Healthy Living in the North

Health is a journey, not a destination

Photo of man holding basketball

After a health screening, Duane Jackson took steps to improve his health and is sharing his story and tips to inspire other men.

This week is the 2nd Annual Canadian Men’s Health Week. It’s an excellent opportunity to look at some of the highlights of men’s health work in the north and to acknowledge some of the men who are making positive changes in their lives. I thought it would be a great time to share my interview with Duane Jackson.

Duane is Gitanmaax from Old Hazelton but has lived in Prince Rupert most of his life. Duane shared with me his story of how he has taken steps towards improving his health.

What motivated you to look at your health?

Every year, I do the health screening that is offered at the All Native Basketball Tournament. Two years ago, I was honoured to be the Male Role Model for both this initiative and the tobacco reduction program. I thought that this title should be more than just show! When I first did the testing, my blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels were all pretty high so I started taking steps towards lowering those by looking at what I was eating and by being more active. This past year, I went in and took the screening again and my blood sugar and blood pressure were lower but my cholesterol was twice as high as it was supposed to be. At 48 years old, this wasn’t something I was willing to simply look past and not take seriously.

What did you do?

It was recommended to me that I see my doctor and have further tests done. I booked an appointment right away and the tests came back with the same results. Between my doctor and I, we came up with the plan to lose 30 pounds over the next 6 months. I started walking to and from work every day. In fact, any time I had to go out, I walked. I cut caffeine completely out of my diet and my energy levels went up within the week. I started eating foods with healthier fats, like walnuts, to help with my cholesterol. I started checking labels for saturated fats and was surprised to find that some foods that we are being told are very healthy really aren’t. Check the label!

What changes have you noticed?

I haven’t really checked my weight but I can tell you that I have had to purchase new clothing as my other shirts were starting to hang off me and all of my pants are too big. I even pulled on a pair of pants that I had stopped wearing a while ago when they got too small! I am also looking to use the belt punch for the first time, well, ever.

I have started to see things differently, too. I thought that I had played my last game of basketball, but now I’ve purchased a new pair of shoes and am planning to make my 48-year-old comeback next season!

Any message you’d like to share with men?

As a very good friend pointed out to me, “You don’t know what you don’t know until you know you don’t know it.” I would recommend to all men to get the health screening done because I was feeling pretty healthy and the truth is that I wasn’t. As a father of three, I can say that knowing was my first step.

The steps afterward weren’t life-ending decisions, they were only a life change and, truthfully, not hard ones. I still have a treat every now and then and even treat myself to fast food occasionally – I just walk home afterward. Also, I don’t think that I’m aiming for the 30 pounds anymore, I’m simply aiming to be healthy. I won’t know when I’ve reached the pounds I wanted to lose, I’m fairly certain that this is my life from now on.

Haa’mii’yaa,

Duane

Feeling motivated yet? What things have you done this week to improve your health?

Doreen Bond

About Doreen Bond

A true Northerner, Doreen was born and raised in Prince Rupert and has lived in the north her whole life. She works in at the Public Health Unit in Prince Rupert as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator with Northern Health’s Population Health team. Doreen is passionate about tobacco reduction and has a strong interest in community development. Once contemplating a move to Vancouver Island, she chose to stay in Prince Rupert to raise her sons with everything the north has to offer. In her spare time, she loves sport fishing on the ocean, beachcombing on the white sandy beaches and hiking outdoors on the pristine mountain trails. When not at work, Doreen can be found at home, spending quality time with her family and friends and taking the odd bellydancing class.

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2014 All Native Basketball Tournament: More than a sporting event

Basketball painted with First Nations art

The 2015 All Native Basketball Tournament runs from Feb. 8-14 in Prince Rupert. In addition to the high-performance sport, the tournament is a place for connection, community, health, and culture to come together.

Unity, pride, and community: these are the off-court principles that push the All Native Basketball Tournament to its inarguable success. Held in Prince Rupert every February, 2014’s event drew thousands of spectators and 56 basketball teams from aboriginal communities across the north. Being held for over 50 years, it has the honour of being the longest-held sports event in B.C.

It is a destination and focus for northern communities, as the prestige associated with the tournament encourages healthy choices by team members, their families and supporters in the run-up to the games themselves. For many communities, the annual trip to the tournament is an important social and cultural event as they can gather with friends and families from other remote communities. The sport and cultural atmosphere is a powerful connection and place of belonging for the communities and Nations who attend.

Northern Health tobacco reduction sign that reads: "Basketball Yes, Tobacco No"

Northern Health has been involved in the All Native Basketball Tournament since 2006. If you are at the tournament this year, stop by and say hello!

Northern Health is proud to be part of the event since 2006, which started with one lone table on tobacco reduction. Since then, Northern Health’s presence has grown alongside of the tournament. In the past, we have offered a more clinical service through the offering of health screenings. In 2014, we sponsored and hosted a quiet space furnished with cozy furniture and low lighting. This space offered a retreat where Elders could rest in comfort, nursing moms could feed their babies in peace, and traditional stories were shared. Health screenings were still offered, but the focus was on the gathering and comforting space, rather than the clinical space. The space was reflective of supporting a complete healthy community; a way of integrating social and cultural gathering with health services. While the tournament is an important contributor to the health and well-being of northern First Nations, in 2014, for the first time, people spoke of the tournament as a place where, sport, culture and health comes together.


This article was co-authored by Theresa Healy and Doreen Bond and originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of A Healthier You.

Theresa Healy

About Theresa Healy

Theresa is the regional manager for healthy community development with Northern Health’s population health team and is passionate about the capacity of individuals, families and communities across northern B.C. to be partners in health and wellness. As part of her own health and wellness plan, she has taken up running and, more recently, weight lifting. She is also a “new-bee” bee-keeper and a devoted new grandmother. Theresa is an avid historian, writer and researcher who also holds an adjunct appointment at UNBC that allows her to pursue her other passionate love - teaching.

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