Healthy Living in the North

Pulmonary rehabilitation in Prince George

Patient on exercise bicycle monitored by physiotherapist

Pulmonary rehabilitation is a well-established, well-researched intervention to help people with chronic pulmonary diseases cope with shortness of breath, develop activity tolerance, and improve quality of life.

When Dianne Gagne first arrived to take part in the new pulmonary rehabilitation program in Prince George, she had to stop twice to catch her breath en route from the parking lot of the YMCA to the room inside where the program is run. “I couldn’t even shower without getting short of breath,” shared Gagne, whose shortness of breath is caused by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and other complications stemming from a fungal infection of her lungs that first appeared in her 20s.

Robin Roots, a physiotherapist, has seen this before. “For many people with a diagnosis of chronic pulmonary disease,” said Roots, “simply going to Walmart is not an option because of the walking requirement. They are left winded, short of breath, and unable to function.”

It is these challenges and more that the pulmonary rehabilitation program – a partnership between the YMCA of Northern BC, the UBC Department of Physical Therapy, and Northern Health – is working to address. And so far, as Dianne Gagne can attest, it seems to be working. “By the end, I could park and walk up to the room,” said Gagne. “I may never have my full lung function back – I was once an avid cross-country skier – but I’m noticing improvements. I can now do my daily chores without any issues and I’m walking for a full half-hour on the treadmill.”

Pulmonary rehabilitation is a well-established, well-researched intervention to help people with chronic pulmonary diseases cope with shortness of breath, develop activity tolerance, and improve quality of life. Pulmonary rehabilitation includes both an exercise component and education relating to proper disease management delivered by a team of health professionals, including physiotherapists, exercise physiologists, pharmacists, dietitians, respiratory therapists, and specialists.

“Exercise is really the distinguishing feature of this specialized program,” said Roots. “Each participant is assessed and receives an individualized program which is fully supervised. Participants take part in high intensity lower limb aerobic training, strengthening, and balance exercises. Because most participants are on oxygen and many are quite deconditioned, this exercise needs to be very closely monitored. We’ve got some participants on bicycles, some on arm cycles, some on treadmills. It’s all about understanding how much their body can do and designing exercises that increase their ability to take on daily living activities.”

For Gagne, the individualized program really stood out. “They scrutinize you very carefully,” said Gagne. “They would measure my oxygen levels, pulse, and blood pressure before and after exercises. If my oxygen saturation would fall below a certain level, the physiotherapists would stop me. They didn’t push me to do more than I could, but they did challenge me to do as much as I could! The exercise regimes they develop are specific to each individual. Some people were doing 2-3 minutes of activity, others were doing 45. The physiotherapists and students explain things at every step – they would tell me why I would be doing certain exercises.”

The pulmonary rehabilitation program has clearly had a positive impact on Gagne and the other participants. “Participants set their own goals,” said Roots, “and we try to get them there.” For many, the goal is simply to be able to better manage shortness of breath and to function day-to-day without getting short of breath – goals which can significantly improve quality of life. For Roots, however, the research points to an important system level benefit of the pulmonary rehabilitation program. “Research has shown that pulmonary rehabilitation can decrease emergency room visits for acute acerbations of COPD by 40 per cent. We know that there are approximately 300 hospitalizations for COPD per year in Prince George and that the average length of stay for someone with an acute exacerbation is nine days. There is also a readmission rate of 13 per cent. If we can reduce the number of ER visits and prevent hospitalizations, we can save the system a lot of resources.”

Gagne agreed: “This program is a preventive measure. It keeps you out of the hospital and teaches you how to look after your condition on your own.”

The pulmonary rehabilitation program in Prince George is an eight week program, with a cohort of 10-15 participants getting together twice weekly for exercises and education. Anyone with a diagnosis of chronic pulmonary disease can join the program, you just need to complete a pulmonary function test. You can access the rehabilitation program through your physician – ask them about it or tell them about it! Participants have come from as far as Smithers and work is underway to look at how the program can be made more accessible to people living outside of Prince George.

Patients on exercise bicycles monitored by physiotherapist

With one in four people likely to develop COPD in northern B.C., pulmonary rehabilitation programs have the potential to have a massive impact.

According to Roots, the pulmonary rehabilitation program in Prince George, which has received a lot of support from local respirologists Dr. Sharla Olsen and Dr. John Smith, is unique for a few reasons:

  • It represents a partnership between three organizations (a partnership that has also created a second program: cardiac rehabilitation).
  • UBC trains physiotherapy students in northern B.C. and the rehabilitation program offers a valuable site for clinical placements (“It’s win-win,” said Roots). The students provide a valuable service to the program participants while at the same time being trained under the supervision of a licensed physiotherapist.
  • While many pulmonary rehabilitation programs are run out of hospitals, this program is based in the community. This can help encourage participants to think about maintaining the gains they make in the program through active lifestyle opportunities right in the community.
  • The partnership has allowed for the program to be offered at very low cost to participants – just a $10 membership fee.

Both Roots and Gagne have a similar goal: they want more people to know about the program! With one in four people likely to develop COPD in northern B.C., pulmonary rehabilitation programs have the potential to have a massive impact.

“Without the program,” reflected Gagne, “I would be sitting at home, continually going downhill. And though these changes take time, I keep telling my doctors how fantastic the program was. I would like for more people to know about this program – it is available and is really helpful.”

COPD Support Group

Many participants in the pulmonary rehabilitation program see each other one more time each week through the Prince George COPD Support Group. I asked the group to tell me a bit about themselves and this is what the group’s treasurer, Nancy, shared:

The Prince George COPD Support Group, also known as the SOBs (Short of Breaths) gives those diagnosed with COPD (and any other lung issues) a place to learn how to cope with an unforgiving disease. Our group gets exercise directions from a licensed physiotherapist, who also gives informative chats on various issues related to the lungs. As members are all living with the same issues, we have a wealth of lay knowledge to fall back on and share with each other. We have coffee days where we often bring in speakers on a variety of subjects, which goes a long way towards educating us all. We are a dedicated group of boomers helping others as they help us. We are a fun group and invite new members to join – bringing a friend or family member is always welcome!

The group meets every Wednesday, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in the AiMHi Gymnasium in Prince George (950 Kerry Street).

What you need to know: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Although COPD is the most prevalent condition amongst pulmonary rehabilitation program participants, the program accepts people with any chronic pulmonary disease. Ask your doctor about pulmonary rehabilitation.

From HealthLinkBC.ca:

  • COPD is a lung disease that makes it hard to breathe.
  • COPD is most often caused by smoking. Other possible causes include long-term exposure to lung irritants, neonatal lung disease, and genetic factors.
  • COPD gets worse over time. While you can’t undo the damage to your lungs, you can take steps to prevent more damage and to feel better.
  • The main symptoms are a long-lasting cough, mucus that comes up when you cough, and shortness of breath.
  • At times, symptoms can flare up and become much worse. This is called a COPD exacerbation and can range from mild to life-threatening.

According to the Canadian Lung Association, “chronic lung disease accounts for more than 6% of annual health-care costs in Canada, and COPD is the leading cause of hospitalization.” COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in Canada. The Canadian Thoracic Society reports that a 2008 study “conservatively estimated the total cost of COPD hospitalizations at $1.5 billion a year.”


A version of this article was originally published in the summer 2017 issue of Healthier You magazine. Read the full issue – all about healthy lungs – on ISSUU!

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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Podcasters, meteorologists, physiotherapists, wildfire fighters, and more: The many faces of healthy lungs!

Magazine cover with physiotherapy student and pulmonary rehabilitation client.

Healthy lungs take centre stage in the latest issue of Healthier You magazine!

In reading through the latest issue of Healthier You, it becomes clear that respiratory health is a significant issue in northern B.C.

What is also clear, however, is just how many diverse programs, people, communities, and partners are coming together to better understand and take action on this issue. We can all play a role in promoting health, protecting healthy environments, and preventing lung disease!

Take a look through the latest issue of the magazine online or look for a hard copy of the magazine in local doctors’ offices, clinics, and Northern Health facilities near you! All past issues of Healthier You are also available online.

Here are just a few of the healthy lung stories you can read in Healthier You magazine:

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

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

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New issue of Healthier You: Community grants in action!

Magazine cover

The winter issue of Healthier You magazine is all about community grants in action.

What does it mean to support “healthy people in healthy communities”? That’s one of the questions that the latest issue of Healthier You magazine sets out to answer!

I really enjoyed reading through this issue and learning about the different ways that communities are taking actions that promote health and prevent disease.

Curious about what that means?

Take a look through the issue and you’ll find:

  • A local approach to preventing injury and promoting active transportation (Village of Queen Charlotte’s Bike Repair and Safety Program).
  • The Food Secure Kids program in the northeast challenging you to learn about food security through the experiences of students who are enjoying the taste of a carrot that they planted and grew themselves.
  • Local ideas that support healthier early years through Children First funded programs in Mackenzie & area, Prince George, Quesnel, and the Robson & Canoe Valleys.

Once these projects and others get you inspired to connect into healthy community projects where you live, don’t miss the issue’s handy information on:

Take a look through these stories online or look for a hard copy of the magazine in local doctors’ offices, clinics, and Northern Health facilities near you! All past issues of Healthier You are also available online.

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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Healthier You: Spring 2016

Cover of magazine

In the Spring 2016 issue of Healthier You, Minister Shirley Bond shares her thoughts on healthy living and more!

Have you seen the newest issue of Healthier You magazine yet?

I’m really excited about this issue because we were able to showcase some amazing voices to talk about women’s health in northern B.C.

Take a look through the issue and you’ll find:

  • Minister Shirley Bond – a grandmother, former Health Minister, and proud resident of northern B.C. – sharing her thoughts on healthy living, connecting with family, and taking small steps to live a healthier life.
  • Kitselas Councillor Judy Gerow reflecting on family, role models, spiritual health, and aging well.
  • Dr. Anne Pousette sharing her passion for physical activity and the unique role that northern B.C. residents played in contributing to a new provincial Physical Activity Strategy.

In addition to these inspiring women, the issue has stories about:

Take a look through these local stories below or look for a hard copy of the magazine in local doctors’ offices, clinics, and Northern Health facilities near 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.

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Staying active, eating well, and connecting with family and community: Healthy aging resources

Magazine cover with two seniors dancing

The new issue of Healthier You magazine is out now and it’s all about healthy aging!

Have you thought about your winter reading list yet? Make sure that the newest issue of Healthier You magazine is on it!

The new issue is all about healthy aging. It’s got lots of tips for seniors but what I found especially cool is how the magazine reminded me that we all have a role to play in healthy aging! Sharing stories across generations benefits everyone, young and old! Older adults can make a couple small changes to their physical activity routines to make their golden years safe and healthy. Seniors can draw on community centres and educators for resources on everything from sexual health to social dances. What can you do to support healthy aging?

For me, a few highlights in this issue are:

  • Healthy Aging with Dzi’is: As I read this story of how Jessie’s grandma embodied healthy aging, I immediately thought of some of the seniors in my life and how inspiring their community engagement, physical activity, stories, and traditions can be!
  • Brain Dance for Seniors: I love hearing about the great programs that are offered across northern B.C. The experiences of the “Brain Dance” participants made me want to connect with my local rec program to see what types of neat activities are on offer!
  • From Little Acorns…To me, the idea of seniors helping seniors in Fort St. James is such a cool model for healthy aging! I loved Theresa and Emily’s description of seniors in Fort St. James as “community assets” who play a key role in building strong relationships and enhancing the community’s health and well-being.

What was your favourite article? Check out the full magazine on ISSUU and remember that all past issues are also available online!

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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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.

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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.

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Attention parents! Do you have your back-to-school routines planned out?

Collage of kids going back to school.

Many thanks to the Northern Health nurses who sent in their family back-to-school photos! How can you make back-to-school healthy?

As summer holidays wind down, excitement of the new school year is on the horizon. Getting ready for back-to-school season can be a stressful and challenging time for parents and families. Establishing (or re-establishing) healthy routines is an important step to making the transition back to school happy and successful for the entire family.

Consistent routines help children to feel safe and secure and teach them to know what is expected of them. To establish routines, begin practicing them a couple of weeks prior to the start of school. Remember to be positive role models for your children. Getting a new school year off to a good start can influence their attitude, confidence, and performance both socially and academically.

Try to ensure that you incorporate healthy eating, physical activity, and adequate rest and sleep into your family routines as you gear up for school. Start each morning off with a nutritious breakfast for everyone. Evidence shows that kids who eat a healthy breakfast do better in school, have increased concentration and have more energy. Also remember that snacks and lunches can be just as healthy as breakfast! Involving children in planning and preparing their lunch provides a chance for them to learn about healthy eating.

Collage of kids going back to school

Many thanks to the Northern Health nurses who sent in their family back-to-school photos! How can you make back-to-school healthy?

Along with healthy eating, be sure to encourage your young ones to be physically active for at least 60 minutes every day. Spend time together being active as this will contribute to reducing screen time for yourself and your children. It also avoids unnecessary sedentary behaviour.

Ensuring that children get enough sleep (9-10 hours/night) is also important throughout the school year. Adequate sleep is essential to healthy growth and development. Sleep helps to promote alertness, memory and performance. This is why it is so important to establish consistent bedtime routines that will make it easier for your child to relax, fall asleep, and sleep through the night.

Remember that families are unique and there is no one-size-fits-all back-to-school routine. Choosing routines that will work for your family and sticking to them is what’s most important.

What does your back-to-school routine look like?

  • Make bedtime the same every night.
  • Plan for healthy meals.
  • Limit screen time.
  • Talk with your child every day.
  • Teach your child about safety.
  • Encourage independence.
  • Make homework a routine.
  • Prepare the night before.

This article was originally published in the August 2015 issue of A Healthier You magazine.

Karen Wonders

About Karen Wonders

Karen was born and raised in Ottawa and over the last 30 years has lived in various cities and communities in Alberta and B.C. She has a nursing degree from the University of Victoria and currently lives and works in Prince George as a Public Health Nursing Program Manager. Karen is a strong advocate for the health of children and youth with her primary focus being in the area of "healthy schools". She is a director on the board of the Directorate of Agencies for School Health, which adds great value and is complementary to her. In her spare time, Karen enjoys travelling, spending time with her family and friends, and taking long walks with her dog Theodore.

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It takes a community to raise a garden

Vanderhoof community garden.

The Vanderhoof Community Garden has evolved – and continues to evolve – into an amazing gathering space that celebrates local food, community, and knowledge sharing.

Since moving to Vanderhoof a couple of years ago, one of the neatest things that I’ve seen happen is the emergence of an amazing community garden from the ground up. Having seen community gardens in neighbourhoods in Victoria and Vancouver, I had a certain idea of what a space like this might look like. For me, the Vanderhoof Community Garden blew those expectations out of the water!

The very first line of Growing Together, a knowledge-sharing book created as part of the Vanderhoof Community Garden project, reads:

It takes a community to raise a garden.

For me, these simple words capture the essence of the Vanderhoof Community Garden and the journey that it has taken from a small idea to a space that celebrates local food, community, and learning.

When I spoke with Maya Sullivan, one of the drivers behind the Vanderhoof Community Garden, she shared her thoughts that “this is truly a community project … the fact that a small seed of an idea could become such an amazing space for connection, such a healthy community space, continues to amaze me.”

The story of the Vanderhoof Community Garden is one of dedicated volunteers, extensive partnerships, overcoming challenges, and celebration. The small seed that grew into this beautiful space was planted over 10 years ago when a small group of community members volunteered their time and energy to start a modest community garden near the Vanderhoof Community Museum. That particular location was never ideal – lots of moose, heavy clay soil, no space for tools, and spring runoff that washed away manure that had been tilled into the garden – but a number of passionate volunteers kept that project going for a number of years. After a particularly difficult spring in 2012 when melting snow created a creek through the garden that carried off valuable soil, the group went back to the drawing board.

It is from this drawing board that the current community garden, officially opened with a harvest celebration in September 2014, emerged. A look around at the grand opening event revealed a magnificent garden, a beautiful covered space to gather, two greenhouses, dozens of raised beds, on-site water and a wheelchair-accessible flush toilet, and hundreds of smiling community members. Partners had come together, volunteers devoted thousands of hours to planning and work bees, kids got their hands dirty, seniors shared their knowledge, and the end result was a beautiful space to gather, grow, share, and learn.

Three gardeners in a greenhouse

Knowledge-sharing aplenty happens in the Vanderhoof Community Garden. In the shared greenhouse space, gardeners get tips on how to prune suckers.

The garden is a place to work together

The list of project partners for the beautiful community garden in Vanderhoof is impressive. The Nechako Valley Food Network and their amazing volunteers provided the spark that began this project, the energy to keep pushing it forward, and a hub for interested individuals and groups to connect and collaborate. The Integris Community Foundation provided the first significant grant to breathe life into the idea. The District of Vanderhoof and School District 91 collaborated to find and donate a new site for the garden. The Farm to School program at WL McLeod Elementary School connected with the garden to produce local food for hot lunches. The Seniors Connected program became involved to improve accessibility in the garden, create mentorship opportunities, and share knowledge. Northern Health provided grant funding to support the initiative. Countless local businesses and volunteers donated time, materials, expertise, and labour to the project. The garden would not have happened without this support and, importantly, the garden continues to attract new partners, ideas, and projects.

The garden is a place for everyone

Early on in the project, accessibility was a key consideration. The raised beds – most of which were built by local high school students – were created to be wheelchair accessible and to minimize bending. The garden includes an accessible flush toilet, a covered structure for respite, and shared tools thanks to a recent donation. The raised beds and garden plots themselves are open to everyone who signs up at no charge. The community garden is successful in part because it has eliminated so many potential barriers to entry and welcomes gardeners of any age, skill level, neighbourhood, or income level.

The garden is a place to connect

The garden creates a space where people can connect, meet, and share knowledge. These people may not otherwise have a reason to meet but local food and the community garden provide that reason. The garden site supports this connection. It is central, close to schools and homes, and connects to the Vanderhoof community trail system.

The garden is a place to get away

With a beautiful view of the Nechako River and lots of space to enjoy, the garden is also a place for relaxation and quiet reflection. With nothing but the sound of the river to distract you, the garden provides a peaceful place for community members to spend a warm summer evening reconnecting with themselves and with nature.

Gardener holding a zucchini and watering plants.

There’s no shortage of fresh, delicious produce in the garden!

The garden is a place to grow

When talking to volunteer organizers and garden users, it is surprising how long it takes before the issue of food actually comes up! All of the connections, partnerships, and learning have created a bounty of local food! A walk through the raised beds and greenhouse structures reveals tomatoes, peppers, squash, leafy greens, strawberries, peas, carrots, beets, and more! There are plans for potatoes, fruit trees, and berry bushes this year. Individual gardeners take their bounty home and the students, parents, and teachers from WL McLeod Elementary School harvest their crops and spend a day preserving so that the kitchen staff can use them in hot lunches throughout the year.

Older woman showing a young girl how to sow seeds.

The garden is a place to learn! On any given day, you might see more experienced gardeners sharing their skills with first-time seed sowers!

The garden is a place to learn

On any given day in the Vanderhoof Community Garden, you might see a class of elementary school students with mentors, a group of seniors sharing their vast knowledge, or simply two people – previously strangers – swapping tips. Some of this learning has been formalized as the local Seniors Connected group created a book, Growing Together, that shares their collective 600 years of local gardening knowledge. There are plans to offer gardening workshops in the space this year.

With all of these amazing garden qualities, it’s no wonder that the garden organizers are still in awe of how far they’ve come. Maya sums it up this way:

This has truly evolved beyond my wildest dreams and it keeps evolving based on what different members of the community bring to it.

That evolution will surely be fun to watch, as despite all of the incredible successes of the Vanderhoof Community Garden thus far, there is still half of the garden site left to be cultivated and transformed. The growing, learning, sharing, and connecting have just gotten started!


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

 

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

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

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A Healthier You (May 2015)

Cover of A Healthier You

The May 2015 issue of A Healthier You is all about local food and gardening, with tips, tricks, and insights for the north, from the north!

If you’re anything like me, this week’s sunny weather – which seems to be warming every corner of our region – has you thinking about gardening. Since moving to northern B.C. a few years ago, I’ve come to realize that for many, the May long weekend is the opening day of gardening season. The other thing I’ve noticed is that local gardening knowledge can be hard to find! Sure, there are books about patio gardening in Vancouver or kitchen gardens on Vancouver Island, but our zones seem to be forgotten!

This is why I’m so excited that the newest issue of Northern Health’s quarterly healthy living magazine, A Healthier You, is now available. The issue, available online and in print in various locations around the north, is all about local food and gardening!

For me, a few highlights in this issue include:

  • Tips on how to make the most of our short growing season.
  • How gardening, berry-picking, and farmers market visits can help me get my minimum 150 minutes of weekly physical activity.
  • Valuable information on how to stay safe while fishing this spring and summer (because, let’s be honest, while the May long weekend is the start of gardening season for me, it’s the start of boating season for others!).
  • Some insights on how my humble garden might tie into big picture issues of food security and healthy communities.
  • A jealousy-inducing look at local food on Haida Gwaii.

I hope that you enjoy the newest issue of the magazine! And remember that all past issues are also available online!

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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