Healthy Living in the North

Keeping children safe and healthy with routine immunizations

I’m drawn to the topic of immunization for National Immunization Awareness Week, which this year is April 23-30. It’s a chance to highlight the importance of routine immunizations and focus on accurate and up-to-date information and resources. It’s also a good time to reflect on the fact that in the last 50 years, immunization has saved more lives than any other intervention.

Immunization is one of the best ways parents can ensure their children stay healthy and protected from certain vaccine-preventable diseases!

During the first two years of a child’s life, they are very vulnerable and can be susceptible to many vaccine-preventable diseases. These diseases can have serious health consequences for many infants and young children. In some cases, they can be deadly.

National Immunization Awareness Week poster

“For the best protection, it’s recommended that parents follow the routine schedule and ensure all shots are given on time.”

In B.C., infants and young children aged 0-5 are given free vaccines that provide protection from the following diseases:

  • Tetanus
  • Diphtheria
  • Pertussis (whooping cough)
  • Hepatitis B
  • Polio
  • Haemophilus Influenza type B (Hib)
  • Meningococcal
  • Pneumococcal
  • Varicella
  • Measles
  • Mumps
  • Rubella (German Measles)
  • Rotavirus
  • Influenza
  • Hepatitis A (vaccine provided to Aboriginal children only)

The current immunization schedule for infants and children in B.C. has infants starting with their first set of immunizations at two months of age followed by immunizations at four months, six months, 12 months, 18 months, and kindergarten entry.

For the best protection, it’s recommended that parents follow the routine schedule and ensure all shots are given on time.

Here are six reasons from ImmunizeBC.ca why it’s best to follow the routine schedule:

  1. The routine schedule is based on the best science of today.
  2. The routine schedule is safe and works very well.
  3. You will ensure your child is protected as soon as they can be.
  4. You will reduce your child’s risk of anxiety and needle fear.
  5. The risk of side effects is the same whether vaccines are given together or separately.
  6. You will reduce the number of visits and time spent getting your child’s shots.

In B.C., parents can take their children to their local health unit for immunizations.

Have questions or want more information?

  • Call your local health unit and speak to a public health nurse.
  • Speak to your family doctor or primary health care provider.
  • Call HealthLinkBC (dial 8-1-1). They’re open 24 hours!
  • Visit ImmunizeBC.ca

About Patricia Strim

Photo and bio coming soon!

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Screening & follow-up care to prevent cardiovascular disease in women in Prince Rupert

This article was co-authored by Justine Derksen and Janice Paterson


Doctor in scrubs

Evidence has shown that pregnancy is a great place to evaluate cardiac risk. In Prince Rupert, Dr. Marius Pienaar has developed a screening program and software to identify and support women with cardiovascular risks.

Scientific evidence has shown that pregnancy is a great place to evaluate cardiac risk. In Prince Rupert, Dr. Marius Pienaar, a gynecologist, has developed a screening program and software which uses the data collected during a woman’s pregnancy to assess for cardiovascular risks and to coordinate referral and follow-up to prevent cardiovascular disease.

During the pregnancy, some basic measurements such as blood pressure and weight are recorded and a panel of blood tests are performed, including blood lipids and glucose. This data is then entered into the program to calculate a risk score for future cardiovascular disease. Women with elevated risk are then offered interventions, and their primary care provider is informed of this risk.

We have a golden opportunity to evaluate pregnant women with cardiovascular risk and this should not be missed. -Dr. Marius Pienaar

Dr. Pienaar explains that if a woman has diabetes in pregnancy, she is at a higher risk of having diabetes later in life and should be tested 6 weeks to 6 months after pregnancy. Currently, only about 20% of women are tested after pregnancy. Dr. Pienaar’s new software actively follows his patients and has created a referral and reminder system where every patient can be contacted and given opportunities to attend the North Coast Maternal Health Clinic for evaluation.

Walking in snow with mountain background.

Dr. Pienaar is hoping to make this unique program and software available across the province.

Currently, Dr. Pienaar’s clinic seeks to intervene by providing clinical care to at-risk women as well as offering smoking cessation resources, on-site dietitians and diabetes nurses, and more. 100% of postpartum patients who are screened and are identified as having increased risk are offered the postpartum health clinic visit. The program is expected to increase patient awareness of their own risk of cardiovascular disease and support women to access additional health care services to help reduce their risk.

I am very appreciative of the care and information I received in the North Coast Maternal Health Clinic. This program provided me with valuable information/assessment regarding future health risks. Such insight allows me to intervene early in order to improve my modifiable risk factors and ensure my future health and well-being. -Cherie Harvey-Malthus

The clinic has been a success so far and is very efficient and cost effective. Dr. Pienaar has seen success with this quality improvement project and hopes to make the program and software available across the province. There has already been interest from Fraser Health and the Lower Mainland to emulate the clinic model at other hospitals. This is the first such clinic in B.C. and the first rural clinic in Canada specifically geared to evaluate cardiovascular risk in postpartum patients.

Check out the full version of this article: An Innovative Program in Prince Rupert is Screening and Providing Follow-up Care for Women with Risk for CVD

Justine Derksen

About Justine Derksen

Justine works for Northern Health in Medical Affairs as the Coordinator, Physician Engagement Initiatives in Prince George. Justine loves the north and enjoys the seasonal activities with her husband and adorable Bernese Mountain dog any chance she gets. Justine is currently pursuing her masters of Public Health degree, which she was inspired to pursue through her work with Northern Health. When not at work, Justine enjoys cooking, outdoor recreational activities and crafting.

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A video from North Coast First Nations for health care providers

Man in First Nations regalia

A still frame from the opening of Honouring our Journey, a newly released video that provides information for health care providers about the Haida and Tsimshian Nations culture, history, and how these impact their health care needs.


“The door is open for you to learn,” says Kitkatla Councillor, Timothy Innes. “Learn how our culture is and what it entails … and who we are, then (you) can work with us more comfortably … you’re not intruding.”

The North Coast Aboriginal Health Improvement Committee (AHIC) is pleased to launch a video, Honouring Our Journey, that provides information for health care providers about the Haida and Tsimshian Nations culture, history, and how these impact their health care needs.

“If doctors and nurses come with an open mind and are genuine, lots will be returned to them as our people are kind and generous,” says Elizabeth Moore, an Elder in Old Masset.

In 2014-2015, Aboriginal Health provided financial support to each of the nine AHICs in the north to develop local cultural resources. These resources were guided by the question, “If I were a new health care practitioner in your community, what would you want me to know?”

In the video, Lauren Brown, the Health Director in Skidegate, encourages health care providers to consider “the whole person, including their beliefs and traditions.” Cindy Ignas, the Health Director in Kitkatla advises,

“You have to really listen and be very careful to not make any judgements and to understand the cultural lens that you bring as a non-First Nations person … step back from your biases, assumptions, and judgements and try to really learn, be curious and ask lots of questions.”

Betty Reece, the Health Director in Lax Kw’alaams, says, “Come out and meet the people apart from your workplace.”

This impactful video covers important and relevant topics such as:

  • the present day impacts of Residential School experiences on health care interactions,
  • the current role of traditional medicines and the importance of health care providers asking about their use to prevent possible negative interactions with prescribed medications,
  • the importance of using plain language, including family and/or translators in the appointment, and
  • learning about the gathering and use of traditional foods in health and well-being.

I highly encourage you to watch this 25 minute video and share it with others. If you have any questions or would like to learn more, Mary Wesley, video producer and the Aboriginal Patient Liaison in Prince Rupert and for the North Coast, would be happy to connect and even to facilitate group discussions following a screening.

This video is a beautiful gift from the North Coast First Nations in hopes that we all are inspired to continue our learning journeys towards a culturally safe health care system for all First Nations and Aboriginal people. Another way to develop your understanding of First Nations and Aboriginal peoples is the San’yas Indigenous Cultural Safety Training, an online course by the Provincial Health Services Authority.

A booklet summarizes the cultural resources developed by AHICs across the north.

Victoria Carter

About Victoria Carter

Victoria works in Northern Health's Aboriginal health program as the lead for engagement and integration. She is an adopted member of the Nisga’a nation and was given the name “Nox Aama Goot” which means “mother of good heart.” In her work she sees herself as an ally working together with Aboriginal people across the north to improve access to quality health care. She keeps herself well by honouring the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of her life through spending time with her friends and family, being in nature and working on her own personal growth.

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TeleHealth: Bringing kidney care to remote communities

Health care team watching a monitor around a table.

TeleHealth care allows the Kidney Care Team to reach more patients in remote communities!

Within Northern Health’s vast geographical area, residents in rural and remote communities have limited access to specialist care. The vision of the Kidney Care Team (comprised of a physician, nurse, dietician, pharmacist, social worker and unit clerk) is to address this challenge by regionalizing a team-based TeleHealth kidney service, investing in technology, and providing services closer to home (similar to the face-to-face model of care) where patients no longer need to travel long distances to larger centres.

The team recognizes that TeleHealth care will not completely replace face-to-face consultations, but that there is potential to reach more patients in remote communities, including First Nations, and to increase patient engagement with specialist health care services.

Why TeleHealth?

Dr. Singh, a nephrologist on the kidney care team, recalls one patient’s experience:

A new immigrant worker was urgently referred from a remote rural community with very advanced kidney disease. The referral letter stated that he was adamant he was not leaving his community to go and see a specialist. I was able to see him the next day via TeleHealth and after meeting the renal team and receiving education about his condition, he was convinced to come to Prince George on the Northern Health Connections bus for surgery to prepare for dialysis. This gentleman is now doing home dialysis at night and is able to work and earn a living during the day without moving from his community. This is a great example where, connecting via TeleHealth, the kidney team was able to alleviate his fears, avoid unnecessary travel and stress but, above all, deliver the education about his kidney disease and motivate him for home-based dialysis. As a provider, this is immensely satisfying as timely intervention to address an urgent clinical and educational need was met to provide the best care for this patient.

What does “Tele-Kidney-Care” look like at Northern Health? Click the infographic below to download a full-size PDF.

Check out the full version of this article: Northern Kidney Care Team Leads the Way in Expanding Access to Specialist Care in Northern BC

infographic

Tele-Kidney-Care at Northern Health

Justine Derksen

About Justine Derksen

Justine works for Northern Health in Medical Affairs as the Coordinator, Physician Engagement Initiatives in Prince George. Justine loves the north and enjoys the seasonal activities with her husband and adorable Bernese Mountain dog any chance she gets. Justine is currently pursuing her masters of Public Health degree, which she was inspired to pursue through her work with Northern Health. When not at work, Justine enjoys cooking, outdoor recreational activities and crafting.

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“Bright Ideas” from the northeast!

Following the success of the “bright ideas” campaign in the northwest region, Northern Health’s energy team launched the campaign in the northeast region in June. Like last time, the ideas for conservation were so great and diverse that I wanted to share them with you!

Like their colleagues in northwest B.C., staff from the northeast part of our region were recently asked to contribute “bright ideas” they had for energy-saving opportunities or other sustainability-related improvements in their workplace. The diversity and quality of ideas that we received were truly impressive! I’m excited to share these ideas to inspire and motivate your own creative energy-saving thinking and want to thank everyone who contributed an idea!

All of the entries I saw demonstrated a strong awareness of energy conservation and sustainability in the workplace. How might you conserve energy at home or at work?

Pie chart displaying campaign themes

The “Bright Ideas” for conservation that Les heard from Northern Health staff in the northeast region represented nine major themes, with ideas for action on lighting, waste, and heating & air conditioning leading the way.

Here’s a summary of the results:

  • 36 total entries (many of which included multiple ideas!)
  • 9 major themes emerged: lighting, waste & recycling, heating and cooling (HVAC), water, equipment, computers, carpooling, patient care and security.

Here’s a sample of some of the great ideas that were submitted:

From staff in Fort St. John:

Have offices compete with energy use and energy savings. Quarterly, release the amount of money and energy saved per office to all sites [and] use competition as a way to reduce energy use in the office.

Replacing [our large fridge] with a smaller energy efficient model would lead to energy savings and space savings!

From a staff member in Dawson Creek:

Upgrade light switches to motion activated switches, including in patient rooms.

Have signs in rooms or on the door as we are leaving a room saying please turn out the light. I think that a little reminder as you leave the room will help remind those who tend to forget.

A staff member in Hudson’s Hope had some similar “bright ideas” about turning lights off.

From a staff member in Fort Nelson:

Turn off all computers when not in use for an extended period of time.

Composting for all food scraps.

If one is using individual air conditioning/heating, turn off when space isn’t in use or up so it doesn’t come on when one is not there.

Install foot pedals for all sinks so they turn off once one isn’t using it.

Recycling program for all facilities.

Replace all paper towel with efficient hand driers.

Require all companies that ship to us to use as little packaging as possible.

I’m wrapping up the Bright Ideas campaign for the last of Northern Health’s three areas – the Northern Interior – now. Stay tuned for the results!

Les Sluggett

About Les Sluggett

Les Sluggett is Northern Health’s energy manager, which sees him supporting facility managers in Northern Health to explore and understand energy conservation through technologies and programs. His efforts help facilities personnel to be more energy efficient so that patients are comfortable in a reliable and safe environment. In his spare time, Les attends his local YMCA or heads outdoors skiing in the winter and canoeing & travelling in the summer. At home as at work, Les tries to reduce waste and be more energy efficient.

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Change Day – what’s your pledge?

Bulletin board with Change Day materials

Change Day is about trying something new or doing one small thing to improve care. Have you pledged yet?

My first introduction to Change Day was at the Quality Forum in Vancouver earlier this year. It was described as a global social movement with a simple premise: if you are involved with health, community or social care, try something new or do one small thing to improve care.

We were all invited to pledge to make just one small change that would improve the system for everyone. With the unveiling of a newly released Change Day video, there was a lot of hype and excitement in the room. However, I must admit that this was not when I truly felt inspired. That moment came when our CEO of Northern Health, Cathy Ulrich, stood up in this room filled with hundreds of people and pledged to “on a weekly basis, acknowledge a person or team who has undertaken a quality improvement initiative.” I remember thinking that this pledge was a such small act on her part, yet so powerful in terms of employee engagement!

I did not make my pledge that day; as I am, I needed some time to process what this meant for me. Several months later, I was listening to a presentation about culture and how it affects the change process when it struck me what my Change Day pledge would be. As I was learning about the importance of creating a culture of safety and how we need to lower the cost for speaking up and raise the cost for staying quiet, I had an “aha” moment. As I work with interprofessional teams to improve or develop new process, I always make an effort to hear everyone’s ideas and feedback. However, I knew that I could also create more space to encourage this. After all, they know best! Hence my Change Day pledge, “to be purposeful in seeking front-line opinions and ideas.

What’s your “one thing”? Make your pledge today!

Marna deSousa

About Marna deSousa

Marna has worked in Northern Health for 27 years. Her background is nursing and she currently works in Fraser Lake as a Care Process Coach and Practice Support Coach. In her spare time, Marna loves to be horseback riding and spending time at the cottage with family and friends.

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Back to school – don’t forget a strong immune system for your child!

Public health nurse

As you support your kindergarten child through these first few, nervous weeks, it’s important to think of what you can do to prepare their immune system for long-lasting strength!

Has it really been two weeks already? It’s hard to believe that we’re busy getting everyone organized for back to school again! For our kindergarten kids, that means learning a new routine, organizing and preparing their lunches and ensuring they have everything they need to be successful in this new environment.

But don’t forget the one thing they need that might not be on your list – a strong immune system! As you prepare your kindergarten child for school and support them through these first few, nervous weeks, it’s important to think of what you can do to prepare their immune system for long-lasting strength!

The immunization program in B.C. recommends that children aged 4-6 receive their boosters of tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, polio, varicella (chicken pox), measles, mumps, and rubella. For some children, it’s also recommended that they boost their protection against hepatitis A. The list of diseases we need to protect our kindergarteners against seems daunting, but don’t worry! Many of these immunizations are now made into combined formulations, which means fewer injections for your child. For most kindergarten kids, only three injections are needed to protect them against all of these diseases.

You may also be wondering what your local public health nurse is doing to prepare for the new school year. We are busy collecting demographic data from your child’s school and calling you to inform you of the various kindergarten blitzes or health fairs that are happening in your community. As a public health nurse, I take pride in ensuring that you have easy access to the clinics so that your child receives all the protection they need as they enter school this year. If you can’t make it to one of these community events, don’t worry because we are happy to see you in our regular clinics, too!

So, while you are actively preparing your kindergarten child for school and hearing their exciting tales of the first few days in class, don’t forget that your public health nurses and primary health care providers are also preparing to assist you in protecting your child against many harmful diseases that still circulate today! Let us make it easy for you to do the very best for your child, because I know that’s one less thing you have to worry about – especially when you might just want to focus on the excitement of your child entering kindergarten this year!

Contact your local health unit or usual primary health care provider to find out if your child’s immunizations are up-to-date. You can also visit Northern Health or ImmunizeBC for more information on vaccine-preventable illnesses and immunizations.

Lara Frederick

About Lara Frederick

Lara is a public health nurse currently working in Dawson Creek. She is currently completing her master's of nursing and enjoys volunteering for the Canadian Cancer Society and her workplace wellness committee. Lara loves to travel and one of her favorite places has been Turkey. She loves to go snowshoeing and cross-country skiing and also loves walking around exploring the outdoors with her two dogs.

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What would you change?

Person holding a pledge sign

Marlene from Northern Health has also made a pledge. What are you waiting for?

Every day, I come to work and I’m pretty happy. I enjoy the work that I do and the people I work with. But, every now and again, I notice things – small things – that could make our lives just a little better. These things are in my control, but then life gets busy or I don’t see others making an effort, so I don’t either. But … what if I did?

Every day, there are little things. Washing the dirty dishes that accumulate in the lunch room, or cleaning the fridge (I know, right?!). I also think about going out of my way to smile a little more and take a minute to say “good morning,” but I don’t want to bother people. But, would they be bothered?

Sometimes I notice things that could make a difference for the people we serve. For example, people get lost in my building regularly. When I see them wandering around looking lost, what if I went up to them and offered them directions? On this blog, we often post lots of health-supporting information developed by our experts within Northern Health, but what if I got two or more of these people together? Maybe we could develop information that is more appropriate for some of the people to whom we provide health information? Could I provide that information in a more accessible or interesting way?

What if I introduced myself by name to the next person who I respond to online? I wonder how that would make them feel? Maybe I could relieve some anxiety they may have for asking questions about our organization?

What do you need to make these changes?

Right now, there is a global movement happening to support small, helpful changes in the workplace. Started by the National Health Service in the U.K. in 2013, Change Day encourages people like me to commit to making one small change. The idea is that the movement builds on the ideas that I have about how I can make my workplace better for me, my colleagues, and those we serve. This isn’t about big, system-level change (though, who knows?! It may lead to that!). This is about changes that I can make today.

This isn’t only limited to Northern Health. This is open to all of us who work in the health, social, and community care sector in B.C. And, really, the principle is applicable to us all in our work and personal lives.

So, I took the leap. I decided to make a change. I publicly made my pledge at changedaybc.ca. As of today, Northern Health has 79 pledges of a total of 864 pledges. I know that when Northerners put their hearts into something they want, there is no stopping them.

What is stopping you from pledging today?

Chelan Zirul

About Chelan Zirul

Chelan Zirul is the Regional Manager for Health Promotions and Community Engagement for Northern Health. As a graduate from UNBC, she did her Master's of Arts in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies. She explored regional development decision-making and is an advocate for policy that is appropriate for the needs of northerners. This, combined with her personal interest in health and wellness, drew her to work in health communications. Born in northern B.C., she takes advantage of the access to outdoor living. She enjoys hunting and exploring the backcountry with her dog and husband and enjoys finding ways to use local foods.

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Bright ideas for conservation from Northern Health

After reviewing the survey that I shared with you on Earth Day yesterday, I learned just how committed Northern Health staff are to energy conservation! It was great to see the number and diversity of responses from all over the Northern Health region.

To move this passion into action, I recently put out a call to staff in the northwest region for “bright ideas” – any suggestions that they had for conservation improvements. The breadth and depth of ideas that we received was truly impressive and we thank everyone who participated for contributing! Staff in the northwest had some great ideas that I wanted to share to inspire your own conservation thinking! How might you conserve energy in your home or workplace?

Pie chart of survey results

The “Bright Ideas” for conservation that Les heard from Northern Health staff represented eight major themes, with ideas for action on lighting, computers, and equipment leading the way.

Here is a summary of the results:

  • 40 total entries
  • 8 major themes: lighting, computers, equipment, heating and cooling (HVAC), water, recycling, laundry and paper

Here is a sample of some of the great ideas that were submitted.

From staff in Dease Lake & Kitimat:

Replacing exterior and street lights with high efficiency LED lights.

It is estimated that lighting makes up about one-third of a typical institution’s energy consumption – think of all those thousands of dollars to save!

From Prince Rupert:

Creating a pod-based recycling system with designated spots for paper recycling and other materials.

A staff member in Houston submitted many ideas including turning off cooking equipment overnight or when not in use in kitchens and creating reminder notes to turn off taps completely to save water.

We heard great ideas from Smithers:

Looking at ways to reduce laundry use when carrying out exams, such as making gowns optional or by request, and sizing sheets to fit exam tables to reduce excess material adding to laundry generated.

Creating reminders and promotions to encourage staff to turn off lights in unused spaces to reduce energy waste.

Staff in Terrace submitted many ideas including reviewing insulation along water pipes, installing insulated foam along all water pipes to conserve energy, and installing programs to log off computers when not in use.

From Kitimat:

On a weekly basis, vacuuming registers and vents to prevent the air flow from being blocked.

From Queen Charlotte City:

Creating a comprehensive strategy to look at resource utilization at facilities focusing on heating, electricity, solid waste and water utilization, and tracking energy data across sites.

And from a staff person in Terrace:

Taking the stairs instead of the elevator to save energy and get exercise.

Stay tuned for more Bright Ideas from other regions – I’ll be launching a northeast contest in June!

Bright Ideas Contest graphic

What is your “Bright Idea” for conservation?

Les Sluggett

About Les Sluggett

Les Sluggett is Northern Health’s energy manager, which sees him supporting facility managers in Northern Health to explore and understand energy conservation through technologies and programs. His efforts help facilities personnel to be more energy efficient so that patients are comfortable in a reliable and safe environment. In his spare time, Les attends his local YMCA or heads outdoors skiing in the winter and canoeing & travelling in the summer. At home as at work, Les tries to reduce waste and be more energy efficient.

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Northern Health staff conserve energy – how about you?

Infographic with survey results.In my role as energy manager, I get to hear all about how Northern Health staff members feel about energy conservation!

Earlier this year, over 1,200 staff members from Haida Gwaii to Valemount responded to an energy conservation survey – a great response that shows just how much we northerners care about energy conservation (97% of respondents thought energy conservation was important) and protecting our beautiful environment!

Here are the top 5 insights I found valuable from the survey:

  • 87% of respondents turn off all lights when possible.
  • 79% of respondents close windows and doors when heating or air conditioning is on.
  • 75% of respondents use the stairs instead of the elevator (which is a great way to sneak in some physical activity at work, too!).
  • 96% of respondents practice energy conservation at home.
  • 72% of respondents practice energy conservation at work.

I’m excited to keep tracking our progress as we work towards improving our energy conservation through increased awareness and action. The money saved from all of Northern Health’s energy conservation efforts can be moved from heating facilities to healing patients!

How do you conserve energy in your home or workplace?

 

Les Sluggett

About Les Sluggett

Les Sluggett is Northern Health’s energy manager, which sees him supporting facility managers in Northern Health to explore and understand energy conservation through technologies and programs. His efforts help facilities personnel to be more energy efficient so that patients are comfortable in a reliable and safe environment. In his spare time, Les attends his local YMCA or heads outdoors skiing in the winter and canoeing & travelling in the summer. At home as at work, Les tries to reduce waste and be more energy efficient.

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