Healthy Living in the North

Foodie Friday: Dinner from Down Under

I love creating the many family recipes I grew up with on a regular basis, but I also love experiencing the tried and true recipes from other people’s families. It’s fun to learn about the flavour combinations and food traditions they enjoy, and then find ways to incorporate them into my own cooking repertoire. Bonus points when they are simple to make and use common ingredients!

Way back when I finished university, I picked up and moved to Australia for 6 months, where I lived with a local family. Eating in Australia wasn’t too much of a culture shock, but I did have to learn some of the lingo. While I was there, I learned what a sausage sizzle was, the proper way to eat Vegemite, how to perfectly cube a mango, and that “tasty cheese” is in fact just a medium cheddar cheese. I made sure to share some culinary tidbits with them as well – like the fact that peanut butter is delicious with jam (turns out many Australians don’t eat peanut butter with sweet things).madarin, chicken

As a temporary member of my host family, I enjoyed family dinners with them. One of my favourites that they made often was a simple chicken stir-fry with carrots and celery topped with almonds and mandarin oranges. I don’t know that it was particularly Australian, but that doesn’t matter. I loved the bright, fresh flavours, and it was a real crowd pleaser. I watched my “Aussie mum” make it so many times that I took the reins making it for the family on a few occasions. While I’ve done a little adapting from the original recipe, it is something I still continue to make and enjoy to this day!

Mandarin Orange & Almond Chicken Stir-fry

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 can (11 oz or 312 g) mandarin oranges packed in juice, drained and juice reserved
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp white vinegar
  • 2 tbsp corn starch
  • 2 tsp chicken bouillon
  • 1 – 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 3/4 cup blanched whole almonds
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
  • 3 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 4 celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • sesame seeds, for garnish

Instructions:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the reserved orange juice, soy sauce, vinegar, corn starch, bouillon, sugar, and sesame oil. Set aside.
  2. Heat a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Add the almonds and toast until golden brown. Remove from pan and set aside.
  3. Turn the heat up to medium high. Add the oil to the pan, then add the onion and garlic. Stir fry for 1-2 minutes. Add the chicken, and stir fry for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add carrots and celery to the pan, and continue to stir fry for 2-5 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are cooked but crisp. Add the almonds back to pan.
  5. Turn the heat down to medium low. Add the sauce mixture, and cook until thickened.
  6. Serve over rice, quinoa, or noodles, topped with the mandarin orange slices and sesame seeds.

Note: Don’t add the mandarin oranges until serving, otherwise they will fall apart in the stir-fry!

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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Foodie Friday: “As Easy as Pie” Fruit Crisp

What an exciting month! Not only did we welcome spring, but dietitians across the north helped us celebrate Nutrition Month by sharing lots of great healthy eating tips and recipes. I have been inspired to eat more mindfully, pack a lunch to work, and even try a new Foodie Friday recipe from the blog!

In honour of the last day of Nutrition Month, I wanted to share one of my favourite dessert recipes.

I love homemade pie, but it can be a chore to make, even for the most experienced baker. The saying “as easy as pie” surely speaks to the experience of eating pie, not baking it! Enter fruit crisp. Fruit crisp has everything I want in a pie and more: warm, gooey fruit filling; a hint of cinnamon; and a crisp oat topping with the benefit of whole grains. It’s comfort food in every way.

Unlike pie, this fruit crisp recipe is quick and easy. It took me under ten minutes to make and most of the prep involved chopping fruit. Using pre-cut fruit or berries would speed it up even more! If you are a rookie baker like me, you will also be happy to know that this recipe is virtually fool-proof. This means you don’t need to worry about carefully measuring out ingredients, mixing (but not over-mixing), rolling (but not too much)! It’s one of those recipes that you can confidently just throw together.

So how does fruit crisp stack up nutritionally? Well, when you make your own desserts, you are more likely to use real foods from Canada’s Food Guide. Fruit, dairy, nuts, and whole grains can all be featured in a variety of different ways. Think homemade chocolate pudding with slices of banana, fruit muffins made with whole-wheat flour, and hearty oatmeal cookies with applesauce, dried fruit, and nuts. Plus, baking is fun and can be a great way to spend quality family time together! For more delicious and nutritious recipes, consider checking out the dessert section at Cookspiration.com.

For this particular crisp, I used apples and frozen mixed berries, but pears, peaches, rhubarb, strawberries, blueberries, or any other type of berry would work well, too. It’s an easy way to use up fruit from the freezer in the winter and spring, or to showcase seasonal fruit in the summer and fall.

fruit crisp, bowl

This fruit crisp is quick and “as easy as pie” to make.

“As Easy as Pie” Fruit Crisp

Adapted from Cookspiration.com

Ingredients:

For the filling:

  • 7 cups fruit (I used apples and frozen mixed berries)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 tsp cinnamon

For the topping:

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ cup soft margarine or butter

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F (180C).

  1. In a large bowl, combine fruit, sugar, flour, and cinnamon until coated.
  2. In a small bowl, combine sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Add to fruit and toss to mix.
  3. For the topping, combine rolled oats, sugar, and cinnamon. With 2 knives, cut in margarine or butter until mixture is crumbly.
  4. Sprinkle oat mixture over fruit.
  5. Bake for 55 minutes until mixture is bubbly (or you can microwave at 100% power for 15 minutes)

Serve hot or cold. Leftovers make a quick and tasty snack the next day!

Emilia Moulechkova

About Emilia Moulechkova

Originally from the Lower Mainland, Emilia started her career with Northern Health as a dietetic intern in 2013. Since then, she has worked in a variety of roles as a Registered Dietitian with the population health team. In her current role, she supports schools across the north in their efforts to promote healthy eating. Emilia is passionate about food’s role in bringing people and communities together, and all the ways it can support physical, mental, and social health. Her overall philosophy on healthy eating can be summarized by this Ellyn Satter quote: “When the joy goes out of eating, nutrition suffers.” In her spare time, she loves exploring the beautiful northern outdoors by foot, skis, bike, or canoe!

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What captured your attention this year? Top 10 blog posts of 2016!

Photo collage of pictures from stories featured in article

Which article was your favourite?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love year-end “best of” or “top 10” lists!

Not only are they a fun way to discover great stories, books, recipes, songs, movies, or whatever else you might want, but they reveal something neat about our collective interests.

So, what captured our readers’ attention and imagination in 2016? It’s an eclectic mix that includes stories of northern health care providers and northern families, expert tips and recipes for the outdoors, a beautiful video about Haida and Tsimshian Nations culture, and more!

Here they are: the 10 most-read blog posts from the Northern Health Matters blog in 2016!

#10: Loving yourself: Be bold, be beautiful, be brave!

#9: Foodie Friday: A hiker’s power food

#8: Foodie Friday goes camping! Eating well & tantalizing taste buds in the backcountry

#7: Pumping iron: First foods for building strong babies

#6: A video from North Coast First Nations for health care providers

#5: Staff profile: Licensing officer Lisa Rice shares her thoughts on quality child care

#4: Setting SMART goals

#3: Congratulations to NH’s newest Health Care Hero, Barb Crook

#2: “I always knew that I would come back to nursing”: Richelle’s story

#1: “The village helped to raise our child”: A Smithers family reflects

Thank you for reading in 2016! We look forward to sharing more stories with you in 2017!

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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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 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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The Great Northern Scavenger Hunt – Off to a strong start!

The entries have been pouring in to the Great Northern Scavenger Hunt, and we already have a winner!

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Vince points out a great view in Prince Rupert

Congratulations are in order – the “1st across the line” winner with the first entry in the Great Scavenger Hunt contest is Vince from Prince Rupert! Vince shared some great info about his community in response to our Scavenger Hunt clues, including the fact that a great place to borrow a book in Prince Rupert is the Friendship House youth hub. Vince also sent in a great shot of what he considers to be the best view in his area – the view from Mount Blainey.

A lot of Prince Rupert entries (and Scavenger Hunters have been very busy in Prince Rupert and across the northwest!) mention Oliver Lake for fun on the ice and the Skeena River as a great place to fish – it sounds like Prince Rupert has much to offer in terms of healthy options!

At the time of this writing, we have received 40 entries from communities across northern BC. The clue answers reveal a huge level of participation in community life! It looks like everyone who has a branch enjoys getting their books from their local Public Library. Folks in Prince George really enjoy playing at Duchess Park, and many in the northeast buy their locally grown or produced food at the Hudson’s Hope Farmers Market. In fact, across the north, Farmers Markets are coming out strong as the most commonly suggested place for local foods.

In answering clue #5, “Where do you go for the best view in your area?” Moe from Mackenzie really highlighted how tough that decision in that area, “Drive up Morfee Mountain…hike around. There are beautiful vistas along ALL the trails in town….whether they are simply logging trails or a lookout over Morfee Lake”.

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Hudson’s Hope bike crew

We’ve also been getting some really terrific photos of riders with their helmets on. It’s great to see riders starting young and the entries are also revealing that cycling and mountain biking are very popular across the north. Extra mentions of mountain bike trails were included in entries from Burns Lake, Mackenzie, Kitimat, Chetwynd and Prince George.

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Taking it seriously, big wheel style, in Quesnel

Keep those entries coming in – we’ll have our first three weekly winners announced next week and everyone who submits a minimum of 20 answers is in the draw for a $150 grand prize!

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Wish you were here… in Kitimat

Finally, gorgeous shots are coming in of ‘best views’ from all regions, but today I’ll leave you with this striking and moody shot – it’s the view from the gazebo near MK Bay Marina in Kitimat. Thank you to Sandra for sending that in!

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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Get Your Game On!

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In the jersey is my youngest son, who loves soccer

You know what; I’m pretty excited for the last two weeks of September.  Not only is Northern Health’s Great Northern Scavenger Hunt taking place, but the world cup of hockey  is taking place.  While I won’t be watching every game, I’m looking forward to cheering on team Canada.  If team Canada is knocked out, then I’ll cheer for team Finland, as I have family over there.

Now, you might be wondering why I brought up watching the world cup of hockey when Northern Health is encouraging people to step away from the screen.  To be honest it’s about limiting screen time, not eliminating it all together.

Organized sports like hockey, soccer, baseball, volleyball and basketball not only promote physical activity, but also sportsmanship, teamwork and often community involvement.   The Great Northern Scavenger Hunt is about plugging into your community and I’d like to point out that team sports are a great way to plug into your community.   Take some time to find out what leagues and clubs are in your community.

However, competitive or organized team sports may not be for everyone.  Team sports can be expensive, although there is help available for families.  The commitment in terms of time can be high and sometimes travel is required.  Not everyone enjoys the competition of team sports, and some may feel that their skill level isn’t good enough to join.

Organized competitive team sports just aren’t what some people want to do.  However, there are other ways to get involved in sports and “plug in.”

  • If team sports aren’t your thing, then what about sports that are individual in nature. Sports such as martial arts, speed or figure skating, tennis, badminton, cycling or skiing can provide challenge without being part of a team.
  • If the competitive nature of some sports leagues doesn’t appeal to you, consider joining a recreational league. Check out your community leisure services schedule and see what’s there.  You never know what might peak your interest.  Or get a bunch of friends together and have an informal game; chances are you’ll have fun and a few laughs at the end of it.
  • If you want to take part in a sport, but aren’t confident in your skill level, then look for a beginner league. I didn’t start playing ice hockey until later in life and I started out in an adult beginner’s league. It turned out to be one of the best experiences I ever had.  Never think you’re too old to start playing a sport either.  However, if you haven’t been active for a while, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor first and remember to start out slowly.
  • If your kids are involved in sports, remember that it should be about having fun, making friends and learning about teamwork. While skill development is important, placing too much pressure on kids can result in the game becoming less enjoyable or even requests to quit the team.
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In the Gi is my oldest son, who takes part in jujitsu

The great thing about sports is that everyone can take part in some way or another.  It doesn’t matter what age or gender you are, or what your skill level is, you can find a way to participate.   Getting children involved in sport is a great way to build healthy lifestyles.

Now let’s cheer on team Canada.  Better yet, let’s put on our team Canada jerseys and play some road hockey.  Just remember to get off the road when someone yells “CAR!!”

Consider answering some of the sports-related questions (along with many others!) in the Great Northern Scavenger Hunt! This contest gets you out and thinking about your community’s healthy activities and options – and there are great prizes to be won. Contest Closes October 02.

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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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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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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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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Community Health Stars: Myles Mattila

A graphic that states, "Nominate a Community Health Star."

The Community Health Stars program aims to shine a light on northerners who are positively influencing health.

Biking, playing hockey, and hanging out with friends: standard fare for a 15-year-old male in northern B.C. Myles Mattila shares these interests, but it’s his other extracurricular hobby that makes him anything but your average teenager; in his spare time, Myles works to promote mental health in youth throughout the Prince George area.

Myles’s mental health work is directly connected to his love for hockey, exemplifying the impact that professional athletes can have as positive role models. A ninth-round draft pick of the Vancouver Giants in the 2014 WHL draft and a midget player in Prince George, Myles was inspired to begin working with mindcheck.ca after reading a newspaper article in the Vancouver Province. The article was about the two-year anniversary of Rick Rypien’s suicide, and the impact that the tragic loss had on his friend and Vancouver Canuck teammate, Kevin Bieksa. In the article, Bieksa talked about the Raise-it-4-Ryp Golf Tournament, a charity event that he hosts in honour of Rypien, which raised $23,000 dollars for mindcheck.ca.

Myles wears a mindcheck.ca shirt, promoting the mental health site.

Myles promotes mindcheck.ca.

“I related to the story,” said Myles of the Vancouver Province article, “because I had a teammate with mental health issues, and was unsure how to help. I came to the conclusion that my peers should have the resources they need to get help, regardless of the mental distress that they’re experiencing.” Having been exposed to mindcheck.ca, Myles would, like Bieksa, strap on a skate of a different kind – one that would help him cut through the stigma surrounding mental health issues in youth.

Mindcheck.ca provided an excellent starting point for Myles. The website – a partnership between Fraser Health, BC Mental Health & Substance Services, and the Provincial Health Services Authority – addresses mental health in a manner that is accessible for youth. It features a broad range of topics, including depression, mood and anxiety issues; coping with stress, alcohol and substance misuse; body image, eating disorders, and more. Offering a range of resources like quizzes, stories, tips, and helpful contact information, mindcheck.ca also has links for friends and family members of youth who are suffering from mental illness and would like to learn more.

Mental health is an often-overlooked health subject, affecting more people than you might think and, unlike many other health issues, there is a stigma surrounding the topic. In fact, according to the Canadian Medical Association, only 49% of Canadians said they would socialize with a friend who has a serious mental illness. A shocking number when considering that one in five Canadians will experience a form of mental illness at some point in their life. Due to the stigma, two in three Canadians will suffer in silence and only one out of five children who require services will obtain them.

The importance of educating youth on mental health and wellness cannot be overstated. Mental health and substance use disorders are the primary health issues experienced by young people in their teens and early 20s. Additionally, 75% of mental health and substance use issues begin by the age of 24, often going unrecognized and untreated, which makes early identification vital to providing help.

Given the above statistics, you can imagine the tremendous challenges faced by youth looking for help. “There is stigma attached to youth,” said Myles, “and even worse is the stigma for a youth who also has mental illness. The belief can be that they are incapable of having insight into what they need so that then others speak for them without necessarily being their voice. While promoting mindcheck.ca, I have realized that talking is important for everyone to raise awareness about mental health. It makes it easier for everyone to open up and share their experiences when they are in need … breaking down the stigma of mental health, trying to make it an issue that everyone can talk about. ”

So, what is the message that Myles wants youth to take away from his presentations and the mindcheck.ca website? “…that they are not alone,” he said. “Many people struggle with mental illness. If they are struggling, they need to be aware that they have resources and contacts who can help them get through these difficult times.” He also recommends that anyone, youth or otherwise, who wants to champion the cause of mental health in youth can find promotional materials at mindcheck.ca.

Northern Health’s Community Health Stars

Northern Health couldn’t be happier to have someone like Myles as a voice for youth and mental health in our region and our first Community Health Star. Community Health Stars is a new and ongoing program that shines the light on members of northern communities who are doing exceptional work, on their own time, to spread the message of personal health and wellness. You can nominate a person who you feel would make a great candidate for Community Health Star at northernhealth.ca.

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Project Assistant in Health Promotions. He started at Northern Health in October of 2013. Mike grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007, when he moved here to pursue a career in radio. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, watching sports, reading, and ice fishing. His favourite thing about the north is the slower pace of life and the fact that he no longer has to worry about traffic every morning.

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