Healthy Living in the North

Baby teeth: Why they are important

Spirit mascot in front of poster

You can keep your child’s teeth healthy by brushing them in the morning and before bed, starting as soon as those teeth erupt. Use a little smear of toothpaste that has fluoride in it.

They eventually fall out and are collected by the tooth fairy anyways, so why are baby teeth so important?

Healthy baby teeth are important for many reasons:

  • Baby teeth hold the space for the replacement adult teeth.
  • Baby molars will not fall out until your child is about 12 years old.
  • Early loss of a baby tooth may cause the movement of the other teeth, possibly resulting in crowding or bite problems.
  • Baby teeth are important for appearance, proper chewing of foods, and speech.

But, since those baby teeth are not meant to last a lifetime, their outer covering (enamel) is not as thick or hard as the enamel on adult teeth. The enamel in the first 18 months after a tooth erupts is fragile and can decay very quickly.

Why does this matter? Just like in adults, tooth decay in our kids may cause pain, infection, difficulties chewing, problems sleeping or concentrating, and poor self-esteem. Tooth decay is largely preventable. Health care providers, child care providers, and parents can all work together to spread healthy messages regarding oral care and we can all model behaviours that can lead to a reduction in tooth decay and oral health problems.

You can keep your child’s teeth healthy by:

  • Brushing your child’s teeth in the morning and before bed, starting as soon as those teeth erupt. Use a little smear of toothpaste that has fluoride in it.
  • Do not put your child to bed with a bottle or, if you do, offer only water in the bottle.
  • Help your child to learn to drink from an open cup (not a sippy cup). This can be used for small sips of water starting at 6 months and for milk starting between 9-12 months.
  • Limit how often your child gets sticky, sugary foods and drinks. Children one year and older benefit from 3 meals and 2-3 snacks per day. These should be spaced 2-3 hours apart. Choose a variety of healthy foods that do not stick to the teeth.
  • Make an appointment for your child’s first dental appointment by their first birthday or about 6 months after their first tooth erupts.
  • Lift your child’s upper lip once a month to check for any whitish marks on the teeth which may be the start of decay.
  • Avoid saliva sharing habits like using the same spoon.
  • Parents should have any decay treated to reduce the chances of passing on the cavity causing bacteria to their child.
Brenda Roseboom

About Brenda Roseboom

Brenda was born and raised in Terrace. She has worked in the community first as a certified dental assistant and then as a hygienist. After being in private practice for many years, she joined the Northern Health dental team in May of 2016. Brenda enjoys gardening, quilting, and many other crafting hobbies. The beauty of B.C. continues to amaze her and keeps her rooted in the north.

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10 tips for talking to kids about tobacco

Family walking in woods.

Talk to your kids about tobacco!

You can make a difference!

1. Don’t assume kids will learn all they need to know to be tobacco free at school and that you don’t need to get involved. Parents can help their kids to avoid the use of tobacco.

2. Let them know how you feel about tobacco use and help them develop the skills to say no to tobacco.

3. Kids do listen. They may feel a need to rebel at first but they will value the message, especially coming from you.

4. Make an emotional appeal – telling them how hurt or disappointed you would be by their smoking or chewing will have more impact than reasoning with them about the health dangers.

5. Know that peer pressure is often used as an excuse for tobacco use – it may provide an opportunity to start, but kids continue to smoke or chew for individual reasons.

6. Be a good role model – if you do smoke or chew, explain that you know it’s wrong and ask them to help you quit. If you aren’t ready to quit, share the reasons why you started, how hard it’s been to quit, and how you don’t want them to struggle with the same addiction you have.

7. Encourage your children to never try tobacco. It may only take a few cigarettes to become addicted. Instead, encourage them to develop healthy lifestyles and avoid the use of tobacco.

8. Have extended family support to keep kids tobacco free – often older siblings or other relatives introduce them to smoking or chewing.

9. Don’t believe that smoking or chewing is safer than “something else” – most kids are at real and greater risk from tobacco use than from other dangers. Research shows smoking is a gateway to other drug use.

10. It’s never too late to intervene. Kids are flexible and they can change for the right reasons.


In this article, as in most public health messaging, “tobacco” is short for commercial tobacco products like cigarettes and chewing tobacco. Using these is highly addictive and is a leading cause of disease and premature death. However, Northern Health recognizes that natural tobacco has been an integral part of many Indigenous cultures in B.C. for thousands of years. Traditional uses of tobacco in ritual, ceremony, and prayer is entirely different from smoking or chewing commercial tobacco. Northern Health supports the cultural and ceremonial uses of tobacco and recognizes that the benefits of traditional uses can outweigh the potential harms.

Nancy Viney

About Nancy Viney

Nancy is a registered nurse working in Northern Health’s population health team. She often imagines a day when no one in northern British Columbia suffers from the harmful effects of tobacco. In her time off, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, especially her two little grandchildren! Nancy also enjoys quilting, knitting, crocheting and many other home spun crafts.

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Ringing the gong

Boy beside a shooting target

With his son wanting to give target shooting a try, Reg took him out to the local range in Terrace. For Reg, it’s all about being involved and “it’s not really about target shooting.”

I have to admit that during my time in the army, I really enjoyed the time spent on the firing range. Now, I haven’t done any target shooting for a long time, but it’s something that I’ve recently gotten back into. It’s also something my youngest son wanted to try, so we’ve been spending time at the local rifle range in Terrace.

At the back of the small-bore range, a steel gong has been set up at a distance of about one hundred yards. It’s not all that easy to hit considering that we’re shooting a .22 caliber rifle without the aid of a scope. Nonetheless, my son likes to try to hit it.

To be honest, it’s not really about target shooting. It’s about being an involved father and acknowledging the role fathers play in the healthy development of their children. With June 19 being Father’s Day this year, it’s an important topic to talk about.

Being an involved father takes work, but the impact you have on your child’s life is huge. To be an involved father takes consistency, compassion, attention, and time. However, it’s worth the effort.

  • Involved fathers bolster their child’s cognitive development. They help their children develop critical thinking skills, motivation, communication skills, and a sense of independence that will benefit them throughout their lifetimes.
  • Children of involved fathers develop better social skills and ways to cope with the emotional stresses of life. Involved fathers can teach their children how to develop empathy and strong friendships. These skills last a lifetime and help children learn how to build successful relationships.
  • Involved fathers provide a good role model for their children. Having a good role model can help children stay clear of problems with the law or issues with substance abuse.
  • Not only do children benefit from involved fathers, but the relationship between father and mother can benefit as well. I’m sure you’ve heard that old saying about a happy wife.
Taking aim at a shooting range.

What fun ways can you connect with your kids?

While I mentioned that being an involved father takes work, it’s important to remember that you also need to find some fun ways to connect with your children. Put on a cape and become a sidekick for your superhero son. Grab an apron and join your daughter’s tea party. Find a way to be a part of your child’s world.

Last time we went to the range, my son loaded ten rounds and told me that he was going to shoot all of them at the gong. After he hit it on the first shot, he looked at me, smiled slightly and raised one finger. When he raised five fingers, his smile was a little bigger.

I have to admit; at this point, I thought I was doing a good job with teaching him to shoot.

However, speaking as a father, I know it won’t always be this way. You won’t always hit the target, let alone the bulls-eye. There will be times when you’re tired, frustrated and bewildered.

Fatherhood can be trying.

Still, there will be many more times when you do hit the bulls-eye. There will be moments that make you smile and realize that being a father is one of the greatest joys a man can experience.

Like when my son raised 10 fingers and gave me one of the biggest smiles I’d ever seen.

So on this Father’s Day, go out and make a few more of those moments to cherish.

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a licensing officer 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 as well as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator. 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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Bonding with your baby

Father and daughter

“Well-loved babies do better in every way.” How can you spend time bonding with your baby?

Have you ever been told that carrying or holding your baby too much will spoil them? This is a common myth held by many parents and caregivers. In fact, the opposite is true!

Research has shown that well-loved babies do better in every way. The first six months are an important time for you and your baby. Take time to give love, hugs, smiles and lots of reassurance. Emotional attachment is one of the keys to raising a happy, confident child.

The BC Healthy Child Development Alliance has some simple steps you can take to help ensure a good, close connection with your baby:

Spend time face-to-face with your baby.

  • Take time each day to cuddle and play with your baby up close.
  • Spend time watching what your baby does and responding to facial expressions and sounds by imitating them.
  • Talk to your baby. Research shows that the more words a baby hears each day, the better they learn.

Observe your baby.

Watch and listen to your baby to learn what your baby wants or needs. Here are some cues to what your baby is “saying” to you:

  • Turns away, does not want eye contact: “I need rest.”
  • Frowns, starts to cry, pulls away: “I am upset, lonely, sick or hurt.”
  • Cries, has wide open eyes, stiffens body, arches spine or turns away from you: “I am in distress, upset or afraid.”
  • Reaches for you, follows you (if a walking toddler), face has a sad look – maybe a trembling lip: “I need you.”
  • Smiles, giggles, gazes at you, reaches for you, makes cooing sounds: “I like that.”

Notice the cues that say “distress.”

  • Babies who are in distress and whose parents respond promptly (within 1-2 minutes) cry less after the first year.
  • Babies beyond four months old can handle short periods of mild distress; giving them a chance to calm themselves helps them to learn new skills and to sleep longer periods at night.

Delight in your baby.

  • Help your baby explore and play by finding ways to play together (e.g., stacking cups or playing with blocks or stuffed toys).
  • Welcome your baby when he or she needs to cuddle or comes to you for comfort.

Get down on the floor with your baby.

  • Every baby needs “tummy time” on a mat or blanket set on the floor. This is a time when your baby will exercise muscles or discover new ways to move.
  • Spend time watching what your baby does and respond to your baby’s cues.

For more information and to learn more ways to build attachment and help your child adjust to their emotions, visit:


This article was originally published in Healthier You magazine. Read the full Summer 2016 issue all about healthy children below!

Vanessa Salmons

About Vanessa Salmons

Vanessa is a registered nurse and Northern Health’s Early Childhood Development lead for preventive public health. Located in Quesnel, Vanessa supports prenatal, postpartum and family health services across the north. She is married with two children and is always busy with the family’s many activities. Work/life balance is important to Vanessa. When she is not at work, she enjoys spending time with family and friends entertaining and cooking. Vanessa stays active through walking or running with her dog Maggie, spinning and circuit training. A good game of golf or a good book is always a bonus!

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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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Getting ready for Safe Kids Week 2016: Highlighting preventable injuries

Girl wearing life-jacket at the beach.

2016 is the 20th anniversary of Safe Kids Week! Community toolkits to support local events will be released by Parachute Canada on April 18, 2016.

You wouldn’t know it by looking outside at the driving rain that is pouring down my office window, but at the end of March, northwest B.C. saw some of the warmest weather in history. Warm spring weather always sets the stage for another great season of outdoor activity and play.

With lots of new outdoor activities available to us, spring is also a great time of year to talk about childhood injuries. Injuries are the leading cause of death for children and are a leading cause of hospitalizations. Injuries don’t happen by accident. They occur in repetitive and predictable patterns; injuries are preventable.

You may think I’m putting a damper on the enjoyment of the season, but awareness is a form of prevention! The real tragedy is when fun is affected by the serious injury of a loved one. We can change the statistics.

Parachute is a national charitable organization dedicated to preventing injury and saving lives in Canada. From May 30 – June 5, 2016, Parachute Canada will be celebrating 20 years of injury prevention awareness for children and families through Safe Kids Week. This year, Safe Kids Week will be raising awareness and sharing information to prevent injuries:

  • At home (burns, poisoning, falls, water)
  • At play (concussions, falls)
  • On the road (bicycles, motor vehicles, pedestrians)

I hope that you’ll join me in saving the date! Community Toolkits for this year’s Safe Kids Week will be available from the Parachute Canada Safe Kids Week website on April 18, 2016. Order your toolkit and join Northern Health as we work together to keep our children safe!

Our winter seasons are long in the north, so taking the time each spring to review safe activity and play with our families is worth it!

Amy Da Costa

About Amy Da Costa

Amy Da Costa has worked in Public Health for 12 years. She recently joined the Population Health team as a part-time Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention. Amy lives in Kitimat with her husband and two children. They like to camp, swim, and cook as a family.

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Just stop and play

Mother and child walking in forest

“Outdoor active time builds confidence, autonomy and resilience, and helps children develop skills and solve problems while giving them the opportunity to learn their own interests and limits.”

With our busy lives and commitments to our children to be sure their everyday needs are met, we often forget to just stop and play with our children.

Today is a chance for us to look at the benefits of outdoor play. I want to encourage all caregivers to connect with their children outside, no matter what the weather forecast says! If it’s raining, put on your rubber boots and play in the rain and splash in the puddles. If the sun is poking through, slap on the sunscreen and go outside and play.

Encourage fun, self-directed, free-range play!

Today, children are often scheduled with structured activities such as hockey and soccer practices and piano lessons. Equally important to these scheduled opportunities is the free time for children to dream and explore their own limits. This outdoor active time builds confidence, autonomy and resilience and helps children develop skills and solve problems while giving them the opportunity to learn their own interests and limits.

Play – how much is the right amount?

The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend 180 minutes (3 hours) of daily physical activity for children ages 3-4 at any level of intensity. The guidelines then change for children ages 5 and up to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous play per day.

Unfortunately, only 14% of children are meeting these guidelines. This drops to only 5% who are meeting the guidelines for children aged 12-17.

How to play?

Reduce screen time. Unplug and play. Make playing and exploring our neighbourhoods the reward rather than more screen time. Let’s embrace the beauty of living in the north! Everything is so accessible and nature is all around us. And it’s free! This may mean letting the child take the lead. You may get a glimpse into what the world looks like through your child’s eyes: spending time bent over exploring the colour in the rocks or examining pussy willows that you revisit later as they become leaves throughout the spring.

The benefits of play are across the board

The most obvious is that it is fun, but play also helps release tension, develops imagination, and allows for problem-solving and mastering new concepts. Play builds self-esteem, leadership skills, and reduces anxiety. Playing socially builds on co-operation and sharing as well as increases our children’s ability to resolve conflict. Outdoor play helps with gross motor skills, which build strong hearts, muscles and bones. Being active everyday as a child helps develop a lifelong habit of daily exercise as an adult.

Finally, be a good role model. Live an active life and rediscover the fun and freedom of outside play. While encouraging the whole family to “wear the gear,” wear your helmet when biking or skateboarding together. Turn your cell off. Make play a priority. Set aside time every day for free play and a chance to connect and have fun with your child today.

Reflect back to your own childhood playtime. I want to encourage everyone to build those same quality experiences for our children today! Let’s get everyone outside and active, having fun while promoting safe, active outdoor play.

Sandra Sasaki

About Sandra Sasaki

Sandra is the Children’s First Manager. In this role, she supports local committees and groups in Prince George, Quesnel, the Robson Valley and Mackenzie to work together to assess, identify and plan for the unique needs of young children. Sandra has lived and worked most of her life in Prince George where she and her husband are active members of the community. She enjoys weightlifting and working out at the gym, painting, skiing, camping, and fishing. Most of all, she enjoys spending time with her family as she is the proud mother of three daughters and a grandmother of seven.

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Risky play and the freedom to roam

Take a moment and reflect back on your own childhood experiences.

  • What did you love to do?
  • Where were you?
  • Who were you with?
  • Why was this So. Much. Fun?!

If you look back on your own childhood memories of play, would any of that be considered unsafe today?

Boy beside a tree

Give kids the freedom to decide how high to climb! This spring, Denise’s key message for outdoor play is to value health & fun as much as we value safety.

To kick off the spring, I’m excited to talk about promoting active outdoor play with the message that we need to value health and fun as much as we value safety. The 2015 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth revealed that to contribute to the health and wellness of children today, it’s imperative to get our kids outside, to give them the freedom to roam, and to take risks in their play.

Risk is often seen as a bad word that makes many people nervous, but let’s explore that a bit. When we look at risk in play, we are talking about play that allows children to recognize and evaluate a challenge and then decide on a course of action according to their own abilities. This definition of risk in play allows for the thrill and excitement that we all cherish from our own childhood memories.

When are talking about risk in play, that doesn’t mean allowing children to court danger that could cause life-altering serious injury. Allowing for risky, active outdoor play is not about being negligent or reckless. It’s not about skating on a half-frozen lake, or sending a preschooler out to the park alone. We as adults and communities still have a responsibility to eliminate the hazards: those situations that a child cannot assess for themselves and offer no benefit to the play experience. It is about promoting “As safe as necessary, not as safe as possible” and encouraging the balance of valuing health and fun as much as we value safety.

This discussion often invokes a bit of panic in parents, caregivers and leaders who feel responsible for safety in their communities.

But again, what we are discussing here today is the balance between:

  • Eliminating and protecting our children from life-altering or life-threatening hazards while
  • Allowing for and, in fact, encouraging some of the risks that come with sending children outside to play.

Indeed, the 2015 ParticipACTION Report Card found that the biggest risk to children’s long term health and development is actually keeping kids indoors!

And so, with spring melting snow and bringing new colours back to our yards, parks and neighborhoods, let’s give children the freedom to decide how high to climb that tree, to explore the woods, get dirty, play hide & seek, wander, balance, tumble, rough-house, and experience the outdoors. Because the evidence tells us that when children are outside they:

  • Move more,
  • Sit less, and
  • Play for longer

and these are all associated with improved physical health and fitness as well as mental health, social wellness and fun. Exactly what memories are made of!

Denise Foucher

About Denise Foucher

Denise is an injury prevention coordinator with Northern Health’s population health team and is passionate about working towards health and wellness for everyone in Northern B.C. When not at work, Denise can be found out at the lake, walking her dog, planning her next travel adventure, or snuggled in a cozy chair with a good book.

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Oral Health Month: Healthy smiles for your family

Smiling child

Keep your family’s smiles bright! Registered dental hygienist Kelly has tips to ensure a lifetime of healthy smiles.

Good oral health is something we all try to work on every day as a healthy mouth contributes to overall good health. But, at certain times of the year, the choices we make are even more important to our dental health. April is Oral Health Month in Canada and it’s a great time to think about your family’s smiles!

For many families, last week included a special visit from the Easter Bunny. It’s common for a child’s Easter basket to be filled with chocolate and candy. As a registered dental hygienist, my role is to help prevent tooth decay in children, so I’m always conscious of the effects these traditions have on children’s mouths.

Baby teeth are very important and need to be well cared for; primary teeth can remain in a child’s mouth until the age of 12. They help with chewing, speech, and allow the proper spaces for the adult teeth to come in.

It is important to know that sugars turn to acids in the mouth. If your child is eating candy throughout the day, numerous acid attacks are happening in the mouth. Constant sugar/acid exposure can wear down enamel and lead to dental decay. If untreated, this can cause pain, infection, and problems with eating and sleeping for the child. Decay is preventable and can be avoided.

You can help your children avoid getting cavities by limiting the amount of sugar they consume. If treats are offered, it’s best they are given at meal time when there is more saliva to help maintain an optimum pH level in the mouth. It’s also a good idea to avoid sticky, chewy candy as it is harder to remove from tooth surfaces and it tends to stay in the mouth longer, leaving your child vulnerable to decay.

Some other tips to help prevent childhood cavities include:

  • Offer a variety of healthy choices, including fresh fruits and vegetables, cheese, and nuts.
  • Limit sugar intake in snacks and drinks. Water is the best choice for thirst as fruit juices and pop have a very high sugar content.
  • Brush your child’s teeth with a pea size amount of fluoride toothpaste two times per day (morning and before bed). Introduce flossing to your oral hygiene routine.
  • At times like Easter, offer alternatives to candy like stickers, tattoos, pencils, toys, or sugar free gum.
  • See your dentist regularly.
Kelly Esopenko

About Kelly Esopenko

Kelly is a registered dental hygienist working with Population & Public Health. Kelly has been a dental hygienist for over 20 years and has worked in a variety of clinical settings. She joined Northern Health in 2012 and works with a wide range of clients promoting good oral health practices. Kelly is married with two children. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, walking her dogs, and cheering on her children in their various sporting activities.

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