Healthy Living in the North

10 tips for a happy and healthy first five years

How can we ensure that our children, families, and communities are as healthy as possible? I had the chance to ask some Northern Health experts for their thoughts and here are ten tips (in no particular order!) that they shared.

Do you have ideas on growing up healthy in northern B.C.? We want to hear from you! Look for a free community meeting in your community or join the conversation online via Thoughtexchange!

10 tips for a happy and healthy first five years!

Child outside with sun glasses

Get outside and play, follow the routine immunization schedule, and model healthy eating are three of our 10 tips for a happy and healthy first five years! What can you do to ensure that our children grow up healthy in northern B.C.?

#1: Get outside and play

Children who play outside tend to have better health, spend more time playing, have better social interactions, are more creative, and have greater resiliency. Studies show that children who explore and take risks in supportive environments have the chance to figure out their own limits and do not see an increase in injuries.

#2: Wear the gear

Teach your child to keep their head safe. Put a fitted helmet on every time they tricycle, toboggan, bike, skate, or ski. Out on the water? Have your child in the right sized, fitted lifejacket for all water activities. Model safe behaviour yourself!

#3: Follow the routine immunization schedule

Immunization is one of the best ways to ensure your children stay healthy and are protected from certain vaccine preventable diseases. The routine immunization schedule ensures your child is protected as soon as they can be and is based on the best science of today. Learn more.

#4: Be aware of hazards

Scrapes and bruises won’t slow a child down for long, but serious injury can change their life forever. Identify and move anything that could burn, choke or poison your child. Move furniture away from windows. Lock up poisonous items like medicines, vitamins, alcohol, tobacco, and cleaning supplies. Keep hot liquids out of reach. Lower your tap water temperature to prevent scalds.

#5: Take time to give love, hugs, smiles and lots of reassurance

Emotional attachment is one of the keys to raising a happy, confident child. Ensure a close connection by spending time face-to-face with your baby each day, observing your baby, and getting down on the floor with your baby. Check out Vanessa’s article in Healthier You magazine for more tips.

#6: Raise children in tobacco-free families

Children who are exposed to second-hand smoke have increased health risks including respiratory problems and sudden infant death syndrome. They are also more likely to become smokers themselves. Reduce these risks in your family! Visit QuitNow.ca for resources to help you quit and access free nicotine replacement therapy products or medications through the BC Smoking Cessation Program.

#7: Find quality care

Looking for child care? Look for licensed child care providers who are warm, caring, respectful, and attentive to children’s individual needs. Daycare activities should recognize the value of play and happen in safe, well-planned environments that invite children to learn and grow. Learn more about licensing in the summer issue of Healthier You.

#8: Stop cavities and smile brightly

Brush children’s teeth daily with a rice-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Limit drinks and food to scheduled meal and snack times and use a lidless cup to drink water for thirst. Start regular dental visits at age one or after teeth start appearing. Learn more.

#9: Crawl, dance, and play your way to 180 minutes!

According to the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, children aged 1-4 should accumulate at least 180 minutes of physical activity at any intensity spread throughout the day. Try various activities – crawling, walking, playing outdoors, and exploring – that develop movement skills in different environments. As children age, play can get more energetic – progress toward at least 60 minutes of energetic play per day by age 5.

#10: Model healthy eating

Eat with your child whenever possible, as this helps them learn from you. Provide regular meals and snacks. Offer a variety of nutritious foods from all four food groups. Allow your child to decide if and how much they want to eat.

Learn more from trusted resources:

This article was originally published in Healthier You magazine. Check out the Summer 2016 issue below!

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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Setting SMART goals

This article was written with the support of Mandy Levesque and Marianne Bloudoff. Visit our contributors page for more information about all of our blog authors.


 

With shorter days and cooler temperatures upon us, many will consider spending more time inside. However, it’s important to keep in mind that our bodies need to keep moving to stay healthy!

We now have more information about how spending the majority of our time sitting is not good for our health. We know that decreased physical activity raises our risk for a number of chronic health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, and can also affect our mental health.

This time of year provides us with a good opportunity to consider physical activity levels, and these tips will help steer you in the right direction:

Set goals for yourself and your family to meet Canada’s Physical Activity Guidelines.

Adults need 150 minutes of activity per week. Break that down and it’s just over 20 minutes per day, which should be achievable for most people.

If you’re just starting out, start slow. You can even break the guideline down to bouts of 10 minutes at a time, gradually working your way up to meet the recommendations. The biggest goal for all of us is to move more and sit less every day!

These goals apply to children as well. To achieve health benefits, kids need 60 minutes of activity per day. Make physical activity a priority as a family and reduce sitting and screen time for everyone!

Table defining the SMART goal acronym and providing a sample active living goal.

SMART goals are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. What are your SMART goals for 2016?

Set SMART goals.

SMART goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

Grab a fitness buddy or activity partner.

Finding someone with whom to share our physical activity goals is one of the best motivators to keep us invested in staying active. Find someone who will go walking or try a new activity with you and make a plan! You’ll get to socialize with your friends or family and it won’t even seem like exercise! This goes for kids, too!

Wear proper footwear.

Having the right footwear for activity will ensure comfort and the ability to continue with the activity of choice. If you’re outside, make sure to have the appropriate footwear with good grip. You can also purchase additional grips for your shoes! Many communities offer indoor walking programs during the winter as well! Walking is one of the single most beneficial things for our health as almost anyone can do it and it’s free!

This winter, I would encourage you to take these tips, find an activity you enjoy, and have a very happy end to 2015 and start to 2016!

Jonathon Dyck

About Jonathon Dyck

Jonathon is a communications officer at Northern Health. Originally from Airdrie, Alberta, Jonathon has a broadcasting diploma from Mount Royal College in Calgary, Alberta, and a BA with a major in communications from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C. Jonathon enjoys golf, hockey, curling, hiking, biking, and canoeing. He is also an avid sports fan and attends as many sporting events as humanly possible, including hockey, soccer, baseball, football, rugby, basketball, and lacrosse.

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The other 23.5 hours: Weaving movement into your life

Woman reading a book on the floor

For Anne, staying active as she ages is about looking at the “other 23.5 hours”, not just the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity. Little things – like sitting on the floor to encourage shifting into different positions – can make a big difference!

Did you exercise for a half-hour today?

Huge respect to you – this is so much more than many people achieve.

But for healthy aging, I’ve found it works to turn that tally on its head.

You may have exercised for a half-hour, but for the other 23.5, you probably took short walks on level ground (at the grocery store, shopping mall, house or office), sat, or lay down.

That is, if you’re an average North American. Those of you who are Amish (average daily steps: 18,000 for men, 14,000 for women) can stop reading now. Ditto any hunter-gatherers out there (average daily km: 6 to 16).

But for everyone else, why not think about it the other way?

Instead of counting the hours you exercise, count the hours you’re not active, then try and shrink that number.

As biomechanist Katy Bowman says in an article on Breaking Muscle,

When we’ve checked the exercise box, we perceive ourselves as active, but it’s our almost-all-day stillness that is the problem.

That doesn’t mean breaking a sweat every moment – it means lots of little “movement snacks” sprinkled throughout the day.

Here’s what it looks like for me, at age almost-55:

  • Watching TV or using my home computer while sitting (or lying, or kneeling) on the floor. I end up changing positions more often; plus, getting up and down improves my balance, strength, and flexibility. One study showed that how easily you can get up and down from the floor is a good predictor of how long you’ll live.
  • Standing up when I’m on the phone – it’s also a chance to stretch.
  • At the grocery store, carrying a basket instead of using a cart or one of those wheeled baskets. My upper body loves this! (Obviously not practical for giant grocery runs, though!)
  • You knew I was going to say this: parking farther away, and taking the stairs! I love my 7-minute walk to and from work twice a day – it’s a nice transition, and a chance to ponder the day. As for taking the stairs to my 6th-floor office, I do this about 60% of the time, but even that makes a difference to my leg strength – I really see a difference if I stop.
  • At work, taking a 2-minute break every half hour or so to walk, stretch, or stand up. Research shows that a 2-minute break every 20 minutes can almost completely counteract the negative effects of sitting.

Plus, continuing with this kind of low-level activity as part of my normal activities should be very do-able as I age.

To sum up, movement should not be a special event in your day that takes place only at a gym, the track, the pool, etc. You should absolutely do those more intense sessions of formal exercise, if you can, but low-level activity should also be woven throughout your day.

In the words of this article,

Ultimately, your body doesn’t know whether you’re on a treadmill or a trail, or if you’re lifting a barbell or a bag of groceries. All it knows is that it was made for the movement. And lots of it.

Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!

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Being a little more active

Four adults walking and jogging on a running track

How can you build 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity into your week?

For most of us, being a little more active is something that would bring benefits.

I don’t know about you, but it seems far too easy for me to be able to find some reason not to do my recommended 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous activity in bouts of 10 minutes or more. This is recommended for all adults, myself included, who are somewhere between 18 and 64 years of age. Well, at least I’m on some part of that spectrum – LOL!

One would think that doing 15 episodes of moderate to vigorous activity in ten minute periods should be easy. It’s easier than you think, but you may need to change your expectations and what you define as “activity.”

The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines tell us to mix up moderate and vigorous intensity activities while also adding in muscle and bone strengthening:

  • Moderate-intensity physical activities will cause adults to sweat a little and to breathe harder. This includes activities like riding a bike or walking at a pace.
  • Vigorous-intensity physical activities will cause adults to sweat and be “out of breath.” This includes activities like jogging or cross country skiing.
  • Muscle / bone-strengthening activities help to build strength and balance. This includes activities like yoga or working with weights.

Here’s the link to the different guidelines for all ages. There are also very good suggestions for achieving your goals.

Baseball diamond.

What facilities exist in your community to support you to be more active?

So why does it feel so difficult to keep the activity going?

I think life continually gets in the way and while we’re motivated at some periods, there are always competing interests for our time and so it becomes easy to fall out of if it isn’t a part of our routines.

If you build it into your life, health will come!

Looking at the guidelines, it seems that if we try to do things that we are doing anyways in a more vigorous manner, then we might very well be able to meet our goal without having to change much. Vigorously rake the leaves. Take the stairs. Go for a walk at lunch time (even around the worksite or office if need be). Do the housework with gusto. Whatever helps! Perhaps even keep a record of it for a while and set some goals for yourself.

If you can, build some of those more structured activities into your routines, too. Try something new!

It will seem like work until it seems like life. Therefore, make your life the work you need to do for your health and become as active as you can in this moment.

Good luck and keep trying!

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.

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Use your muscles where your food is

Adult showing child how to sow seeds.

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him to fish and you will feed him for a lifetime.” Photo credit: Christine Glennie-Visser

Using muscles is about more than getting the recommended 30 minutes of exercise daily for adults. Research strongly reminds us that we need to sit less and move more and the term “sitting disease” is becoming more widely used. What does this have to do with food, you might ask?

Two of the easiest things we can change personally to build and maintain health is healthy eating and active living. One of the messages we use to remind everyone to increase their physical activity throughout their day is “use muscles not motors,” which comes from the Canadian Society of Exercise Professionals and is part of the promotional messaging for the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines.

You may still be wondering what this has to do with food. Many of us use the motors in our vehicles to drive to the local grocery store as the easiest option to get groceries. There are many ways to be active and get your food – pushing a shopping cart around your local grocery store is just one option. HEAL (Healthy Eating and Active Living) in northern B.C. began in 2001 with a focus on getting people more active in order to be healthier. More importantly, though, HEAL focused on gardening as a means to both be more physically active and eat healthier. Gardening is a win-win way to be active! It provides not only full body exercise, blood, sweat and sometimes tears, but you get good food as a result of your efforts.

Perhaps you aren’t really into gardening and would rather get your fruits and vegetables by walking down to your local farmers market or pushing that cart around a local store. Most farmers markets offer meat and sometimes fish in addition to fresh fruits and vegetables, but imagine the fun physical activity you would enjoy if you went hunting or fishing to stock your own freezer for the winter, or to enjoy a succulent grilled fish you have harvested from a northern lake, stream or ocean. As a parent raising a family, and now as a grandparent enjoying grandchildren, there is a well-known philosophy that has been a constant current beneath my family’s relationship with food:

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him to fish and you will feed him for a lifetime.

This is the perfect time of year to go outdoors, turn over some soil, plant and nurture some seeds, and look forward to the harvest. It is also the perfect time of year to grab a fishing pole, some bait and go fishing. Maybe you love hunting and you spend time in the summer getting ready for the fall hunting seasons. Whatever your connection to food, consider putting not only your own muscles to work to grow, gather and harvest your groceries but involve a child, too, so they can learn where their food really comes from and be more physically active while they learn.


This article was originally published in the May 2015 issue of Northern Health’s A Healthier You magazine.

 

Christine Glennie-Visser

About Christine Glennie-Visser

Christine is the regional coordinator for the HEAL (Healthy Eating, Active Living) Network in northern B.C. Christine loves to share good healthy local food with family, friends and co-workers and is passionate about making the healthy choice the easier choice for everyone. Although she is currently limited in her physical activity choices for medical reasons, she has become creative at fitting in activity and spends many happy hours deep water running and using gentle resistance training and stretching to maintain muscle strength. Christine can often be found in her kitchen, developing or testing recipes, and conspiring with her six grandchildren to encourage their parents to eat more fruits and vegetables!

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Make plans for activity this spring!

Four children playing on a tire swing.

Make physical activity a priority as a family and reduce sitting and screen time for everyone! With spring upon us, it is a great time to get out and play as a family or community! Kids and adults alike won’t even realize they’re being active when they’re socializing at the same time!

From Dease Lake to Prince George, the sidewalks and streets are basically clear of the white stuff at this point! The weather is warmer, my children have their bikes out and the tuques and mitts have been put away. For me, these are all the signs I need to say that spring is officially here!

We were pretty lucky to have had a mild winter in most parts of northern B.C. this year, but the colder temperatures, shorter days, and snowy and icy conditions will still have kept many people indoors for the season. This hibernation often results in a decrease in physical activity over the winter months which comes with a cost to our health.

We now have more information about how spending the majority of our time sitting is not good for our health. We know that decreased physical activity raises our risk for a number of chronic health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, and can also affect our mental health. Now that we have sprung into spring, it’s a good time to turn that sedentary behavior around and take a positive approach to getting and staying healthy!

Here are a few tips for getting started with any physical activity plans this spring:

Wear proper footwear.

Having the right footwear for activity will ensure comfort and the ability to continue with the activity of choice. Walking is one of the single most beneficial things for our health as almost anyone can do it and it’s free! Walking shoes or running shoes will provide good support and the proper fit will prevent blisters and calluses. There are a wide variety of shoes available and appropriate for all activity levels that will fit into most people’s budgets. Proper footwear is definitely a good investment and will keep you moving!

Grab a fitness buddy or activity partner.

Finding someone with whom to share our physical activity goals is one of the best motivators to keep us invested in staying active. Find someone who will go walking or try a new activity with you and make a plan! You’ll get to socialize with your friends or family and it won’t even seem like exercise! This goes for kids, too! Encourage kids to get outdoors and play with their friends. Spring is the perfect time for kids to be outside and exploring. They’ll be so busy having fun that they won’t even realize they are getting exercise.

Set goals for yourself and your family to meet Canada’s Physical Activity Guidelines.

Adults need 150 minutes of activity per week. That’s per week, not per day! If we were to break that down, it’s just over 20 minutes per day, which should be achievable for most people.

If you’re just starting out, start slow and you can even break that down to bouts of 10 minutes at a time, gradually working your way up to meeting the recommendations. The biggest goal for all of us is to move more and sit less every day, whatever that looks like for each individual! We should all strive for more movement! A pedometer or step counter can be an encouraging way to help keep track of progress.

These goals apply to children as well. To achieve health benefits, kids need 60 minutes of activity per day. As parents and caregivers, we can’t assume that kids get all of their physical activity during the day and then be OK with them coming home after school and sitting around on electronics and watching screens. Make physical activity a priority as a family and reduce sitting and screen time for everyone! Make every effort to be positive, active living role models for our kids and our communities. It truly benefits everyone.

In addition to those 3 tips, the importance of progression and patience needs to be highlighted. Adults should start slow if they’re just beginning a new activity or routine and take time to work up to the recommended guidelines, especially if they haven’t been active for some time. The progression will take longer for some people, but as activity levels progress, so will the health benefits! Incorporating light stretching before and after any type of activity is also worthwhile as it warms up our muscles and joints and can prevent injury, which will keep us on the road to increased activity and improved health.

Stick with these tips and your goals and have patience. Be kind to yourself and celebrate your successes! Let’s get outside and enjoy these first signs of spring!

Mandy Levesque

About Mandy Levesque

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

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Active living: Every day, your way!

Young girl on a bicycle.

Biking to school, work, or other activities can be a SMART goal and can help children and youth meet the recommended guidelines for physical activity.

From the moment you wake up in the morning until the time you go to sleep, you make many choices that affect your health each day. You may not think that today’s choices will have long-term impacts, but choosing healthier options – especially when it comes to having an active lifestyle in your youth – can set the stage for a longer, healthier life.

Active living is a way of life that encourages people to include physical activity into their daily routines. An active lifestyle includes everyday activities, like walking or biking to get to school or work. You don’t have to be in organized or competitive sports, or join a gym, or run a marathon to be active – any moderate-paced activity counts!

So how much activity do youth need?

The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for youth 12-17 years recommend at least 60 minutes of moderate-to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily. This should include:

  • Vigorous-intensity activities at least 3 days per week (cause you to sweat and be “out of breath”)
  • Activities that strengthen muscle and bone at least 3 days per week

You don’t have to get all 60 minutes at once.

Incorporating activity into your daily routines can be broken down into shorter periods throughout the day. Getting together with friends for a walk or any other type of activity not only adds a fun and social aspect but can also make time fly by. Going solo is always a choice too – putting on those headphones and heading outside for some fresh air can really get your body moving!

Man and two children building a snowman

Active living doesn’t have to involve organized or competitive sports! Build a snowman, try showshoeing, or just take a walk around your community.

Why is this important again?

The Active Healthy Kids Canada 2014 Report Card revealed that only 7% of kids aged 5-11 and 4% of kids aged 12-17 met the recommended guidelines for physical activity. Being active for at least 60 minutes daily can help children and youth:

  • Improve their health
  • Do better in school
  • Improve their fitness (endurance, flexibility, strength)
  • Have fun
  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Improve self-confidence
  • Feel happy
  • Learn new skills

So how do you get started?

One way to get going is to make a conscious effort to minimize the time you spend during the day being sedentary, which means doing very little physical movement.

Some examples of “being sedentary” include: sitting for long periods of time, watching TV, playing video games or being on the computer, and using motorized transportation. Trying something new can be exciting but also challenging, even intimidating for some people. Set SMART goals for yourself and ensure that you choose activities you like. You’ll have a better chance of sticking to the plan if you enjoy what you’re doing!

Table defining the SMART goal acronym and providing a sample active living goal.

SMART goals are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. What are your SMART goals for 2015?

Where to get more information

The Physical Activity Line is a great, free resource for British Columbia residents wanting information on active living and provides helpful tips on goal setting.

Grab a friend, set a goal, and don’t give up – you can do this!

What are you waiting for?

Get out there and find an activity you want to try and have fun! Set your stage to be active for life!

 

This article was first published in A Healthier You, a joint publication of Northern Health and the Prince George Citizen.

 

Mandy Levesque

About Mandy Levesque

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

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Make time to move: For stress control, every move helps

[Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the April 2012 issue of A Healthier You]

Make time to move!

Make time to move!

Did you know that if you include physical activity in your personal schedule every day, you can bank your capacity to respond to stress under pressure? It’s a familiar scenario: someone in your work life or personal life needs something from you, and they need it… yesterday! What’s the best response? Plan ahead to include exercise in your life, and your system will be able to deal more easily with pressure like this.

If we leave health and wellness on a back burner until after we’ve dealt with everything else, we won’t get to it and we’ll pay the price for not making time to move. As the saying goes, “If you think you don’t have time for activity, you’d better make time for illness!”

To reduce your physical response to stress, work on building and maintaining your good health and don’t forget to move throughout your day. Every move counts, and more movement is better than less. More movement leads to better balance through improved health and well-being. We can develop balance not only as individuals, but as families, schools, workplaces and communities.

Movement throughout your day should be as important as brushing your teeth. Choosing to move all day, builds health every day. Health improvement comes from all types of physical activity, and is not limited to gyms, sports and structured fitness. While these are all important opportunities to become more active, real health improvements will come from reducing sedentary activities and increasing physical activity. Try to reduce your overall sedentary activities, such as television viewing, computer/screen time and driving. Walk to work, climb the stairs, or ride a bike. If you have a work meeting, take your meeting for a walk.

Ours is a society of quick messaging, quick responses and quick fixes. But you deserve more and need more. The best evidence is found in the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines:

The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines

The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines (click for a larger image)

 

Dr. Ronald Chapman

About Dr. Ronald Chapman

Ronald Chapman is a physician with a fellowship in community medicine, and extensive experience in the leadership and management of health services with a focus on community health. Dr. Chapman joined the Northern Health team in 2007 as regional director of the Northern Cancer Control Strategy. Dr. Chapman assumed the role of the chief medical health officer of Northern Health in June 2011, and in February 2013, he transitioned to Vice President, Medicine in Northern Health.

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