Healthy Living in the North

Spotlight on an Award-Winner: POWERPLAY

The 2015 Healthier You Awards held late last fall was a wonderful way to highlight the innovative work being done across sectors in improving the health of northerners. Northern Health benefitted with a number of nominations and wins for our staff and partners in healthcare. The strong role Northern Health plays in our communities was well recognized.

Photo of award winner holding a plaque

Healthy Workplace for Small Business Award

Nominated in two categories for the 2015 Healthier You Awards (including The Health and Wellness Innovator Award category), the POWERPLAY program won the Healthy Workplace for Small Business Award. POWERPLAY is a workplace-wellness program with a men’s health focus targeting physical activity and healthy eating. It was developed and implemented in four male-dominated workplaces in Northern British Columbia.

POWERPLAY was designed with messages that would appeal to men, friendly competition and self-monitoring to promote healthy eating and physical activity. The program was piloted by 4 businesses from October 2014 to March 2015: Two in Prince George (Lomak Bulk Carriers and Excel Transportation), one in Prince Rupert (Ridley Terminals), and one in Terrace (City of Terrace). There were significant increases in physical activity after the program was implemented.

This award is shared by many. Through a multi-sectoral partnership between the Canadian Cancer Society, BC Cancer Agency, Northern Health and researchers at the University of British Columbia and Athabasca University (with funding from the Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute), there were almost 20 individuals directly responsible for making this program a great success!

One of those responsible is Cherisse Seaton. Cherisse is a Research Coordinator at the Centre for Healthy Living. We had a chance to ask Cherisse a few questions about her work; her answers show her passion for the program and northern BC:

1.) You were nominated for this award in recognition of a particular aspect of your work – why do you think this project stands out to people?

There has been an increasing focus on men’s health, in part because there is a real gender disparity in health – men access health care at lower rates than women do. There is a need for innovative strategies for reaching more men. The POWERPLAY program was developed to help fill this need and the program was designed to be flexible so it could be implemented in a variety of workplaces in northern BC.

2.) What would you most like people to know about the work you do?

About half of all cancers can be prevented and we know that lifestyle changes such as stopping smoking, as well as healthy eating, and active living can reduce the incidence of cancer. Northern Health, The Canadian Cancer society, and the BC Cancer Agency are working together to ensure strong and unified services to northerners, and this project will help inform future harmonized work. As researchers, we are collaborating with the health-care agencies to target cancer prevention strategies in northern B.C.

Together the team designed and delivered the POWERPLAY program and ensured that it was evidence-based. For example, we conducted a systematic review of the literature for “best practices” for men’s health promotion. We also brought the preliminary program components to focus groups of men in Prince George to get their feedback and input making the program designed for and by northern men.
Finally, conducting research also allows us to evaluate the effectiveness of our programs. For the POWERPLAY program, we completed surveys with the program participants both before and after the program was implemented, so we could determine what worked and what didn’t. The feedback we got from program participants is now being used to make further modification to the POWERPLAY program before it is offered at future worksites.

3.) What do you love about living and working in Northern BC?

Although in my position with this project I am a UBC employee, I am located here in Prince George to oversee all the research activities. I am from Prince George, and I value the opportunities to embrace the outdoors, being close to my family, and the close-knit community with all the City amenities.

Would you like to see POWERPLAY in your community? Resources to support POWERPLAY implementation in a variety of male-dominated worksites are under development, and the team is now looking for partners in order to continue to offer the program in workplaces across northern BC.

If you are interested in partnering with us to offer the award-winning POWERPLAY program please contact the Research Coordinator, Cherisse Seaton (Cherisse.seaton@ubc.ca).

Andrea Palmer

About Andrea Palmer

Andrea Palmer is a Communications Advisor with the Health Promotions Team at Northern Health. Born and raised in southern B.C., Andrea now embraces the North in large part for all the fun, healthy activities and opportunities uniquely accessible in our region including snowboarding, cross-country skiing, outdoor skating, wild berry picking, hiking, canoeing/kayaking, fishing and the bracing experience of jogging in the snow!

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Psychological health and safety in the workplace

Stretch break in an office

Your work environment affects you and you affect your work environment. How do you feel when you start your workday? What about when it ends?

Everyone who has attended school (or who has a child who attends school) can probably think of examples of how the school environment can affect a person’s thoughts, feelings, and actions. A child attending kindergarten for the first time may have tummy aches which stem from anxieties around being in a new environment with new people. An older child or teenager may feel depressed or self-conscious about whether they measure up to their peers, or their ability to keep up with academic pressures. However, did you know that the workplace environment and our relationships within it similarly affect us as adults? October is Canada’s Healthy Workplace Month and it’s a great time to look at our workplaces.

Take a few moments to reflect or journal, and ask yourself the following questions:

  • How do I feel (emotionally/mentally/physically) as I’m about to start my workday? Do I look forward to going to work, or do I dread it?
  • How do I feel when I have finished my workday? (e.g., proud, stressed out, frustrated, energized)
  • What is it about work that makes me feel this way? (e.g., work tasks, co-workers, clients, physical work environment, work shifts or hours, pay, supervisor)
  • Do I notice similar thoughts, feelings, or actions in other people at work?
  • How do I affect my work environment and those around me in positive ways?
  • How do I affect my work environment and those around me in negative ways?
  • In what areas could I use some support? (e.g., conflict resolution skills, physical health, emotional health)
  • What can I do to make work a better place for everyone?

Your work environment affects you

If you are part of a healthy work environment, it probably contributes to your overall well-being. For example, if you enjoy work on a day-to-day basis you likely feel enthusiastic and energized about the work you do and have good relationships with those around you. As a result, when you come home at the end of your workday, you probably have energy to be present with your family/friends/pets, have hobbies and activities outside of work, and exude happiness to those around you.

However, if your work environment is unhealthy, it may be a stressor for you. You may feel tired, frustrated, or burned out and this, in turn, can affect your health and home life in a negative way.

You affect your work environment

You go to work with your own attitudes, patterns of relating to others, home-life stressors, and individual level of wellness. These affect others in the workplace. Return to your earlier reflection and choose one thing you’d like to change or follow up on. Plan one action you can take to move in that direction. Challenge a family member/co-worker/friend to do the same! Talking about mental health and wellness is one of the best ways to promote psychological health and safety in the workplace.

In the past few years, there has been increasing recognition that our work environments affect all aspects of our lives and well-being and that healthy, happy employees are more productive and do higher quality work. Canada is the first country in the world to create a standard to guide employers in creating psychologically safe and healthy workplaces. For more information, visit Workplace Strategies for Mental Health.

For personal mental health assessments and tips, check out the Canadian Mental Health Association Mental Health Meter.


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

 

Courtenay Kelliher

About Courtenay Kelliher

Courtenay grew up in Vanderhoof, and completed her BScN at UNBC in Terrace. After a few years of travelling around Western Canada and living in the sweltering Okanagan, she has happily returned to the north to work as an Advisor with Workplace Health & Safety Strategic Directions. Living in Terrace, Courtenay enjoys spending her spare time on outdoor adventures with her fur children and volunteering with the Canadian Ski Patrol and local fire department. When indoors, she can usually be found destroying her kitchen while cooking up new creations to share with friends and social media, with the hopes of inspiring others to prepare their meals from scratch. Courtenay is passionate about occupational health and safety, and loves that her job allows her to work at keeping employees safe so that they can enjoy their hobbies in their spare time as well.

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Routine isn’t always a bad thing!

Child playing on playground equipment.

Schedule outdoor time for children every day: The best way to encourage kids to sit less is to let them go outside.

The days are getting shorter and school doors are open, which brings homework, extracurricular activities and lots of time spent going from one place to the next in the car.

It’s a routine that we’re all used to, but an unfortunate side effect for the whole family is that more time is spent being sedentary. Although there’s often not much we can do about screen time (computer use) at school or work, there are ways to maintain those healthy summer routines into the fall and winter and keep yourself and your family moving.

At home:

  • Be a healthy role model: Set limits for your own recreational screen time as well as theirs. This includes your TVs, tablets, computers and phones.
  • Do chores together as a family that encourage getting outside: Raking leaves, shovelling snow, walking the dog, or biking to the store for milk instead of driving.
  • Schedule outdoor time for children every day: The best way to encourage kids to sit less is to let them go outside.
  • Be an active chauffeur: Don’t just sit in the car waiting on kids to finish up their activities. Use that time to get moving yourself and use active transportation when possible.

At work:

  • Build activity into your commute: Walk or bike to work when possible or carpool with a spouse or neighbour and walk from their workplace to your own.
  • Schedule movement: Set an alarm to go off every hour to remind yourself to stretch, move around, take some time away from the task, give your eyes a break and refresh your mind.
  • Take a walking meeting: Take your telephone call on the go while you stretch your legs, or encourage meeting participants to walk around the building while you talk.
  • Step up: Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Escape the lounge: Use some of your lunch break for physical activity. Get out of the lunchroom and go for a walk.
  • Go old school: Walk to a co-worker’s office to talk to them instead of calling or emailing.

Establishing active routines and spending less time being sedentary will leave you feeling happier and more alert and will improve your fitness and your social life! Making these small changes in our behaviours at home and work will over time become part of new, healthier routines.


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

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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Tales from the Man Cave: Fatigue & workplace safety

Man using chainsaw on a log.

How do you keep your workplace or work site safe? Fatigue can lead to injury so be sure to ask yourself what you can do to ensure that you, your employees, or your family members are safe at work.

At 39 years of age, John never thought that he would be among the disabled.

His Monday started off very well. He had the usual commute, half awake, sipping on his coffee mug, driving to work. It had been a late night again last night and, in fact, he had had quite a few late nights recently. The days appeared to be beginning to merge into one another. It seemed to John that he had been working 24/7 for quite a few weeks now.

The job was OK once he mastered it and he had been doing it for years. He was progressing well with the renovation jobs. Climbing ladders or going on roofs was easy for him as a tradesman and he always made sure he took the appropriate safety precautions. Nothing he couldn’t handle.

Today, he would find out, was different. Today, tired after several long days and experiencing fatigue, John would make a judgment error. He would get injured on the job. Life would change for John, suddenly and mercilessly. He would no longer be able to go out on Saturday mornings to kick the ball with his boys. He would no longer be able to continue with the job he had been doing for years. Life would change this Monday and it would take years to recover from it.

John, obviously a made up character, is actually more common than we would like to think. Labour Day, like the National Day of Mourning on April 28, provides us with an opportunity to think about how we can support safe workplaces and to remember lives lost or injured in the workplace. Northern B.C. has more than its fair share of workplace injuries and deaths due to the nature of its industry, but we have the power to change these statistics.

Like our character John, many of us are tired because of hard work and long hours that lead to fatigue. Fatigue is a serious workplace safety issue, however, and can even be a killer. It’s very important to balance hard work with enough rest and recreation. WorkSafe BC has more information about the dangers of fatigue in the workplace.

If you, your employees, or your family members are starting to feel like John in our story, ask yourself what you can change to make life a little more balanced and a little safer.

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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Workplace celebrations: More than just food

Tea, mugs, and teapot on a table.

Next time your coworker has a birthday or your team completes a major project, celebrate with a tea party instead of the typical treats! When it comes to workplace celebrations, get healthy by getting creative!

From holidays to birthdays, milestones, and achievements, there are plenty of reasons to get together with your coworkers for celebration. It’s great to take those moments to celebrate together. They often provide an opportunity to become a more closely knit team and forget about the stresses of everyday tasks. Often, workplace celebrations are centred on food: birthday cake, Christmas cookies, and other less nutritious treats. And while occasional treats are definitely a part of healthy eating, when they happen too frequently, they can impact our health and productivity in the workplace.

Many of us spend at least ⅓ of our day at work so having a work environment where making the healthy choice the easy choice is important. Since celebrations are social events and great opportunities for team building, it can be hard to decline when offered a cookie or other treat. Some people may feel pressure to take the item in order not to offend anyone or to fit in with the group. Having alternate ways of celebrating and including everyone takes the stress out of the situation for many.

Next time you and your workmates are planning a celebration, why not consider mixing it up with some fun non-food activities or trying some strategies to encourage healthy food celebrations? Here are 10 creative ideas to get you started:

  1. Keep cake a treat. Instead of celebrating with a cake for everyone’s birthday, why not have monthly or seasonal birthday celebrations?
  2. Consider alternative birthday celebrations. Give cards signed by coworkers or have a fun birthday object that the birthday staff member keeps for the day. It could be a pin, sash, hat, or other unique object!
  3. Have a pumpkin carving contest for Halloween.
  4. Hold a decorating contest. Decorate office doors or windows individually or in teams.
  5. Choose to sponsor a local charity.
  6. Plan a group activity. Rent the ice rink, have a bowling tournament, or try rock climbing.
  7. Choose restaurants that offer healthier menu choices. Check out Informed Dining for locations that provide nutritional information.
  8. Ask your caterer to make 80% of the choices healthier options, with 20% being treat food.
  9. Try a healthy theme for office potlucks. Choose a theme that encourages vegetable, fruit, and whole grain options, such as red and green vegetables for Christmas, or a soup and salad bar. Remember to create a sign-up list to ensure variety. List categories of foods and don’t forget extras like cutlery, napkins, or beverages.
  10. Instead of a meal, host an afternoon tea party. Coworkers can bring in their favourite teas to share. Don’t forget to bring your favourite mug, too!

For more information on creating healthy eating environments in the workplace, check out the Eat Smart Meet Smart guide and the Healthier Choices in Vending Machines policy page.


Northern Health’s nutrition team has created these blog posts to promote healthy eating, celebrate Nutrition Month, and give you the tools you need to complete the Eating 9 to 5 challenge! Visit the contest page and complete weekly themed challenges for great prizes including cookbooks, lunch bags, and a Vitamix blender!

Marianne Bloudoff

About Marianne Bloudoff

Born and raised in BC, Marianne moved from Vancouver to Prince George in January 2014. She is a Registered Dietitian with Northern Health's population health team. Her passion for food and nutrition lured her away from her previous career in Fisheries Management. Now, instead of counting fish, she finds herself educating people on their health benefits. In her spare time, Marianne can be found experimenting in the kitchen and writing about it on her food blog, as well as exploring everything northern B.C. has to offer.

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The Grizzly Truth: A good laugh for good health

Nick, with a goatee, holds his cat in a Christmas picture.

Nick’s photo entry into the Northern Health Mr. Movember contest.

“Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sense of humor to console him for what he is.”

I have seen this quote attributed to both Francis Bacon and to Oscar Wilde. To be honest, I don’t have the citation to prove who said what when (if you know, feel free to comment and share as I wasn’t able to find firm evidence for either party). This quote carries a lot of meaning to me, both in my professional life and my personal life. I feel that I have a pretty good sense of humor and that has lent itself to some rich experiences with practical jokes and certain Mr. Movember contests (pictured right).

Wellness research shows that people who laugh regularly are healthier than those who do not. I’m not just referring to mental health either. One study actually found that people who laugh regularly have a lower risk for heart attack and an increased pain threshold! In work environments, the appropriate use of humor can de-escalate tense situations and increase the rapport between staff and clients.

There have been a number of circumstances in which laughing about myself, or my situation, has helped me move past unhelpful and unproductive feelings of stress or frustration. For instance, my hair started thinning at the age of 21. I’m 26 now and that trend is continuing, despite my protests. I will admit that the first time my “bald spot” was pointed out, I didn’t laugh and say “thanks for bringing that to my attention!” In fact, a couple of threats were exchanged before I made my way to the nearest mirror. At first, having a sense of humor about the situation wasn’t easy, but, over time, it made me feel better to have a laugh about it, even cracking a joke or two at my own expense. Humour has helped me come to terms with something that’s completely out of my control.

On a more serious note, I recently read about a nurse who had been struggling with significant depression. He received support to enroll in a stand-up comedy course and, since beginning the course, has found that his outlook, self-esteem, and mood have greatly improved. You don’t have to get on the stand-up comedy stage like the nurse, but, to improve your health, it is important to practise allowing yourself to laugh and to put yourself in an environment where laughter is common practise!

Nick Rempel

About Nick Rempel

Nick Rempel is the clinical educator for Mental Health and Addictions, northwest B.C. Nick has lived in northern B.C. his entire life and received his education from the University of Northern BC with a degree in nursing. He enjoys playing music, going to the gym, and watching movies in his spare time.

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October is Canada’s Healthy Workplace Month

2013_CHWM_logo_v2Did you know that there is a Canada-wide initiative that focuses on health in the workplace? In October of each year, Excellence Canada partners with stakeholders to feature the importance of health in the workplace. This year is their 13th annual event and – this year – they have 911 organizations participating and nearly 46,000 participants!

Amongst all this busyness, I was able to connect with Karen Jackson, an advisor for healthy workplace strategies with Excellence Canada, to learn more about the program.

What can you tell me about Canada’s Healthy Workplace Month?

We are celebrating our 13th year as a national program that encourages the promotion of healthy workplaces throughout the year. Our website, Canada’s Healthy Workplace Month® (CHWM), increases awareness of the importance of workplace health and works to ensure both the short-and long-term success of organizations and the well-being of their employees.

October is the annual CHWM campaign, where organizations are encouraged to participate in the weekly activities within their organization to build awareness and encourage workplace fun! This year’s theme is about fostering healthy minds through workplace health, focusing on the ‘mental health connection’ to overall well-being.

What is the primary goal of the campaign?

The goal is to increase the number of healthy workplaces in Canada. Our campaign supports this goal by providing information and tools to help organizations develop and apply a comprehensive approach to workplace health in Canada. This approach involves the three elements of a healthy workplace (health and lifestyle practices; workplace culture and a supportive environment; and physical environment and occupational health and safety).

So, how do people get involved?

It is easy and fun for you and your organization to participate! Our website is a central hub, providing healthy workplace tools, resources and best practice examples. The intent is to help organizations create healthy workplaces with benefits for employees and themselves.

There are a few ways for you to get involved:

  • Register for CHWM and receive tools to help you with your healthy workplace efforts and measure your team’s progress.
  • Showcase your successes by submitting (a one page form) a healthy workplace initiative completed in 2013 and share it with others by being featured on the CHWM website.
  • Challenge yourself and your colleagues with weekly activities that are fun and help to make your organization healthier and happier.
  • Register here to learn about Mental Health at Work® Essentials – a free webinar on October 21 at 2:00 p.m. (EST)/11:00 a.m. (PST)
Chelan Zirul

About Chelan Zirul

Chelan Zirul is the Regional Manager for Health Promotions and Community Engagement for Northern Health. As a graduate from UNBC, she did her Master's of Arts in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies. She explored regional development decision-making and is an advocate for policy that is appropriate for the needs of northerners. This, combined with her personal interest in health and wellness, drew her to work in health communications. Born in northern B.C., she takes advantage of the access to outdoor living. She enjoys hunting and exploring the backcountry with her dog and husband and enjoys finding ways to use local foods.

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