Healthy Living in the North

Safe driving: Expecting the unexpected every day of the year

Halloween decorations

The scary part about Halloween isn’t the ghosts and goblins, it’s that we might only be aware of pedestrian safety on this one day a year.

“Drive like it’s Halloween every night”

This was the name of the Parachute Canada & FedEx media release for Halloween safety in 2013. It is still a great message today.

In B.C., there are an average of 2,400 pedestrians injured and 58 killed in crashes every year. So while it’s a great reminder to be cautious on Halloween when we expect to see more children outside, safe driving is a habit, not a once a year trick-or-treat event. Safe driving is about expecting the unexpected on the other 364 days of the year.

Drivers every day, everywhere can:

  • Reduce distractions
  • Reduce speeds
  • Share the road

Children on Halloween night can:

  • Walk facing traffic
  • Walk down one side of the street then the other – don’t dart back and forth
  • Wear face paint instead of a mask

The scary part about Halloween isn’t the ghosts and goblins, it’s that we might only be aware of pedestrian safety on this one day a year.

Join Northern Health to make safe driving a habit. And this Halloween, make your costume stand out – dress to be seen both on and off the roads.

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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Concussion: There’s an app for that!

I’m sure many of us know someone who has suffered a concussion, or been unfortunate enough to experience one personally. I know several of my friends have been diagnosed with a concussion in the last few months alone.

Concussions don’t just happen in major car crashes and extreme hockey hits. A concussion is any blow to the body or head that causes the brain to move around inside the skull. This could be caused by a seemingly minor fall or hit, even where you don’t lose consciousness at all.

There are several red flag symptoms to watch for if you suspect a concussion. If you see any of the following symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Red flag symptoms of concussion

  • Neck pain
  • Increased confusion or irritability
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Seizure or convulsion
  • Weakness in arms/legs
  • Tingling or burning in arms/legs
  • Deteriorating consciousness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Severe or increasing headache
  • Unusual behaviour change
  • Double vision
App graphic

Concussion Ed is available in the Apple App Store as well as Google Play for Android devices. Concussion Ed is also available via a web-based version for Blackberry and Windows users.

If you or your child has been diagnosed with a concussion, physical and mental rest are important in making a full recovery. Parachute Canada has made learning about concussions and tracking healing easy with their new app, Concussion Ed.

Why download a concussion app?

Parachute Canada cautions:

the real dangers of most concussions occur when the injury is not recognized or is managed incorrectly. Returning to activities too early can put a child at increased risk for future concussions and serious complications.

The Concussion Ed app is designed to provide easy-to-follow information geared towards parents, youth, and educators. Concussion Ed can be used for anyone caring for a child who is suspected of having or recovering from a concussion. This app provides a format to share information with your health care provider to ensure the best care and recovery.

Concussion Ed features

  • Ways to prevent concussions
  • Recognize a concussion
  • Manage symptoms after a concussion
  • Track your recovery

Concussion facts

  • Concussions do not always include a loss of consciousness.
  • Helmets do not protect against concussions, but do protect from skull fractures.
  • A hit to the body can cause a concussion, even if the head was not hit.
  • The signs and symptoms of a concussion can be delayed up to weeks post injury.

Watch Concussion 101: A Primer for Kids and Parents then download Concussion Ed to learn more!

Natasha Thorne

About Natasha Thorne

After many years in southern B.C., Natasha was drawn back to her hometown of Prince George in 2006 by the lure of extended family, sub-boreal forests, and raising her babes exploring the backwoods of her own childhood. Whether nose in a book or in real life, Natasha is an aspiring world traveller planning overseas vacations so she and her husband can give their two children a wider perspective of living in today's global community. As the full time Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention for Northern Health, Natasha is committed to the north and is passionate about supporting the health and well-being of northerners.

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Cars and bikes and joggers, oh my!

Dog sitting on road

Our long summer evenings provide a great chance for all of us (including our four-legged friends!) to get outside! Walkers, joggers, cyclists, drivers, and others are all road users and we all have a responsibility to keep our roadways safe!

Summer is in full swing and I am headed outside every chance I get. With our long summer days, I spend a little longer out walking the dog in the evenings and my kids are constantly asking if we can get out and ride our bikes in the neighborhood or, better yet, on the local trails.

I admit, when I am driving home from work, I sometimes do not give much thought to road safety. Yes, I pay attention to the road, drive the speed limit, and slow down for playground zones, but otherwise I am just enjoying the warm sunshine filtering through my sunroof as I drive along, feeling safe and enclosed in my car.

When I’m walking the dog with a couple of children who are blissfully unaware of potential hazards, though, I find myself acutely aware of road safety. I keep an ear open for an approaching car and am checking each driveway to ensure there is no one about to back out. People who walk, jog, and ride their bikes are road users. Vulnerable road users. Even people who ride motorcycles are considered vulnerable because they do not have an enclosed vehicle for protection. In Northern Health, people who ride motorcycles and those who choose to walk are at the most risk for hospitalization or even death in the event of a crash with a vehicle.

I learned several interesting facts in the Provincial Medical Health Officer’s report: Where the Rubber Meets the Road.

Did you know?

  • A person walking has a 90% chance of surviving a crash with a car if the car is driving 30 km/hr.
  • A person walking has a 20% chance of surviving a crash with a car if the car is driving 50 km/hr.
  • Children who are struck by a car were most often not playing in the street and were usually struck mid-block.
  • Older adults walking our roadways are the most vulnerable and have the highest rates of injury of all age groups.

Walking, cycling, and jogging along our northern roads is part of the reason we all love to live in the North. We love to get outside and enjoy the long summer days with our friends (and good old dogs!). All of us in our many roles as road users have a responsibility to keep our roadways safe.

Keep in mind:

  • Older adults may need a little more time than the crosswalk light provides.
  • Playground speed limits save lives. Slow to 30 km/hr or slower between dawn and dusk.
  • Families may be out walking so take the time to double check before backing down the driveway.

Together we can all have a fun and safe summer in the great outdoors!

More information

Natasha Thorne

About Natasha Thorne

After many years in southern B.C., Natasha was drawn back to her hometown of Prince George in 2006 by the lure of extended family, sub-boreal forests, and raising her babes exploring the backwoods of her own childhood. Whether nose in a book or in real life, Natasha is an aspiring world traveller planning overseas vacations so she and her husband can give their two children a wider perspective of living in today's global community. As the full time Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention for Northern Health, Natasha is committed to the north and is passionate about supporting the health and well-being of northerners.

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We all have a role to play in safety!

Looking for easy to understand information on keeping children safe?

The Parachute Canada website is not just for me to use in my work as an Injury Prevention Lead. It is for me as a parent, as an auntie, and as a community member! And it’s for you! When you have a few minutes, check it out! And what better time than Safe Kids Week?

Safety at home

As kids grow, the hazards change. Did you know that falls are the number one cause of injury in the home? Don’t let their first roll be off the change table. Get tips for safety at home!

Parachute Canada poster

Safety at play

When seasons change, the sport activity changes. Any jarring force to the body or head that causes the brain to knock against the skull can cause concussion. Would you know what to do? Get tips for safety at play!

Parachute Canada poster

Safety on the road

Always use the correct car seat or booster seat on every ride, even short trips close to home. When was the last time you checked to see if the seat you use is meeting the growing needs of your child? Get tips for safety on the road!

Parachute Canada poster

The Parachute Canada website is for everyone. We all have a role to play in safety!

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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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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Spring into activity – injury-free!

Young boy wearing a life-jacket and fishing off of dock.

Make sure that your favourite spring and summer activities are enjoyed safely so that you can have fun all season long!

Spring is in the air! Lakes are thawing, bulbs are blooming, and leaves are sprouting! After a long but mild winter, it’s a perfect time to get outside and enjoy your favourite spring activity!

While physical activity is an important part of our health, as well as our growth and development, we recognize that there are risks involved – as there are in all parts of life. While not all risks can be eliminated, most can be managed.

Everybody has thoughts and ideas about risk and protective factors and what they believe is the right balance to keep their activity both fun and safe. For example, when you leave the house to go for a walk and cross the road, you are taking a risk. But, if you look both ways, make eye contact with drivers, and wear bright clothing, you minimize that risk while still enjoying your walk!

What are your thoughts around risk taking? Do you manage risks in your daily activities in a way that keeps those activities fun while including the appropriate safety measures? What precautions do you take to ensure you can get back to the same activity with the same ability again and again? Remember to aim for a healthy balance, avoid the bubble wrap and when you take risks, take smart ones!

Did you know that we sustain more injuries during the spring and summer months? Why might that be?

  • There are more vulnerable road users out and about such as bicyclists and motorcyclists, dog walkers, runners, and skateboarders.
  • Off-road vehicle use increases with warmer weather. In northern B.C., we actually have the highest rates of ATV injuries in the province.
  • There is more access to open water for swimming, fishing, and boating – all of which come with a drowning risk.
  • There is an increase in outdoor sports where we see more musculoskeletal injuries and concussion.
Young boy wearing helmet on BMX bike.

Shellie’s tips for safe spring and summer activities are simple but effective: look first, wear the gear, get trained, buckle up, and drive sober. Whether you’re on a boat, a bike, a car, a dock, a street, a hill, or enjoying any other Northern activity, these tips will help you stay active and injury-free!

Here are some simple but effective tips to stay fit and injury-free so you can enjoy the activities you love all spring and summer long – and for many seasons to come!

  • Look first: Stop, think and check out the situation before you act. Watch for vulnerable road users. Stop, think, and assess before crossing the street, before skiing down a hill, before climbing a ladder. Understand the risks of an activity and make a plan to manage them.
  • Wear the gear: When there is protective gear for an activity, wear it. It will save a life. Your seatbelt, your helmet, your life-jacket – wear the gear!
  • Get trained: Learn how to assess the risks of an activity, decide which ones are worth taking, and develop skills to manage those risks. ATV safety training, swimming lessons and driver education are all examples of getting trained.
  • Buckle up: Have the rule that everyone buckles up properly every time, no matter how short the trip. Remember to buckle up life-jackets and helmets, too!
  • Drive sober: Be fully in control of your mind and body when behind the wheel of any kind of vehicle, whether car, ATV, boat or bicycle. Operate these vehicles without the impairment of alcohol, drugs, fatigue or distractions of any kind.
Shellie O'Brien

About Shellie O'Brien

Shellie is an injury prevention coordinator with Northern Health’s population health team with a passion for health and wellness. She enjoys the outdoors, animals, recreational dogsledding, reading, and healthy living. When not at work, she can be found on her rural property with her family of happy, healthy huskies.

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From snowboard to toboggan – have fun, protect your noggin!

Two snowboarders with helmets and goggles

From spring skiing to slippery sidewalks, just because the snow is melting and the weather is warming doesn’t mean we should stop thinking about slips, falls, and concussion risks!

From snowboarding to skating, biathlon to snowmobiling, cross-country skiing to snowshoeing, or curling to tobogganing – you name the winter sport and we got it! Being active and participating in sports and outdoor activities during winter is a fantastic way to stay healthy and happy. Whether you are a weekend enthusiast or you’ve been inspired by the Canada Winter Games athletes to try out a new sport, learn how to keep winter play fun, safe and injury-free.

Concussions have often been dismissed as “getting your bell rung,” a time to just shake it off and get back at it! However, in reality, a concussion is a brain injury that can cause a number of symptoms affecting the way you think or act. A repeat concussion that occurs while your brain is still healing from a previous concussion can cause long-term problems that may change your life forever.

How a concussion is handled in the minutes, hours and days following the injury can significantly influence the extent of damage and recovery time. Protect yourself and your loved ones:

Learn how to recognize a concussion

  • Any force that causes the brain to move around in the skull can cause a concussion.
  • Signs of a concussion may not appear immediately.
  • Most concussions do not include a loss of consciousness.
  • When in doubt, sit out! Take the time your brain needs to heal.

Know what to do if you suspect a concussion

  • Assess the individual for any visible cues, signs or symptoms like imbalance, memory loss, and changes in the way they appear to be thinking, feeling or acting.
  • Get medical help – any possible concussion should be evaluated by a medical professional.

Know how to manage a concussion

  • Rest is the best way to recover from a concussion – both physical and mental.
  • Follow the guidelines for Return to Learn and Return to Play to help achieve full recovery (available at cattonline.com).

Spread the word!

  • Injuries are preventable. Tell others to help build awareness and understanding about preventing and managing concussion where you live, work, learn and play. Together we can make northern B.C. injury-free.

Visit cattonline.com for up-to-date and free concussion information, training and resources for parents, players, coaches, medical professionals and educators.


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

Shellie O'Brien

About Shellie O'Brien

Shellie is an injury prevention coordinator with Northern Health’s population health team with a passion for health and wellness. She enjoys the outdoors, animals, recreational dogsledding, reading, and healthy living. When not at work, she can be found on her rural property with her family of happy, healthy huskies.

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Heads up! Concussions matter!

Parent and child wearing helmets on a ski hill.

Concussions matter! From February 24 – March 1, take the free online training at CATTonline.com to better understand concussion prevention and management and for your chance to win a $50 gift card.

Sidney Crosby, Natasha Richardson, the National Football League, Hockey Canada. They all conjure up stories of individual struggles and organizational responses to concussions. With the Canada Winter Games entering their second week in Prince George and northern B.C., we wanted to make the most of the light shining on sports and athletes to talk about concussion awareness and education for all, not just extreme sport athletes.

The Canada Winter Games are here for two weeks, but concussions happen in our communities every day! The question is: how big of an issue are concussions in the north? Injury stats on concussion are rather difficult to gather as historically, concussions have been a very under-reported injury or they’ve been recorded under a number of different categories. What we do know is that:

  • In 2010, $2.4 million was spent on hospitalizations for concussion in B.C.
  • Northern Health has the highest rate of hospitalization for brain injury, other head injury, and concussions of all the health regions in B.C.
  • 1 in 5 youth in northern B.C. reported experiencing a concussion in the past year; many also report not seeking medical help to diagnose, treat and manage their concussion to a full recovery.
  • Up to 60% of all concussion visits were males.
  • 40% of concussion cases seen in emergency departments are for children ages 0-19, with the highest rate for boys 10-14 years old. Most of these cases came from a sport-related injury.

In response to this injury burden, and with the opportunity to create a health legacy from the Canada Winter Games, we’ve created Concussions matter! This concussion awareness, management and prevention campaign was designed to reach Northern Health staff and communities across the north as a health legacy to Canada Winter Games. The campaign has received generous support from the Concussion Awareness Training Tool and preventable.ca, allowing us to use and co-brand some great tools to promote and distribute across the region.

From February 24th to March 1st, we’ll be sharing a lot of concussion information and links to the CATT online training course here, on Facebook, and on Twitter. Take the free online CATT training and comment “I completed the CATT” on the Northern Health Facebook page and you can be entered to win a $50 gift card! Please help us spread the word about concussion awareness and the tools to support the management and prevention!

Concussions matter! Learn more about concussion management and prevention at CATTonline.com.


Contest rules:

  1. Only residents living in the Northern Health region can qualify to win (but we encourage everyone to take the free CATT online training course!). Not sure if you are in our region? View the map.
  2. The contesting and prizing is administered by Northern Health. Facebook is in no way responsible for contesting or prizing.
  3. Participants are entered by taking the free online CATT course and commenting “I completed the CATT” below the Facebook post relating to the contest on the Northern Health Facebook Page.
  4. No maximum entries per person. A maximum of one entry is earned by completing the CATT and commenting appropriately. Extra entries can be earned by tagging a friend.
  5. Comments deemed abusive, offensive or derogatory will be automatically disqualified.
  6. One prize will be given away. A gift card valued at $50 will be awarded.
  7. Winner will be contacted via email or social media platform.
  8. Gift card will be awarded by random draw.
  9. Gift card to be used to encourage healthy living. To ensure it is, Regional Injury Prevention Coordinators will work with the winners to determine what the gift card will be for.
  10. Northern Health reserves final approval of winning entry and gift card.
  11. Contestants under the age of 18 must have parent or guardian permission to enter.
  12. Announced prize winner is final.
  13. Entering the contest does not guarantee that you will win a prize.
  14. Northern Health employees are eligible to enter the contest and win, but will not be granted preferential treatment.
  15. Northern Health has 60 days from the time the contest closes (March 1, 2015, 11:59PM PST) to issue prize.
Shellie O'Brien

About Shellie O'Brien

Shellie is an injury prevention coordinator with Northern Health’s population health team with a passion for health and wellness. She enjoys the outdoors, animals, recreational dogsledding, reading, and healthy living. When not at work, she can be found on her rural property with her family of happy, healthy huskies.

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Make more of Movember

Man wearing a safety vest and nicotine replacement patch working near train tracks.

Make the most out of Movember! Get a check-up, protect your assets, set a quit date, and get up and move!

It’s Movember again; a time for all clean-shaven men to put away the razor and embark on a hair-raising journey. Although the extra fuzz likely comes in handy in northern B.C. this time of year, let’s not forget that Movember is about more than just moustaches!

We know that men in the north aren’t living as long as men in other parts of Canada, and we know that they’re dying of causes that are – in many cases – preventable, such as heart disease, cancer, and injury. So this November, get a jump on the new year and make some resolutions to improve your health (if you’re a man) or the health of a man in your life! Here are some ideas to get you going: 

Get a check-up

Don’t wait until you’re already sick! Make Movember your annual reminder to go and visit your doctor. Not sure what you need to get checked out at your age? Check out our Men’s Health MANual online

Get up and move

Whether at home or at work, try to sit less and move more. Walking is the easiest way to get started, and requires the least amount of equipment. Take another guy with you, and help improve his health at the same time!

Set a quit date

There’s no better day to quit smoking than today! It’s the single best thing you can do to improve your health! If you’ve been thinking about quitting, but are looking for some help call HealthLinkBC at 8-1-1, or check out quitnow.ca

Protect your assets

Seatbelts and helmets let you work and play hard, but most importantly they improve your chances of making it home to your families at the end of the day!

So this year when the ‘staches emerge let them inspire you to put your health at the top of your to-do list. Men’s health matters, because men matter!

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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A Focus on injury prevention

Preventing seniors' fallsHave you ever watched America’s Funniest Videos? Without fail, I find myself giggling or laughing out loud at the montage of videos showing people falling, tripping, tumbling and crashing off their bikes, over their dogs, off their decks, etc. I don’t want to be that person who laughs at other people’s misfortunes, but sitting on my sofa in the comfort of my home, it all seems so harmless and comical.

Now I ask you, have you ever had the chance to sit and listen to a parent describe the gut-wrenching screams of their child who broke a bone or sustained a head injury from a fall? Have you ever chatted with a senior when they describe the shock and pain of falling and breaking their hip, having to give up the comfort of living in their home in their neighborhood because they could not regain their previous level of independence? What do you think about all the professional athletes who have died, taken their own life, or never again played at the same level as a result of a concussion? Do you know someone who has had to change their life, either for a weekend, season or long-term because of the painful, confusing and unpredictable symptoms after suffering a concussion? Suddenly, the risk of serious injury from a fall is not at all harmless or in the least bit comical. Everyone knows someone who has had their life changed as a result of a fall.

While I’m shining a light on the serious risk of injury that accompanies a fall, let me challenge your assumptions about injuries in general. Did you know that most injuries are preventable? Injuries are the fifth leading cause of death in Canada and BC; they are the third leading cause of death in northern BC. We have higher rates of injury from motor vehicle crashes, suicides and falls than our provincial counterparts, and like the rest of the province and country, we have populations who are more vulnerable to the cost, pain, disability and tragedy of injury, such as seniors, children and youth, men and Aboriginal peoples.

Do injuries have to be a part of life? No. Can we still live full, fun, active, healthy lives while managing the serious risks of fall-related injuries?  Yes, we can! As preventable.ca challenges us, have a word with yourself.

Show us how for a chance to win prizes!

Do you live your life actively and fully while managing your risk for injury? Show us. Send in your pictures, stories, videos, and artwork of how to bring awareness to preventing injuries and you’ll have a chance to win weekly prizes. Visit our contest page for full details!

Join us in weekly contests this month to raise awareness about seniors’ falls prevention, childhood falls prevention, and concussion awareness. And for more information about preventing seniors’ falls, preventing childhood falls and concussion awareness and management, visit our Injury Prevention website.

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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