Alberta’s faculty of PE & Recreation, and until beginning this role has spent most of her career working as a Recreation Therapist with NH. She has a passion for helping others pursue an optimal leisure lifestyle and quality of life at all stages of their lives. In order to maintain her own health (and sanity), Gloria enjoys many outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, canoeing, and cycling, to name a few. She is a self-proclaimed foodie and her life’s ambition is to see as much of the world as possible.

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Walk With Your Doc

When was the last time you went for a walk? Were you aware that there are some real health benefits that come with a pleasant evening stroll?

Since 2010, Walk with Your Doc has been promoting the health benefits of walking to British Columbians through walking events for their patients and communities. To date, 278 walks have been organized with hundreds of doctors and thousands of patients taking part across B.C. This year, events are planned across northern communities from May 6-14, 2017. You can find out when it might be happening in your community and register at Walk with Your Doc.

Outdoor trail

Northern B.C. is full of trails that are great for quick walks! In Terrace, Reg likes the Howe Creek Trail.

While many Canadians may consider themselves active, when you look at the Canadian population as a whole, a different picture emerges. According to the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, just over 2 in 10 adults and 1 in 10 children and youth met the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines in 2013. While being physically active is important to your health, it can seem like a bit of challenge if you haven’t been active in a while. But it doesn’t have to be – it can be as simple as going for a walk.

Walking is a great way to increase your level of physical activity. Getting out for a daily stroll can have benefits that have a positive effect on not only your physical health, but your mental well-being as well.

  • Walking is a great way to improve your cardiovascular health and muscular endurance.
  • Walking is low impact and easy on the joints.
  • Walking increases bone density and can have a positive effect on conditions such as osteoarthritis.
  • Walking lowers your blood pressure and reduces the risk of coronary heart disease.
  • Walking can help you maintain a healthy weight.
  • Walking can help improve your mood and handle stress.
Owl

Heading out for a walk in Terrace? You never know who you’re going to run into on the Howe Creek trail!

Another great thing about walking is that it doesn’t require special athletic skills or expensive equipment. It can be casual or it can be more of a challenge if you increase your pace or include some hills in your route. It’s an activity that can be done year round, indoors or outdoors.

Where I live in Terrace, there are lots of great places to walk. When I want to get out for a quick stroll, one of my favorite places to go is the Howe Creek trail. If I’m in the mood for a bit more of a challenge, the trails on Terrace Mountain lead to some spectacular views of the city while getting my heart pumping!

Here are a few things to keep in mind before you start walking:

  • If you’ve been inactive, remember to start slow. Just do what you can and try to do a little more the next day. It’s also a good idea to check with your doctor if you have any concerns or health conditions before increasing your level of physical activity.
  • Make sure you have a good pair of shoes for walking. You’ll be far more comfortable and likely to keep it up if your feet aren’t hurting at the end of a walk.
  • Find ways to motivate yourself. Walk with a friend or find routes that you enjoy walking. Get a pedometer and challenge your family and friends to “out-step” you. I’ll be at the Walk With Your Doc event in Terrace on Saturday, May 6. If you want a walking companion for a chat and some socializing, I’d love to see you there!
  • Set some goals to strive towards and reward yourself when you reach them.
  • Look for opportunities to walk. Park further away from the store entrance or go for a quick walk on your lunch break.

Speaking of opportunities, take the opportunity during the first week of May to walk with your doctor. Who knows, maybe it can be the first step towards a healthier life.

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a licensing officer with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace as well as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out, and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.

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8-1-1 & PAL: Physical activity in the north – the opportunities are endless!

Woman on a bicycle

Need some inspiration or support for World Physical Activity Day? HealthLink BC now includes qualified exercise professionals and physical activity information!

Exercise professionals have joined the suite of services available via HealthLinkBC! Now, no matter where you live in northern B.C., if you’re looking to make a lifestyle change this year but you’re not sure where to start, HealthLinkBC can help!

HealthLinkBC is a completely free resource that provides access to invaluable health information and advice 24 hours a day, 7 days a week either online, via mobile app, or by simply dialling 8-1-1 from your phone. Until recently, the health professionals available to the public via HealthLinkBC included health services navigators, nurses, dietitians, and pharmacists. The HealthLink team has now expanded to include exercise professionals from the Physical Activity Line.

What to expect

When you dial 8-1-1, you’ll be greeted by a health services navigator who will provide you with general health information and advice and/or connect you with the appropriate health care professional to address your concern. You have the option of either creating a profile or remaining anonymous during your conversation, so it’s a very “low risk” conversation.

If you are phoning for physical activity advice, the exercise professionals are a great resource for evidence-based information for all ages and abilities. They are equipped to provide general physical activity screening; information on healthy living; advice on how to get and stay active; individualized physical activity prescriptions; and referrals to physical activity programs available in your local area. I wasn’t sure that this would be the case for residents of smaller communities in northern B.C., but the nice gentleman I spoke to assured me that if there are resources and programs available, they will locate them for any area of B.C.

For example, if you’re calling from Vanderhoof, they may inform you about the accessible paths with nearby playground at Riverside Park, the cross-country ski trails at the Nechako Valley Sporting Association grounds, or the drop-in badminton club that meets at the local high school.

The exercise professionals will also provide comprehensive assistance with facilitating and supporting behaviour change, including advice on overcoming barriers, setting realistic goals, and even coming up with a backup plan to prevent or correct a relapse into unhealthy habits.

Considering the number and the remoteness of communities in northern B.C., it’s pretty amazing that today’s technology makes the region and its opportunities and services so much smaller and easier to navigate.

More information

  • Translation services are available in more than 130 languages
  • Services for those who are hearing impaired are available by dialling 7-1-1

Who is available when?

  • Health services navigators & nurses: 24 hours/day, 7 days/week, 365 days/year
  • Dietitians & exercise professionals: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Pharmacists: 7 days/week, 5 p.m. – 9 a.m. (when a community pharmacist is unavailable)

A version of this article was originally published in the spring 2017 issue of Healthier You magazine. Read the full issue – all about shrinking geography and accessible services – on ISSUU!

Gloria Fox

About Gloria Fox

Gloria Fox is the Regional Physical Activity Lead for Northern Health’s Population Health team. She is a graduate of the University of Alberta’s faculty of PE & Recreation, and until beginning this role has spent most of her career working as a Recreation Therapist with NH. She has a passion for helping others pursue an optimal leisure lifestyle and quality of life at all stages of their lives. In order to maintain her own health (and sanity), Gloria enjoys many outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, canoeing, and cycling, to name a few. She is a self-proclaimed foodie and her life’s ambition is to see as much of the world as possible.

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Try something new for World Physical Activity Day

A sunny forest path.

A stroll, leisurely or brisk, down a sunny forest path (of which we have many in northern BC!) is a great way to get moving!

Spring is here…for real this time! My calendar says so, therefore it must be true. As we begin to emerge from our winter “hibernation” period, the 15th annual World Day for Physical Activity on Thursday, April 6 gives us an excellent opportunity to welcome the season that celebrates new beginnings. So, why not use this day as a springboard (pun intended) to get out and try something new?

Maybe you’ve always wondered about a certain activity or sport, but haven’t yet managed to fit it into your routine. It could be something as simple as walking or running a new trail, going on a geocaching venture, or checking out a drop-in soccer league or fitness class. It’s so easy to fall into a pattern (sleep, eat, work, Netflix, repeat) and feel that there just isn’t time for anything else, but I promise you, that Netflix episode that’s calling your name will still be there when you return from your adventure. You might even discover your next favourite activity, and if so, you will somehow manage to make time for it to continue.

Nearly 20 years ago, my sister took me on my very first overnight hiking trip. I had no idea what to expect and was quite ill-equipped for the experience; in fact, I remember creating a makeshift raincoat from a garbage bag when the weather unexpectedly turned nasty. Regardless, I fell head over heels in love with backcountry hiking and camping and INSIST on doing it every year. In my opinion, there is no greater feeling than throwing everything you need to survive onto your back and experiencing the rewards of serenity and beauty that nature has to offer those who make the effort to explore it.

Hiking near Emperor Falls

A few first time hikers enjoying the rewards of Emperor Falls (Mount Robson).

This year’s theme for World Day for Physical Activity is “Active People! Happy People!” It’s very suiting since evidence shows us that people who are regularly physically active not only experience a better level of physical health, but also lead happier and more productive lives (don’t believe me? Check out this article on why physical activity is the secret to happiness!).  Who wouldn’t want to feel happier?

The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity activity per week for adults, and a minimum of 60 minutes daily for children and youth ages 5-17 in order to experience health benefits. You may already be meeting and exceeding these numbers, and if so, fantastic! Keep it up! However, if these numbers sound like a lot, start smaller and work your way up. The main thing is that you start moving and keep at it. So, in the spirit of spring and new beginnings, I would like to challenge each of you to get out and be active, not only on the official World Day for Physical Activity, but on most days of the week. Your mind and body will thank you!

Resources:

Gloria Fox

About Gloria Fox

Gloria Fox is the Regional Physical Activity Lead for Northern Health’s Population Health team. She is a graduate of the University of Alberta’s faculty of PE & Recreation, and until beginning this role has spent most of her career working as a Recreation Therapist with NH. She has a passion for helping others pursue an optimal leisure lifestyle and quality of life at all stages of their lives. In order to maintain her own health (and sanity), Gloria enjoys many outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, canoeing, and cycling, to name a few. She is a self-proclaimed foodie and her life’s ambition is to see as much of the world as possible.

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Imagining accessible recreation in Chetwynd

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.


Recreational equipment

With the purchase of bikes, helmets, sporting equipment, bear bells, hiking poles, fishing rods, and life jackets the Imagine Chetwynd project provided access to recreational opportunities that may not have been available to people otherwise.

Last spring, the Chetwynd Visitor Centre set a goal to create more opportunities for people to experience fun activities in their area, with a focus on improving the health and wellness of residents and visitors. From this goal – and some seed funding support from IMAGINE Community Grants – Imagine Chetwynd was born!

Through the purchase of bikes, helmets, sporting equipment, bear bells, hiking poles, fishing rods, and life jackets – as well as strong partnerships developed with the Chetwynd Public Library and the Tansi Friendship Centre – the project provided access to recreational opportunities that may not be available to people otherwise. The library helped promote the project and ran a Facebook Page where people could share stories and photos after using the equipment. The friendship centre supported the distribution and storage of some of the equipment, which improved access for youth, seniors, and families.

The positive outcomes as a result of the project were the community partnerships. The combined effort to create or enhance activities within the community was a positive experience. Partnering with groups who have the ability and skills to promote and deliver helped create success in the project. Community members welcomed, and were pleased with, the opportunity for friends or out of town family members to join them in trail hikes, bike rides, and fishing lakes and local rivers in the area; the local sporting goods store owner supplied the tackle for fishing. -Tyria Plamondon, Chetwynd Visitor Centre

IMAGINE Community Grant funds supported the purchase of bikes, helmets, fishing gear, and a variety of sporting equipment to get the program started.

The Imagine Chetwynd project will continue to be a sustainable program as the equipment and supplies acquired through the IMAGINE grant funding have longevity and equipment maintenance or replacement costs have been budgeted for the future.

One of our most eye-catching investments was a vibrant, candy apple red tandem bike. This beautiful, strikingly unusual bike was an eye opener and head turner when it was out in the community. It caught the attention of young and old alike… The bike provided our community with a little treasure that sets us apart from other northern communities. -Tyria Plamondon

Two men on tandem bike.

One of Imagine Chetwynd’s most eye-catching recreational investments: a bright red tandem bicycle!

It has to be mentioned that the project is not just a summer project. Included in the purchase of sporting and recreational equipment (rackets, balls, horseshoes, etc.), funds received also supported the purchase of snowshoes and an ice auger for ice fishing, so residents and visitors can enjoy the outdoors all year long!

The Imagine Chetwynd project has opened opportunities for exposure to all of our parks, activities, courts, lakes, streams, and attractions through the use of free equipment and ease of access provided with the project. -Tyria Plamondon

This project is a great example of what some local initiative and thinking outside of the box can do to create fun, accessible, and health-promoting opportunities for people in the north!

For more information on the Imagine Chetwynd program and to see some cool photos of this project in action, check out the Chetwynd Visitors Centre on Facebook.


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. At the time of this story’s publication, the deadline for the next cycle of IMAGINE Community Grants is March 31, 2017.

Mandy Levesque

About Mandy Levesque

Mandy Levesque is Northern Health’s Lead, Healthy Community Development, Integrated Community Granting. Born and raised in northern Manitoba, Mandy and her family moved to Prince George in 2013. Mandy has a background in public health and health promotion and is a graduate of the University of Saskatchewan. She is passionate about innovation and quality, empowering northern populations, and promoting health and wellness across communities. In her spare time, Mandy enjoys spending time with her family and stays active by taking in the exciting activities, trails, and events northern B.C. has to offer.

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Coming together on the shores of Babine Lake

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

This story was originally published in Healthier You magazine.


Group of people in community hall

“Our luncheons became a huge social thing. Granisle has a population of 300 and we had upwards of 75 people attending our lunch events!”

Across Canada, research has shown that over 90% of older adults live independently in the community and wish to remain there. In smaller northern communities, however, supporting older residents to age in place can be a challenge.

With the help of IMAGINE Community Grants in 2014 and 2015, the Village of Granisle, a beautiful community of 300 people on the shores of Babine Lake, has responded to this challenge!

Granisle was named an Age-Friendly Community in 2014 and ever since, “for every project we do, our first thought is: how can this be inclusive and accessible,” said Lisa Rees, office assistant with the Village of Granisle. “Our IMAGINE-funded projects flow out of this designation.”

So, what did they do?

“We’ve got two projects under the same healthy living umbrella,” said Rees. “The first of those projects is a monthly healthy eating luncheon for seniors; the second, an exercise program for seniors.”

Don’t be fooled by the “for seniors” label, though, because these projects don’t turn anybody away! “Our luncheons became a huge social thing,” said Rees. “Granisle has a population of 300 and we had upwards of 75 people attending our lunch events!” The project promotes health not just through healthy eating, but also through social connections!

People walking on path

The community luncheons were about more than just healthy eating! Some events included walks, information sessions, and routine tests from nurses.

With an IMAGINE grant paying for the healthy food, the luncheons were designed with accessibility, learning, fun, and community in mind:

  • Attendees got a free, hot meal. Extra food was delivered to vulnerable local residents unable to leave their homes.
  • Different groups hosted the luncheons in different locations. The local Lions Club, local Council, Seniors Association, and local school all hosted luncheons. The event at the school was held together with an open house, showing that the school could be a community gathering space.
  • Before a summer park luncheon, attendees were invited to join a walk along a local trail and rubberized path.
  • Local health nurses joined the luncheons and offered participants health information and the chance to complete some routine health tests.
  • Along with their meals, attendees got to see nutrition tips from registered dietitians on their tables.

“It was more than just healthy eating,” said Rees. “People would sit and linger over coffee, we had local students helping with the cooking when the school hosted a luncheon, and programs like Better At Home did presentations.”

The second Granisle project tackles another important risk factor: sedentary behaviour.

“We want to help community members in Granisle to stay active,” said Emily Kaehn, economic development/administrative coordinator with the Village of Granisle. “With our new IMAGINE funds, we’re buying exercise gear – walking poles, ice grippers, snowshoes, yoga equipment, exercise bands, and more – to stock a local equipment library. Preventing injury and keeping older adults active is key to aging in place.”

Aerial photo of Granisle

“Come out to Granisle! It’s well worth a stop – it’s a beautiful place to visit and to be!”

Looking ahead, the Village of Granisle is looking for funding to continue the monthly luncheons and is hoping to expand the exercise gear program into broader recreation programming. “Partnerships are key,” said Kaehn. “The clinic and women’s group are involved in our exercise program and there are many clubs and groups involved in the luncheons. In a small community, it takes a lot of hands to get things to fruition and the village has really come together around health and aging.”

When probed for her last thoughts about the community and its healthy living projects, Lisa Rees encouraged everyone to check it out for themselves: “Come out to Granisle! It’s well worth a stop – it’s a beautiful place to visit and to be!”

Learn along with residents of Granisle! Here are just a couple of the healthy eating tips from their monthly community luncheons:

  • What small change can you make today? Consider water instead of pop to drink, or turkey instead of beef in your chili.
  • Develop your Sodium Sense. Flavour foods with herbs and spices instead of salt. An herb like thyme is tasty with chicken, veal, salads, and vegetables!

Three grant writing tips from Emily Kaehn (Village of Granisle):

  1. “The IMAGINE grant process was very straightforward. Program staff were very supportive. If you are thinking of applying and have an idea, call them first!”
  2. “Lots of municipalities have grant writers. They are a great resource. Start your application process there.”
  3. “Forward grant opportunities far and wide. Everyone has the community’s best interest at heart and sharing information ultimately helps everyone out.”
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.

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

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

This story was originally published in Healthier You magazine.


Group of people playing table tennis.

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

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

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

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

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

Why table tennis?

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

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

What has the response been like?

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

Why do you love table tennis?

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

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

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

Students playing table tennis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

About Andrea Palmer

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

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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.

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“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.

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