Healthy Living in the North

“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.


Introducing a unique book on Indigenous determinants of health

Two book editors sitting behind poster of book cover.

What began as a casual conversation over breakfast is now a valuable book on Indigenous determinants of health. Photo courtesy of UNBC.

Have you ever had one of those “aha!” moments over morning toast and coffee? I’m so glad that three B.C. scholars had one such moment back in 2011! Because of their exchange of ideas over a casual breakfast, we now have access to a unique new collection of Indigenous perspectives on health and well-being in northern B.C. and Canada more broadly. I’m excited to tell you about it!

I will begin by introducing the concept of social determinants of health. According to the World Health Organization, they are “the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age. These circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels” and “are mostly responsible for health inequities – the unfair and avoidable differences in health status” between groups.

To set the stage, by 2011 when the book was first imagined, a “social determinants of health” framework was increasingly accepted as important for understanding why different groups of people have different health outcomes and why this is unfair. But there were also limits to the conversations, particularly as they related to Indigenous peoples’ health. For example, colonialism was yet to be fully and consistently recognized as a significant determinant of Indigenous peoples’ health. As well, much of the research on the social determinants of Indigenous peoples’ health was a subsection of broader work instead of a unique area for sustained focus. And it was often conducted by non-Indigenous people.

So, casually over breakfast at a conference one autumn morning in 2011, Drs. Margo Greenwood, Sarah de Leeuw and Charlotte Loppie (Reading) conceived of an idea for a ground-breaking book that would address these limits. It would be about a broader understanding of determinants of Indigenous health in Canada and it would be a unique compilation of ideas, perspectives, and stories written primarily by Indigenous people. The three of them decided over breakfast to work together to make that book a reality!

They began to brainstorm Indigenous scholars, activists, clinicians, and community leaders who would likely have something to say about First Nations, Métis and Inuit well-being in Canada. Sometime later, after chapters had begun to pour in, Indigenous artists were also invited to contribute works that sought to creatively illuminate questions about Indigenous health. Poems, short stories, and reproductions of contemporary totem poles were added to the research contributions.

And then, in August this year, what started as a breakfast chat was published as Determinants of Indigenous Peoples’ Health in Canada: Beyond the Social, edited by Greenwood, de Leeuw, Reading and Lindsay (Canadian Scholars’ Press, 2015). This book is an invitation to think about health inequities lived by Indigenous people in Canada through the voices, stories and experiences of Indigenous people.

Explaining why this book is important, Greenwood said:

These are stories that document resilience, strength, and solutions from a health context, offering a richness of information far beyond what we would ordinarily see in discussions centred only on the basic social determinants of health.

In de Leeuw’s words:

What makes this book special is that it is has been written by Indigenous people about Indigenous people and their viewpoints on health. It also provides an artistic lens on health issues rarely seen in academic medical texts. The book includes creative voice in the form of poems, stories and other art that provide a unique and serious reflection on health status.

I wanted to share this book with you because these issues impact all of us and I believe that a better understanding of Indigenous perspectives of health and well-being can make a difference in all of our work, our communities, and our lives!

Determinants of Indigenous Peoples’ Health in Canada: Beyond the Social can be ordered through your local bookstore or online through Canadian Scholars’ Press. The book was supported through the National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health (NCCAH) with funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

All royalties from the book are going to the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada.

Media Coverage

This blog post was informed by an article from the NCCAH.

Hilary McGregor

About Hilary McGregor

Hilary is the Lead of Knowledge Translation and Community Engagement for Aboriginal Health. She feels privileged to work for Northern Health, particularly within this department, because she gets to apply her passion for creativity, critical thinking, and quality to important issues related to health equity for Indigenous people in the north. Hilary is grateful for the opportunity to live on the beautiful traditional territory of the Lheidli T’enneh in Prince George, where she keeps busy renovating an older home, playing with her young nephew and niece, walking her feisty chihuahua, gardening and taking in the surrounding outdoors.


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.


Staff profile: Donna Anderson

Woman in belly dancing outfit posing in front of mural.

Donna’s passion for music and dance have been a great way to stay healthy and see the world! How do you stay active?

A mother of two and grandmother of four, Donna Anderson currently lives and works in Dawson Creek. Donna’s passion for music and dance has taken her around the world and helps her to create a healthier workplace at Dawson Creek and District Hospital.

For the most recent issue of A Healthier You magazine, I asked Donna a few questions about her role at Northern Health, her love of dance, and how northern B.C. supports her health and wellness.

Tell me a little bit about yourself and your role at Northern Health.

For the last nine years, I’ve worked in several clerking positions at Dawson Creek and District Hospital. I was hired as an admitting clerk/switchboard operator, but also worked in diagnostic imaging and as a medical/surgical unit clerk. I have loved every department that I’ve worked in! I’m back as an admitting clerk now and am happy meeting the constant flow of people this position involves!

My passion is music in all its forms – and moving to that music! Music has always been more than just a part of my life – it’s a huge part of who I am. As a child, I marched with baton in parades and took tap and ballet lessons along with voice, piano and guitar. Music brings such great opportunities! My grandfather was an original member of the North West Mounted Police Musical Ride and, in July 1902, his Musical Ride went to England to represent Canada at the coronation of King Edward VII. I, too, have had the great fortune of having my musical involvement take me to many places across Canada and the world! As a teen, for example, I was part of a program to entertain throughout Europe and Russia, including our Canadian troops in Germany.

Woman standing in canola field

The beautiful colors of one of Donna’s belly dancing costumes is especially striking against Dawson Creek’s yellow canola fields. Donna’s dancers, Troupe Shalize, take part in many community events in Dawson Creek.

I try to create a healthy and fun workplace by sharing my passion for moving to music with my colleagues. Some of the ladies I work with come to belly dance sessions when they can, even if it’s just dropping in when their shifts allow. Also, some of us were taking a companion hula hooping class. On our lunch breaks, we would go to the gym and hoop to music for a half-hour!

What do you do to live a healthy life?

Belly dancing is a perfect fit for me! It’s different from most other physical activities and is perfect for all ages, sizes and abilities!

The core of belly dance is posture and the isolation of specific muscle movements. By repeating and alternating various movements and putting in a little footwork, you get a pretty good cardio workout with no impact! Add in a mesmerizing costume topped off with a beautiful smile and you have a belly dancer who connects to her mysterious and ancient past!

I’ve had the privilege of taking belly dancing lessons and workshops and performing at various places across Western Canada and elsewhere. Can you imagine taking a belly dance cruise? I’ve been on two!

As a belly dancer, I also dance with various props, including candles, swords, veils, Isis wings and shamadan (chandelier worn on the head) so I get an extra workout from the balance and extensive arm work! Middle Eastern music is so different from the music I grew up with – I love the varied rhythms and instruments – so it’s a good exercise for the brain, as well! For another physical and mental challenge, I’ve added Egyptian and Iranian folk dances recently.

Two dancers standing in front of Dawson Creek sign.

Dawson Creek has it all – an active performing arts community, jaw-dropping scenery, wildlife, outdoor activities, and more!

What do you enjoy about living in Dawson Creek that supports your personal health and wellness?

The performing arts community here is one of Dawson Creek’s worst-kept secrets! I’m thrilled to be working with an amazing and fun group of dancers. My dancers, called Troupe Shalize, are proud to be invited to participate in many community events.

Want something besides dancing? There’s so much to explore in the Peace Country! The scenery is jaw-dropping, the sky is endless blue, and the fields are a gorgeous patchwork. It’s all here and you never know what you’ll see or find! I found a fossil while exploring the banks of the Kiskatinaw River, I’ve seen moose, bear, coyotes and swans while quadding and horseback riding, and the flyover of geese each spring and autumn remains a thrill! You’ll never know what you’re missing if you don’t come to Dawson Creek!

A version of this story first appeared in the August 2015 issue of A Healthier You.


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.


Staff profile: Shelly Crack

Certificate presented to staff person.

Shelly Crack recently celebrated 10 years of service with Northern Health!

In every issue of A Healthier You, I have the pleasure of profiling a member of Northern Health’s amazing and diverse staff team. For our recent issue on local food, one name kept popping up when I was looking across our vast region for staff members with a passion in this area: Shelly Crack, a community dietitian on Haida Gwaii.

Shelly is a champion of local food who, amongst other things, works with local schools to support students to grow, harvest, prepare, and eat healthy, local food. She recently celebrated ten years of service with Northern Health and was also recently presented, along with fellow Northern Health staff member Christopher Horner, with a 2015 Citizen of the Year Award by the Masset Haida Lions Club.

Earlier this year, I had the chance to connect with Shelly to learn more about her interest in local food, her life on Haida Gwaii, and the programs that she supports. This profile was originally published in the May 2015 issue of A Healthier You.

Family photo

Shelly’s family values growing, gathering, and eating local food.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your role at Northern Health.

For the last 10 years, I have been a community dietitian on Haida Gwaii. This is my first job out of school and I love it! After seven years of travelling and working between Hazelton and Haida Gwaii, I settled on the north end of Haida Gwaii where I currently live with my wife, our two children and an incredible community of friends.

Amongst other things that I do as the community dietitian, about five years ago I began to connect with the provincial Farm to School program. Through that program, we connect directly with local producers to bring food grown, harvested, gathered, and hunted on Haida Gwaii into schools. At this point, every school on island is engaged with Local Food to School and some schools have local ingredients included in every menu item.

We recently received a Healthy Communities grant from Northern Health to grow this program. We’ll be able to bring local, traditional food into the hospital for special events, continue to support local hot lunch and experiential learning programs, and create a local food pantry in Masset where local food can be sourced, sold, processed, preserved, and distributed to food programs.

In addition to being the community dietitian, I also coordinate the chronic disease management program in Masset. Working in both of these roles is motivating because as a dietitian, I work directly with individuals with chronic disease and with the local food system aiming to improve nutrition of the entire community. For me, healthy, local, sustainable food is one of the key tools that we have to combat chronic illness.

Family in a kayak

During a three-week paddling trip of Gwaii Haanas National Park, Shelly, her wife, and two year old daughter dehydrated 21 days’ worth of food – most of which came from their garden!

What are some of the best features of Haida Gwaii and the north coast that support local food?

Local food is deeply valued on Haida Gwaii – it is one of the reasons why people live here! It is so amazing to see how my interest and passion for local food is matched with other peoples’ energy. The local food movement is happening island-wide and so many people – the Haida, local fisheries, teachers, students and others – are involved in bringing local food programs to life. There’s just so much momentum!

This is also a beautiful place for food! There are hundreds of pounds of chanterelles in our forests and an amazing bounty of fish and seafood. When I was pregnant with my son, my wife, two year old daughter and I paddled in Gwaii Haanas National Park. The trek took us three weeks and to prepare, we dehydrated 21 days’ worth of food, most of it taken right from our garden. We fished and ate locally the whole way!

Two plates with local food items

Mushrooms, berries, and bountiful fish and seafood are just some of the local food options on Haida Gwaii, “a beautiful place for food”, where local food is deeply valued.

What do you do to live a healthy life?

My family values growing, gathering, and eating food but in addition to local food, I stay active. Whether it’s biking to work, walking on the beach, practising yoga, kayaking, or camping on weekends, I love the peacefulness that sets Haida Gwaii apart from busy centres.

My community also supports my health. My family shares land, a garden, food preparation, and child care responsibilities with another family. This co-operative support and strong social connectedness on Haida Gwaii supports health.

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.


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 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.


A healthy environment benefits all!

Booth in the hospital with energy use questions.

Northern Health is committed to reducing energy use and improving efficiency in facilities. How do you conserve energy at home?

British Columbia is one of the most beautiful places on the planet, and we at Northern Health are aware of our impact on the environment. If you have been to Northern Health facilities recently, you might have noticed some of the energy-saving practices we have been implementing and, with the help of all Northern Health staff, we want to continue to be conscientious caretakers of the environment.

Where economically and practically feasible, we are continuing to search for ways to be more environmentally aware. Being considerate of the ecological cost of operations will benefit not only Northern Health as an organization, but also our communities, patients, and staff. The choices we make today impact the long term – and we want to be sure that we can keep enjoying the incredible quality of life here in northern B.C.!

Energy and environmental sustainability

Energy conservation efforts at Northern Health are supported by BC Hydro and FortisBC, both through supporting our energy management team and through incentives for equipment upgrades. The focus is to reduce energy use, reduce operating costs, and improve the efficiency of facilities.

We can see this energy management clearly in renovations and upgrades like lighting changes, boiler improvements, and improved building controls and programs. Energy improvement is also part of the design of new construction projects like the recently-opened Lakes District Hospital and Health Centre in Burns Lake.

Northern Health energy performance

The process of improving energy use in facilities typically begins with a detailed energy study. Engineers visit our facilities to review their situation and to propose energy conservation measures.

Since 2011, energy studies have been carried out at 30 facilities across northern B.C.

The biggest overall project, and one of the first, was a massive lighting upgrade across all of Northern Health. All of the incandescent bulbs and old fluorescent fixtures were replaced with more efficient fixtures and bulbs.

Since then, new technology such as LEDs, more efficient boilers, automated dampers, schedules to reduce heating at night in unoccupied areas, motion sensors in offices, and reduced lighting in hallways and stairways continue to be introduced to facilities.

The economic results

With the changes so far, Northern Health has reduced electricity consumption by 10% and natural gas consumption by 15%. This translates as dollars that can be spent on health care instead of energy.

Enough electricity has been saved each year to power more than 500 houses. Annual natural gas savings would provide enough fuel for 10,000 round trips between Prince George and Edmonton in a family-sized sedan.

With the measures we’ve implemented since January 2010, Northern Health has been able to avoid $5 million in energy costs!

What else are we doing?

  • Joining with partners and collaborating with other health authorities to reduce energy usage and implement more sustainable practices.
  • Investigating emerging technologies for possible implementation with Northern Health.
  • Remaining current on environmental trends.
  • Giving preference to using environmentally sensitive products and services.
  • Continuing with Power Smart initiatives like the Continuous Optimization Program.

What can you do?

Northern Health cares about our patients, staff and the natural resources of our beautiful province, and we want to continue to ensure the health of all!

As Northern Health continues to operate as an environmentally-conscientious member of the northern B.C. community, we ask everyone to help us achieve our goals! We want to create a sustainable future and a healthy, happy lifestyle for all, because Northern Health Matters!

Read more about Northern Health’s Green Initiatives.

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.


Living with a dietitian

Young woman eating a dish in a restaurant.

Dietitians are a great resource to make sure that you are getting everything that you need to make your body function the way it should! Ashley was lucky enough to live with a dietitian for a while and shares her experience!

One of the best things that has ever happened to me and something that I highly recommend to anyone for whom it is possible is to live with a dietitian. I had a roommate who was a dietitian intern for Northern Health last year and it was seriously life-changing. She got my butt into gear by making me think about almost everything that I put into my body by simply asking me to consider what that food is giving me. Is it protein? Vitamins? Calcium? More often than not, my answer was: I have no idea, but it tastes really good. That’s totally fine – healthy eating should be enjoyable and balanced – but she was able to show me new recipes that tasted amazing while giving my body everything that it needed to function properly. As an added bonus, I had more energy and healthy, shiny hair! Sign me up!

For example, did you know that you can make brownies from black beans? Oooey, gooey brownies! Or that you can make ice cream from frozen bananas, peanut butter, cocoa, and cashews? I also learned that you can use ground white beans to make creamy soups instead of adding extra fat (like cream)!

Luckily for you, Northern Health has Foodie Friday blog posts and will be featuring tons of healthy eating information during the Eating 9 to 5 challenge so you may not need to rent out that spare bedroom just yet! Getting tips and recipes like these on a regular basis through blogs and Facebook helps to keep you thinking about nutrition and healthy eating while also keeping your daily meals fresh and exciting. Tune in to the Northern Health Matters blog throughout the month of March as well as every other Friday for Foodie Friday and start eating more delicious, healthy food tonight!

Ashley Ellerbeck

About Ashley Ellerbeck

Ashley has been a recruiter for Northern Health since 2011 and absolutely loves her job and living in northern B.C. Ashley was born and raised in Salmon Arm and then obtained her undergraduate degree at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops before completing her master's degree at UNBC. When not travelling across Canada recruiting health care professionals, Ashley enjoys being outside, yoga, cooking, real estate, her amazing friends, and travelling the globe.


Canada Winter Games: An opportunity for health legacy

Northern Health staff with mascot at 2015 Canada Winter Games venue

The Northern Health team has been visiting 2015 Canada Winter Games venues to share healthy living information with residents and visitors. From concussion awareness to knowledge of physical activity guidelines, the health legacy of the Games will have a positive impact for years to come!

The 2015 Canada Winter Games are in full swing in Prince George and it has truly been an exciting time for the region. Talk of the Games legacy often focuses on sport promotion, physical facilities, cultural showcase, and economic impact. For Northern Health, however, we’ve spent time leading up to the Games looking at our health legacy. What could we offer our populations before, during, and after the Games? How will Northern Health leverage the excitement of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enhance the health and wellness of northern B.C.?

  • IMAGINE: Legacy Grants: In the spirit of the 2015 Canada Winter Games, the IMAGINE grants placed special attention on projects that promote increased physical activity. Grants were awarded to 89 amazing community-based projects in 34 northern communities, totalling $279,870 for health promotion!
  • Smoke-Free Games Proclamation: Northern Health partnered with the 2015 Canada Winter Games, the City of Prince George and Promotion of Wellness in Northern BC to create and support a policy for safe, smoke-free environments for all athletes and spectators taking in the Games. Our goal is to continue these efforts with Prince George and other municipalities to enhance smoke-free bylaws for our northern populations.
  • Northern Safe Sport Tour: With provincial partners, we delivered 15 sport injury prevention and concussion management workshops to coaches, teachers, and parents throughout northern B.C. from June to December 2014. We also rolled out Concussions Matter, a campaign to further create awareness around concussions for medical professionals and community members.
  • Community Health Stars: The first three community health stars helped to launch this new program and were awarded torchbearer spots in the Canada Winter Games torch relay. This program will continue to shine a light on individuals who make tremendous differences in the health of their communities.
  • Growing for Gold: An early start with breastfeeding can contribute to our children “growing for gold!” This legacy program provides decals for businesses and facilities that commit to welcoming and supporting breastfeeding mothers and families. Look for these decals in your community!
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.


Excellence in Northern Health nursing: Valerie Waymark & Leslie Murphy

Last week, I had the privilege of introducing you to two Northern Health nurses who received Nursing Excellence Awards from the College of Registered Nurses of British Columbia in 2014. This week, I am excited to share the insights of two more award winners, Valerie Waymark and Leslie Murphy, who shared their thoughts on the award and on working in northern B.C.

Valerie Waymark holding award

Valerie Waymark, regional manager of community care facilities licensing, was one of six Northern Health nurses recognized by the College of Registered Nurses of British Columbia in 2014.

Valerie Waymark, regional manager, community care facilities licensing, Prince George

What does this award mean to you?

This award carried a lot of meaning and poignancy for me. Over 15 years ago, I decided to get more involved in the professional group that was to become the CRNBC. I was elected to the board for two terms. I learned so much over those terms and my position on the board gave me the chance to be involved in past award galas. One year, I pinned corsages onto the award winners; another year, I handed the recipients their roses as they walked onstage. As I was helping out at those galas, I’d often think: “Wouldn’t it be cool to get that award?” And now, over ten years later, I was one of the nurses walking across the stage!

For me, there was so much synchronicity getting this award, this year. This is the last year that the CRNBC will be giving out the awards (the awards are being transferred to the Association of Registered Nurses of BC) so it was really poignant, given my past involvement in the CRNBC, to be part of this final group of CRNBC award recipients. It was also special to see that the awards in 2014 were presented by Rob Calnan, who was the president of the organization during one of my terms on the board. I hadn’t seen Rob since my time on the board so to be recognized by Rob and the CRNBC in the last year that this would be possible was quite special.

The award also feels special because it confirms the values that I hold near and dear. For years, I’ve been persistent about sticking to my personal values related to leadership so to be recognized by my peers feels very validating.

And, sadly, my husband passed away less than two months after the awards ceremony. He was with me for the presentation and I know he was very, very proud. That is a memory I will hold close to my heart for many years to come.

What do you enjoy most about working in northern B.C.?

I have lived and worked all over the place but have been in northern B.C. for about ten years. What I find most distinctive is the opportunity that the region provides – doors open here that may not have opened elsewhere. Also, there are unique circumstances that make the job more challenging and more fun. For me, our region’s uniqueness is proven every time that I sit in on health care discussions with representatives from around the province. Whenever I’m at these meetings, people always seem to ask: “What is the northern perspective?” To me, the reason that this question keeps coming up is because people in the north have, and are not afraid to express, different viewpoints. I value and appreciate those differences.

I also feel like there is a different camaraderie in northern B.C. People here come together unlike any other region I’ve lived and worked in. I am inspired every day by the generosity and compassion of people in the north.

Leslie Murphy holding award

Leslie Murphy, manager of maternal child services, was one of six Northern Health nurses recognized with a CRNBC Nursing Excellence Award in 2014.

Leslie Murphy, manager of maternal child services, Prince George

What does this award mean to you?

It is such an honour to be recognized by your peers! The award was very humbling and, for me, this feeling was driven home at the gala event itself. I kept seeing the other award recipients and wondering how it was that I fit amongst them! I also found it really meaningful to see the letters of support that had been written for my nomination – and even more special to be able to share those letters with my mother, who was very proud. There were letters written by students I had mentored, physicians with whom I have worked, nursing mentors, and peers who have all played such integral parts in my career.

What do you enjoy most about working in northern B.C.?

I have worked with Northern Health in northern B.C. for my entire 22-year career so I can’t really compare it to anything else! What strikes me as special about the north, though, is that despite (and perhaps because of) the huge territory that Northern Health occupies, nurses get to develop strong relationships with others across the region. We share policy, procedures, insights, and experiences. I love getting requests for information and advice from across the province. It seems to me that northern nurses are able to work together despite geography and demographics, which I see as a testament to the spirit of collaboration and teamwork in northern B.C.

What’s more, I get to be a jack-of-all-trades! I love working in small, remote regions and try to encourage students to get a taste of rural nursing, like I had in my career.

In all, six Northern Health nurses won Nursing Excellence Awards: Lisa Cox, Celia Evanson, Linda Keefe, Leslie Murphy, Barb Schuerkamp, and Valerie Waymark. Visit the CRNBC website to read their full bios.

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.