Healthy Living in the North

Foodie Friday: Ditch the diet, not the healthy eating

Roasted vegetables

We can all benefit from eating more vegetables! Try roasting some colourful root vegetables such as yams, carrots, beets, and turnips next time.

The start of a new year often brings resolutions to eat better and get active. With the latest diet trends and celebrity weight loss stories hitting the internet and newsstands, it’s easy to get swept up in the promise of a quick fix.

I read somewhere that by February, 90% of dieters have ditched their “healthy eating” regimes. If you have been on a diet, chances are you already know that it can be impossible to stick to. Dieting, with its strict food rules and “good” and “bad” foods lists, can lead to feelings of deprivation, anxiety, and guilt. Also, many of the things people do for the sake of weight loss are harmful to their physical and mental health.

But don’t despair!  In contrast, healthy eating should be flexible and make you feel good.  Research clearly shows that making small changes to your eating habits over time works best.  Here are few things to consider if you are looking to ditch the diet mentality and rekindle a healthy relationship with food.

  • Feed yourself faithfully. Eat regularly throughout the day, and pay attention to your hunger and fullness cues to guide how much you eat.
  • All foods fit. Healthy eating balances eating for health, taste, and pleasure. Plus, you may find you are more likely to eat fruits, veggies, and other nutritious foods because you enjoy them, not just because they are good for you.
  • Add on, don’t take away. Think about what foods you can add to make a balanced meal that includes at least 3 foods groups from Canada’s Food Guide.
  • Focus on healthy behaviours, not weight. Health is not measured by a number on a scale. What can you do to take care of yourself at the weight you are now? Read more about health at every size here.

One goal we can all benefit from is eating more vegetables! I like to add a mix of colourful root vegetables such as yams, carrots, beets, and turnips along with potatoes to the roasting pan for a nutrition boost. Crispy and caramelized on the outside, soft and warm on the inside, they are the perfect winter side dish or can be blended into a flavourful soup.

Roasted Root Veggies

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups of root vegetables*, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 onion, cut into large chunks
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Seasoning of your choice – I like to use oregano or thyme, black pepper, and a sprinkle of salt

* Good options include yams, carrots, beets, turnips, parsnips, kohlrabi, rutabaga, or potatoes

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Place root vegetables in roasting pan and toss with vegetable oil and seasonings.
  3. Roast veggies for 45 min, stirring every 15 minutes, until tender.
Emilia Moulechkova

About Emilia Moulechkova

As a Community Dietitian based in Terrace, Emilia supports 15 different aboriginal communities in the Nass Valley, Kitimaat Village and the Hazeltons. Emilia recently completed her dietetics internship with Northern Health as part of her dietetics training from the University of British Columbia. She is passionate about finding unique, client-centered approaches to supporting families in their current feeding efforts. In her free time, Emilia enjoys cooking, mountain biking and cross country skiing.

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So Long Summer (But it’s not all that bad!)

Creek

The view along Kleanza Creek hiking trail near Terrace, B.C.

I have to admit. I’m a fall kind of guy. Sure, the dog days of summer are good, but growing up in Revelstoke, BC, I always looked forward to the mountains getting a fresh dusting of snow and the Kokanee spawning in the local creeks. Some of my fondest memories are hiking through the woods on a crisp fall morning with a couple friends.

I’m sure that many people living in northern British Columbia share a similar memory.

Now, I know this can be a busy time of year, school has started and there’s still a few projects around the house to finish up before winter gets here. However, why not spare some time to explore your local waking and hiking trails. The days are cooler and hints of color are starting to show in the trees. Salmon are spawning and there’s still abundant wildlife to be seen. Northern British Columbia has a lot of diversity and the outdoors can be spectacular this time of year.

Hiking may be a popular summertime activity, but there’s no reason why it can’t be enjoyed through the fall and into the early winter. Eventually hiking can become snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, but that’s another blog post.

However, there are some things to consider before heading out on your favorite trail.

  • Always let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to return.
  • Northern BC is bear country. Be bear aware, especially if you’re in an area where salmon are spawning.
  • Remember that the days are getting shorter this time of year. Make sure you take that into account when planning your hikes so you can be off the trail before it gets dark
  • Be prepared. While the days might still be warm and pleasant, nights are getting cooler. Pack some warm clothing, an emergency blanket, flashlight, signalling device and fire starter with you.
  • Hunting season is underway, be aware that hunters may be sharing the outdoors with you.
  • Take your camera or smartphone; this time of year can be great for photos.

One of my fondest memories from growing up in Revelstoke was watching the snowline on the mountains get lower and lower as fall waned and winter approached. When it was about halfway half way down the mountains, a few friends and I would go hiking and meet the snow. It became a fall ritual.

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This is an old picture from waaay back on one of those trips to reach the snow!!! Taken at Mt. Revelstoke National Park.

To be honest I still watch the snow creeping down the mountains here in Terrace. I still laugh at an old memory of a snowball fight that pitted my friends Richard and Ken against me and another friend on one of those hikes. What sticks out most from that day was Richard nailing Ken at point blank range with a snowball that was actually meant for Jim or I. But I guess you had to be there!

Go ahead, get out there and embrace fall in northern British Columbia. You just might create some wonderful new memories with your friends and family.

Northern Health is sponsoring a great way to get to know (or share!) your community’s healthy features – The Great Northern Scavenger Hunt! Answering clues gets you out in your community and a chance to win great prizes.

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.

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Get to know your community… Go for a Run!

20160920-holly-christian-runningMoving across the country can be a scary proposition, especially when all you know about your destination is what you’ve seen on TV. So when we found out we’d be moving to northern BC seven years ago, the first thing I did was go buy a map. Two moves and a lot of long road trips later, I’m happy to report that although it’s nothing like Vancouver, each dot on the map of our vast northern landscape has its own sense of community, unique personality, and way of life. One of the best ways I’ve found to plug into my surroundings has been to lace up and explore the trails, sign up for local races and events, and get outside!

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“Nature’s Staircase” – AKA Chetwynd Community Trail

Running (or walking) your local trails and roads gives you a great opportunity to meet people, see the town up close, and get to know the terrain. Whether it’s running up a mountain face, rock hopping across a river, or tackling nature’s stairs through the forest (see photo), literally every type of landscape can be found somewhere in northern BC.

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Holly and her friends after her first triathlon in Mackenzie

No matter how small the community, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that across the north there are groups and clubs for those interested being more active. Whether it’s running, triathlon, cycling, skiing, all are welcoming to the newbies and happy to offer tips to the inexperienced. I tried my first triathlon in Mackenzie, teamed up with friends and coworkers for the chilly Iceman in Prince George, ran my first half marathon up a mountain in Tumbler Ridge, and trained for my first marathon on the trails and country roads of the North Peace. Along the way I’ve made new friends, supported other reluctant runners to give it a shot, and continue to challenge myself to try new routes.

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Holly Christian and Melissa Aalhus tackle the Earth Hour 5K in Fort St. John

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Beatton Park snowshoe trails – Fort St. John

One thing to remember about exploring northern BC, is that you need to be prepared for anything. Weather can make or break a run, but if you prep in advance and wear the right gear, rain and snow can create an entirely new (dare I say pleasant) experience. After my phone battery froze on one cold winter (-25 degree) run, I entertained myself by listening to the crunching snow instead of music. Wildlife will also keep you on your toes. I have come face to face with a couple bears on my excursions around Mackenzie’s trails, and met a bull moose, fox and a couple of deer on some recent runs in Fort St. John. And nothing makes you run faster than finding a pile of fresh cougar scat on a trail, that’s for sure!

Whether running is your thing, or you’re just trying to get to know your community a bit better, I highly recommend checking out the local events in your area. If you aren’t feeling particularly athletic, there are also great opportunities to volunteer at events and races – and they’re always grateful for an extra set of hands!

I look forward to making many more runs across the north and exploring the northwest! My next adventure will be in the wilds of Hudson’s Hope for That Dam Run in September.

How can you plug into your community today? get inspired and maybe win a prize when you complete the Great Northern Scavenger Hunt!

Holly Christian

About Holly Christian

Holly Christian is a Regional Lead for Population Health. She has a passion for healthy living and health promotion and is a foodie at heart. Originally from Ontario, she has fully embraced northern living, but enjoys the warmth of the sun and the sound of the ocean. She swims, bikes and runs, and just completed her first marathon.

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10 more ways that northern B.C. residents invest in their health!

Woman standing on logs.

Tracy in Vanderhoof has invested in her health by eating healthier, playing hockey, and hiking. She shared a great photo from a recent hike at Mount Pope!

We are now two weeks into our “Invest in Healthy Aging” contest and your stories continue to be nothing short of inspiring! From lunchtime exercise routines that get you moving to relaxing hikes with friends that pay dividends for your mind, body, and relationships, you are making great investments in your health!

Last week, I shared a few of the stories that you had submitted. The responses have kept pouring in so here are even more stories to inspire you from across northern B.C.! Remember that you can enter the contest once a week so keep the ideas coming! How do you invest in your body, mind, and relationships?

For Natascha in Prince George, goal-setting has been key (good luck in your 5 km run, Natascha!)!

Six months ago, motivation hit me. I don’t know what exactly inspired me, but I knew I wanted to improve my physical health. I signed up as a member at the YMCA and started my journey to better health. I set personal goals and made a commitment to do what it takes to have what I want. What do I want? I want a healthy body, a focused mind, and I want to have the ability to run multiple kilometres – starting with 5 km in June! I feel amazing! Better is always possible, everyday is closer to my goal!

In Dawson Creek, Korena has taken advantage of a local program to try new healthy living activities!

This month, I signed up for the ‘Everybody Move Dawson Creek’ program and have been going to the various gyms and aquatic centres in Dawson Creek to learn what each facility has to offer. I am thoroughly enjoying the program as it allows me to try out a variety of activities that I normally wouldn’t try out for free. A super program which is promoting healthy living and incentives to be active.

Melanie from Saik’uz took a chance on an old favourite activity and decided to “just do it”!

I used to be an avid skier. It has been years since I skied (the last full day was when I was pregnant with my 13 year old son!). This past weekend, I was fortunate to chaperone our high school kids to the ski and snowboard zones in Jasper. Since I was on the hill, I decided to ‘just do it’, and went skiing. It’s hard to have been able to do something then not be able to perform – but you have to start somewhere and I am glad I did!

Apps and technology can be great tools for healthy aging! For Cailey in Prince George, an app has helped her invest in a healthy mind!

Sometimes day-to-day life gets so busy! To invest in my mind, I have downloaded a meditation app on my phone. This app allows me to practice 10 minutes of meditation to relax me and continue my day with a clear mind!

Woman on cross-country ski trail

Susan in Houston takes advantage of the outdoors to invest in her health!

The outdoors have supported Susan’s healthy aging investments in Houston!

Living in such a beautiful area with great recreational opportunities means the world to me. On any given day, I can snowshoe out my back door, drive ten minutes to beautifully groomed cross country ski trails, or just walk a few metres to join a network of town walking trails. There’s never a good reason to stay inside.

Delilah in Prince Rupert has found a nice balance and healthy activities to support healthy aging!

I engage in walking to work, drinking lots of water, ongoing learning to keep my mind active, help others where I can, relax myself with reading and keeping in touch with family members. I find a nice balance between work and time off. I also ride my bike and enjoy fresh air by walking outdoors as much as I can. Laughter is important to me and I try to read or watch funny things. I nap when I am tired and that makes a big difference in how I cope.

Joanna in Prince George has been counting her steps and seeing a connection between physical and mental well-being!

I’ve been investing in my health by making time for physical activity every day – ensuring I get my 10,000 steps on my Fitbit and going for a 5-8 km walk every evening. Not only does it help improve my physical health, but also my emotional well-being – endorphins are a powerful force for decreasing stress and improving mood!

Leanne in Terrace has chosen to be very active and wonders what else is in store!

Well into my 50s, I still play floor hockey and dragon boat in the spring/summer (really good as you climb up those years!). My daughter is doing a thirty minute exercise challenge with her peers at the school she works at. This will go on until April [and] I have decided to join her for encouragement and for my fitness. Curling on Wednesdays as well. Zumba … what else is in store?!

For Kim in Burns Lake, family is a big part of investing in health!

I enjoy the outdoors when I can – this week went ice fishing with the family. I do as much home cooking as I can for myself and the family.

Grandchildren and some creative improvisation created a fun and active time for Laurel in Swan Lake!

The grandchildren and Teddy and I wanted to go outside sliding but there wasn’t really enough snow for a long run this year so we had to improvise. We dug out the two children’s kayaks that we have and found a small patch of snow across the road that was deep enough to travel on. We had tried the driveway but I had to have a leash so they would stop before hitting gravel and destroying the bottom of the kayak! That meant Grandma had to run ahead of the kayak to start, then stop and hold the rope!

This list of great stories and insights could definitely go on! Thank you to everyone who shared their healthy living ideas so far! The contest runs until the end of February so enter today! You could win great weekly prizes or the grand prize of a $150 gift certificate to the local sporting good store of your choice!

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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Drop and give me twenty!

Army patch

The shoulder patch of the 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group. Reg was a part of Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians), which is an armoured regiment in the brigade. There, he learned a lot about motivation and physical activity!

The New Year is upon us and no doubt many of us are setting goals to become more physically active. If you’re one of those people, I have a question for you: How motivated are you?

If you don’t feel motivated, have you thought about joining the army? I can tell you from experience that it works! But why does it work so well?

One is that the army ensured that I got regular physical exercise. No matter what the weather, there was always the physical training that I took part in, no exceptions, no complaints allowed.

Second, the army has a set of specific goals and objectives that I was expected to meet. It has very specific, measurable goals, like being able to run a kilometer within a certain amount of time. Not to mention pushups!

Soldiers marching

Footage from Reg’s graduation parade.

And then there was the built-in motivator, otherwise known as the Master Corporal (the Canadian version of the Drill Sargent in basic training). He was the guy barking at me as I moaned and groaned my way through the obstacle course. Master Corporals weren’t always nice in their “motivational methods,” but you know what, for me, it worked. I ran that kilometer and did those pushups. I made it through the obstacle course.

Then again, it’s not necessary to join the army if you’re looking to get more physically active. But in reflecting on my own time, I think that some of the principles are the same and definitely taught me a lot. You need to make time for physical activity and do it. You need to set SMART goals and strive to reach them. You need to find your motivation.

I often see the scale or body measurements used as motivators. While it’s important to measure your progress towards your goals in other ways (like how many minutes of activity you did today), don’t get hung up on those numbers. Health is measured in more ways than pounds or inches. For some, buying something special upon reaching a milestone can be a motivator. However, that might not work in the end and it’s possible that your motivation may falter between milestones.

So, what are you to do?

Motivation needs to come from within if it’s going to last. Here are some suggestions for building up your motivation:

  • Make sure that you find ways to be active that you enjoy. Find activities that keep you coming back.
  • Focus on the experience. Enjoy the surroundings if you’re outside. Enjoy the camaraderie of team sports. Enjoy the solitude if you’re on your own.
  • Learn to recognize and appreciate the health benefits of being active. Enjoy your improved mood and increased energy.
  • Engage in physical activity as a way to reward yourself. A nice walk down a forest trail is a great way to relax after a long day at the office.
  • Keep challenging yourself. Walk an extra ten minutes or lift that extra ten pounds.
  • Acknowledge and celebrate your successes.
Medal

A medal from Reg’s time peacekeeping in Cyprus. What did his time in the army teach him about physical activity and setting SMART goals?

It can also help to let people know about your goals and ask them to help you stay on track. If your motivation slips a little, they’ll let you know (sort of like the Master Corporal did for me!).

I have to admit, writing this blog rekindled some great memories from the old army days.

Q: Is having a Master Corporal shouting in my ear one of them?

A: No.

Q: Would I push harder if he was standing there “motivating me?”

A: You bet I would.

As much as I enjoy the memories and the lessons, I’m not re-enlisting in the army for the motivation – not even for the food or the cool uniforms! But I’ll definitely use the things I learned about motivation to stay physically active in 2016!

The only person responsible for motivating you to be physically active is you.

Unless you join the army, and they take that responsibility very seriously, even when you don’t.

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.

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Healthy living for healthy aging

Woman on a boat

“Food, lifestyle, getting back to the land, going for walks, being at peace and enjoying what’s around you – these do matter.” Judy Gerow shares her thoughts on health and aging.

Judy Gerow is member of the Kitselas First Nation and has been in Band Council for over 20 years: two years as Chief and the rest as Councillor. She is a mother of six, a stepmother of an additional six, and is also raising her granddaughter. Throughout her whole life, her health has been on her mind. I had the privilege of asking Judy a few questions about her experiences of health and aging and am excited to share her thoughts and story below.

Do you believe that health is a journey?

Yes, absolutely, I think it’s a journey! Your physical and mental health play a big part in your well-being and need to be in balance to be truly healthy.

When did you start really considering your health?

Even though I have always been thinking about my health, it was after I became a mother that I realized how important it was to take care of myself so that I was here for my children.

My kids are a real motivation for me. Now that I am raising my granddaughter, I want to take care of myself to make sure I am here for her until she can be on her own.

What things are you doing to keep you healthy?

I try to watch what I eat and I don’t drink alcohol or smoke. I keep myself involved in various activities, many of which are physical such as my volunteer role in the fire department. I like to fish and hunt and through this, challenge my body to keep up with others and carry what I can. I garden, too.

Family is also very important to me; we are a large and close family and look forward to getting together for family dinners. As I get older, I spend more time thinking about my life, what matters, and how I can live this to the fullest.

How does this healthy lifestyle make you feel?

I feel a sense of pride that I can still pull my own weight, even though I can’t carry as much as I could in my youth. My role model is my mother. She is 84 years old and she’s still going strong. When she was in her 60’s, I had a hard time keeping up to her. She would get up at dawn and preserve fruits and vegetables until late at night. She is slowing down now due to health concerns. She has macular degeneration but she still cuts fish, even though she does it now by feel.

When I’m out on the river or in the bush, I have time to reflect and focus on the land and the environment. I find that very spiritual and I get a sense of belonging when I’m out there. It’s like I can feel the presence of my ancestors who walked before me for thousands of years.

How do you think having a healthy lifestyle now will support your health in the future?

I think it will help me to live longer and to remain active. I couldn’t imagine not being active. I want to be just like my mom! When I was growing up, I used to tell my friends that I didn’t want to be like my mother. It’s ironic that no matter how hard I tried to do things differently, I end up like her! My mother is always there, a focus in my life.

What are you most looking forward to about being healthy as you age?

I look forward to being active and having a fulfilling life where I can do what I want and not be a burden to anyone. I want to remain independent as long as I can.

If you could share one message with others about your journey, what would that message be?

When you are younger, you don’t think about what it’s going to be like when you’re older. Choices one makes when they are young do matter in the future, that is the message I would like to share.

Every summer was like bootcamp for me. I was busy keeping up to my husband as we hunted or fished together. I wasn’t paying attention to my body. Parts of my body are starting to give me more problems now – like my knees and my elbows – from pushing myself too much then, packing heavy loads, and jumping off rocks.

My husband passed away five years ago from lung cancer. He was a smoker and a drinker. I chose not to so I could be there for my children. My current partner has diabetes and heart disease from not taking care earlier.

Everyone needs to start taking care of themselves and be more conscious of what’s around them. Food, lifestyle, getting back to the land, going for walks, being at peace and enjoying what’s around you – these do matter.

I never had an interest in gardening even when I had watched my mom do it. Yet, last year, we planted a garden and what came up was wonderful! I found it so relaxing; I could just get lost in it. I could sit in that garden, pulling weeds and not think of anything and before I knew it, four hours had passed! Work and other things in my life slipped away. We all need to do more of this. Life is too fast-paced. I’m going on a vacation soon. My partner and I are taking our motorhome and just going – no destination or timeline! Stress-free!

Victoria Carter

About Victoria Carter

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

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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.

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An old guy thinks out loud

This is the first in a series of posts that we’ll be sharing about social connections and healthy aging. Over the next four weeks, we want to see how you, your family, and your community stay connected. Enter our photo contest for your chance at great weekly prizes and a grand prize valued at $250!

Man and woman talking

For Andrew, healthy aging is not just about moving away from illness and infirmity. Instead, it’s about moving toward a positive – and social connections are a key part of this!

How did I know I was old? Was it when the waitress asked me if I wanted the seniors menu? Was it when my granddaughter asked: “Was it really like that in the olden days, Papa?” Was it when I met my new doctor and thought (but didn’t say) “I have kids older than you …”? Hard to say, but likely I became aware of my aging status because of all three and others I don’t recall.

There’s a lot to gripe about as you get older. Things don’t work as well as they used to and a lot of conversations seem to turn to health concerns and to drugs … discussions about blood pressure and cholesterol lowering combinations, etc.

But there are so many wonderful things about aging, especially when you’re able to age healthily. You have more free time. You can speak your mind and share your stories (people will either respect what you say or cut you some slack because you’re old). You get seniors’ discounts. There’s more, but I’ll get to the point.

There are things we all need to do to age well. Chances are you’ve heard advice about diet and exercise, avoiding isolation, steering clear of tobacco and practicing moderation with alcohol. These are important, but let’s look at things differently. A lot of this advice is presented as ways to avoid getting sick, to avoid physical and mental deterioration. While true, there is a deeper perspective and a lot of it has to do with the benefits of social connectedness:

  • You can approach diet with an eye to nutrition, vitamins, calories and so forth. Add to that the social and emotional experience of preparation and sharing meals. Make mealtimes an opportunity for connection to others and for social interaction.
  • Exercise is a great way to regulate blood pressure and blood sugar but it also feels good. Finding exercise opportunities you enjoy is rewarding in itself. (For me, it’s riding a bike and swimming.) Right now is a good time to walk through the park and enjoy the fall colours. Walking with others is a chance to enjoy connections to others.
  • Having a drink in social situations is a part of life for a lot of us. Consider what makes socializing enjoyable and what is safe for you. Moderation increases the enjoyment of social events.

Sharing stories, playing games and finding opportunities to connect with others in social settings can be fun as well as keeping us mentally and emotionally sharp. Volunteer opportunities can be a way to meet a range of people, to stimulate your mind and to help others in their life journey.

Honoring ourselves by caring for our good health can be thought of as moving away from illness and infirmity or it can be a way to find more and deeper satisfaction in life. I find moving toward a positive more appealing than moving away from a negative.

How do you move towards the positive when it comes to health? How does your community support active, healthy, social living? Show us as part of our photo contest for your chance to share your community’s story and win!

Photo Contest

From Oct. 12 – Nov. 8, send in a photo showing how you stay connected and healthy for your chance to win great prizes (including a $250 grand prize) and help your community!

The challenge for Week 1 is: “Show us how you are active in your community!” Submit your photo at http://blog.northernhealth.ca/connect.

Andrew Burton

About Andrew Burton

Andrew is a Community Integration Systems Navigator for Northern Health’s HIV and Hepatitis C Care team and works to support healthy living practices in communities across northern B.C. Andrew is developing positive activity and diet practices for two reasons: to deal with his own health concerns, and to “walk the talk” of promoting healthy living. Building on his training and experience in creative arts therapy, Andrew founded and runs the Street Spirits Theatre program promoting social responsibility among young people. This work has been recognized nationally and internationally as a leading method of social change.

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Tales from the Man Cave: Going to your doctor is the “man-healthy” option. Why should you visit?

Man with his arm around a statue.

Talking to someone about your body and health concerns can be frightening – you may prefer statues – but Jim challenges men to be vulnerable for a while. A quick chat with the doctor can empower you to make choices about health before you are forced to be talking about disease.

It would be great if we could all cut disease off at the pass and catch every ailment before it developed.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could consign disease to history with each of us simply dying in our own beds of old age?

This is a utopian dream, of course, but it is grounded in the need to move our focus from illness to health. That is my discussion here and in my opinion we actually need to access our doctors before we develop a reason to go see one.

The problem with us males might be that we tend to think that if we can work, then we must be healthy. Sometimes we also have the tendency to bury our heads in the sand and ignore the warning signs. I recently did that myself!

Going to the doctor once a year for that face-to-face time or to check blood work or blood pressure is the healthy option for men. I have heard men say that they would not visit a doctor in case “they found something.” As much as I understand that nobody wants to have “something”, it is generally better to have that “something” discovered before it bites your backside and is too late to treat effectively.

The need to try and find disease before it happens is not only wise, but is a strategy employed in many civilized nations with public health departments. Strategies such as immunization and health education are well advanced and often taken for granted. As are such things as access to clean drinking water and sanitation. Without these, many people become ill and many die.

Going to your doctor causes little harm in itself (perhaps some anxiety) and actually empowers you to make choices about your health before you are talking about your disease.

Discussing changes in our bodies and concerns about our health with our doctors gives us the best chance at avoiding some types of cancer and heart disease by making lifestyle changes when they’re still effective at improving our health. Stopping smoking, eating more vegetables and fruit, managing stress and living an active life can not only help us live longer, but live better. Feel better for longer.

Death – so far – has not been overcome, I am told.

Talk to your doctor and be a little vulnerable for a while. No one needs to know about it.

All the best.

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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Tales from the Man Cave: Brain Awareness Week

MRI machine

MRIs and other tools have created a wealth of knowledge about the brain and how it works but even these advances are just the tip of the iceberg! Look after your brain by looking after your overall well-being!

Brain Awareness Week is happening this week and that’s got me thinking about our wondrous brains!

Your brain is wonderful. Everything it does affects you – and everything that you do affects your brain in some way – so it’s very important to keep your brain healthy. But what does that look like exactly?

One important aspect of brain health is mental wellness, and the BC Healthy Living Alliance has some great information on that connection.

In spite of all the advances of modern science, the brain is still very mysterious. Most mental illnesses, for example, have no blood tests or scans which can determine their existence or origin. Research in this area continues but given the complexity of the brain, understanding this area fully is a tall order! It seems to me like there are billions of possible connections to explore! We do have some tools, though. Functional MRIs can see areas of the brain that light up when certain tasks are being undertaken but they can’t tell us what someone is thinking. In the same vein, EEG states are electrical readings that might point to sleep, waking, or other states determined by the waves seen on a screen.

As wonderful as this all is – and it truly is wonderful – nothing that we have so far can take the complex whole of brain cells and nerve endings and synapses and read all of the electrochemical messages and make sense of them.

Just how complex are our brains? Here’s one way to think of it:

When I read back this text, I have a voice in my head that is reading the text simultaneously. I am aware of the mess on my desk, the room I am in, and the fact that I have just smacked my lips. I am aware of the pressure on my buttocks from the chair, that it’s cloudy outside, that there are people putting drywall up in my bedroom, and so on. All of this is being processed in fractions of milliseconds! Where is that information? This awareness is just the tip of the iceberg – think of all the unconscious things I’m not aware of!

Still, in spite of all its mystery, we know that if certain areas of the brain are damaged, for example, you won’t be able to lift your hand or move your foot. But to further complicate matters, it’s also known that one area of the brain can learn to take over a function that is normally processed or caused by another area in the brain.

Phew! My head – or should I say my brain – is spinning with the mind-bending reality of it all!

So with all of this mystery during Brain Awareness Week, while we keep learning more and more about the brain every day, can I suggest these brain-boosting healthy living messages for us to try?

  • Eat well.
  • Get enough rest.
  • Don’t smoke or take chemicals (think drugs) into your brain.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Be as happy and as positive in outlook as possible.
  • Do life wholeheartedly.
  • Look after your mind, your body, and your spiritual needs as best as you can.
  • Get involved in your community.
  • Laugh a lot.
  • Be grateful for the small things in life.
  • Meditate or do yoga.

Your brain and you are one in the same, so looking after your overall physical and psychological well-being is important.

I wish you the best with my whole brain and my whole being.

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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