Healthy Living in the North

Learning from Nana: Making small changes to prevent falls and stay independent

Old photograph of a woman.

Amy’s Nana taught her some valuable lessons on healthy aging and staying independent.

At 90 years old, my Nana still splashed her face 10 times each morning with cold water – a tip she once read in a fashion magazine from celebrity Marilyn Monroe to keep the skin free of wrinkles. After this morning splash, Nana would dress and prepare to leave the retirement home for ice cream with her boyfriend (the only eligible bachelor in the facility who still held a valid driver’s licence).

While the story is endearing, it also shares a valuable lesson about aging: none of us ever believe we really do age. We may believe we gain wisdom or earn some much-needed free time through retirement, but it is hard for any of us to imagine the physical changes to our body that lead to a loss of independence. Even at 90, Nana did not compromise her lifestyle. She and the family just found ways to manage some of the risks that accompany aging.

Change is hard at any age so it is important to plan for it.

This year, BC Seniors Falls Prevention Awareness Week is November 7-13. Falls pose the greatest risk of injury and hospitalization to adults over age 65. I want everyone to know there are things you can do to reduce the risk and maintain your independence.

FindingBalanceBC has 4 protective factors that can reduce the risk of falls:

#1: Exercise

  • The more you move, the more your body can support changes in balance.

#2: Annual vision testing

  • Yearly vision testing is covered by MSP for those people over age 65.

#3: Home safety evaluation

  • Keeping your independence is often a matter of making small changes at home. Think handrails, grab bars, walking aids, better lighting, etc.

#4: Medication review

  • Be sure to keep a current list of all medications you take to share with your health care providers.

We all have a role to play when it comes to the safety of our loved ones. When Nana’s boyfriend was no longer able to drive, for example, she just called us to take the two of them for ice cream! Even children can help by taking a safety superhero challenge!

What’s the saying? “It is not the years in our lives, but the life in our years that matter” (Abraham Lincoln)

Plan to make the small changes needed to stay injury free and independent for the longest possible time!

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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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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Preventing injury with IMAGINE grants

This article was co-authored by Mandy Levesque and Denise Foucher.


Students touching jello brain

What would an injury prevention project look like in your community?

With the recent launch of the IMAGINE Community Grants offering funding up to $5,000, the time is right to take action to promote health and improve the well-being of our northern residents.

Injury prevention is one of the health promotion priorities we want to see as a project focus when the grant applications come in (deadline is October 31, 2016) and is definitely one way to ensure northern residents can stay healthy.

What injury prevention project idea would benefit your community?

Did you know that most injuries are preventable? Injuries are not “accidents.” They happen in similar, predictable patterns and as many as 90% of injuries can be prevented.

In B.C., preventable injuries that happen:

  • On the road,
  • From falling,
  • In or near water, and
  • From ATVs

are among the leading causes of death and hospitalization across all age groups. Those numbers are even higher among northern B.C. residents.

So, what does an injury prevention focused IMAGINE grant application actually look like?

Longboarders

IMAGINE in Prince Rupert supported safe longboarding. What types of injury prevention needs are there where you live?

Get inspired by these great ideas:

Water safety:

  • Host teen water safety swim nights at the local pool
  • Organize a Life Jacket Fashion Show

Falls prevention:

  • Get the gear for floor curling in community centres
  • Promote sidewalk safety in slippery winter conditions (e.g., install boxes with sand/grit and scoops) (more on falls prevention from FindingBalanceBC.ca)

Road safety:

  • Conduct a walkability assessment and look to make changes for safety (more on walkability from WalkBC.ca and HASTe)

Mental wellness:

IMAGINE grants support partnerships and build capacity, and create an opportunity to build lasting change in your community. Get your exciting injury prevention project applications in by October 31, 2016.

Injury prevention infographic


IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to community organizations, service agencies, First Nations bands and organizations, schools, municipalities, regional districts, not-for-profits, and other partners with projects that make northern communities healthier. We are looking for applications that will support our efforts to prevent chronic disease and injury, and improve overall well-being in our communities.

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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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.

20160922-reg-hiking-1

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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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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“A gateway to many opportunities for Elders”: The Nadleh Whut’en First Nation Push, Pull, or Drag an Elder program

Northern Health’s IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to a variety of groups with projects that make northern communities healthier. Our hope is that these innovative projects inspire healthy community actions where you live! Check out the story below and read more IMAGINE Community Grant stories.


The number of people aged 65 or older is growing faster in northern B.C. than it is elsewhere in the province. As you may have noticed on the blog recently, this has made healthy aging a very important focus for all of us!

A key part of Northern Health’s Healthy Aging in the North: Action Plan is to support healthy aging in the community. Older adults enjoy living independently in the community and want to stay there! To make this happen, they need a variety of opportunities to stay active and involved in community life.

Staff supporting elder on a bicycle

The Push, Pull, or Drag an Elder event series has gotten Elders moving, eating healthy, connected, and socializing.

Near Fort Fraser, the Nadleh Whut’en First Nation provides a model to do just that!

With the support of an IMAGINE grant, the Push, Pull, or Drag an Elder event series has gotten Elders moving, eating healthy, connected, and socializing. With some donated space, local expertise, and equipment purchased with an IMAGINE grant, Push, Pull, or Drag an Elder is a great example of how one idea – getting Elders moving at a monthly gathering – can blossom and create so many additional benefits!

What became clear early in the program is that Push, Pull, or Drag an Elder was about more than just getting Elders moving, its original goal. According to Lisa Ketlo with the Nadleh Whut’en First Nation,

This event has accomplished many things: healthy eating, socializing, physical activities, [assessing] health concerns or issues, [and] monitoring wellness of Elders and community members.

For the physical activity component of the project, Nadleh Whut’en “had Elders and community members out walking, using a 3-wheel bike, or using the chair gym. [We] made members realize no matter how old we are, if we don’t use it, we lose it!” According to Ketlo, the program encouraged connections across generations, too, as it “opens the doors for many younger generations to get physically active and take care of their bodies inside and out.” The 3-wheel bike, for example, helped youth test their balance and made some local office workers realize they didn’t do enough physical activity! The Push, Pull, or Drag an Elder event now regularly sees up to 16 participants ranging in age from 19-81.

Three people walking

Social connections have been a key feature of the Push, Pull, or Drag an Elder project.

In addition to the physical activity benefits, Ketlo reflected on the impact related to social connectedness – a key piece of healthy aging.

I was shocked with some members who attended Push, Pull, or Drag an Elder. Some of these Elders never leave their home and now look forward to attending the event. I also see them at more community events and socializing with others […] Elders get to be involved with community events and not isolated at home. We had one Elder [who had been] isolated and depressed at home. Since she began attending Push, Pull, or Drag an Elder, she has been going out to more community events and going out to shop for herself!

Push, Pull, or Drag an Elder is not just about connecting Elders with one another and with youth in the community. The program also let Elders connect directly with health care professionals in a non-medical setting, which was huge!

This event has opened many doors for the community members, frontline workers, and nurses […] The members involved with the event are able to socialize with community members and frontline workers – to have someone to talk to and not be judged. When trust comes into play, then Elders will open and share any health, financial, or abuse issues – or just to admit they are unable to do tasks they once were able to achieve and ask for help […] We are able to visit with Elders and members with health issues, the nurse is able to monitor members with any health concerns or catch any signs of health issues arising […] To have community nurse on site really helps her to build trust with Elders. They are more willing to do blood pressure, sugar testing, [and discuss] any issues they have developed and what medication they are taking and how important it is to take medication […] We achieved goals [we weren’t] able to achieve before, like getting blood pressure, blood sugar, and pulse [measurements] on a regular basis.

Ketlo believes that Push, Pull, or Drag an Elder can be re-created by others. For Nadleh Whut’en, the IMAGINE grant provided funds for various pieces of equipment to support safe and healthy physical activity: runners, umbrellas (for shade in the summer), 3-wheel bikes, chair gym equipment, weights, snowshoes, ice grippers, high-visibility vests, and more!

Elder on a tricycle

“This grant is a gateway to many opportunities for Elders and community members through physical activities.” What kind of gateway to health can you create in your community?

Ketlo has a few suggestions for other communities looking to initiate a similar program:

  • Feed guests and visitors! By providing healthy snacks and drinks, more community members were encouraged to take part and the event was able to teach Elders and all participants about the importance of healthy eating and drinking.
  • Never hold an event for Elders on Old Age Pension day! The very first Push, Pull, or Drag an Elder event took place on pension day and only one participant attended.
  • Involve local experts. Push, Pull, or Drag an Elder benefited from the expertise of a physical therapist able to suggest appropriate exercises and resources for Elders.
  • Meet people where they’re at. Many Elders at the community event were much more open to getting a checkup from the local nurse than they would be at the Health Centre.

Ketlo sums up the impact of the IMAGINE grant, the Push, Pull, or Drag an Elder program, and healthy aging work in this way:

This grant is a gateway to many opportunities for Elders and community members through physical activities.

What kind of gateway to healthy living can you create in your community?


IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to community organizations, service agencies, First Nations bands and organizations, schools, municipalities, regional districts, not-for-profits, and other partners with projects that make northern communities healthier. We are looking for applications that will support our efforts to prevent chronic disease and injury, and improve overall well-being in our communities. The next call out for IMAGINE Community Grants will be September 19, 2016.

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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Back to school: The connection protection

School bus

Back-to-school time reminds us of our connection to the built environment, school and playground.

This is the second year now where my daughter gears up for school and my son gears up to wait. My 4-year-old son has one more year at home before beginning his school journey in kindergarten in September 2017.

When I watch my 4-year-old wave to his sister as she walks to school, I am reminded of the many connections that exist at back-to-school time and how each of these connections will protect our family. Northern Health’s newly released Child Health Report would go so far as to say connection is one of the building blocks of health.

The first week of school is the perfect time to talk to kids about making new friends, showing kindness to others, and extending tolerance and acceptance. The pencils, patterns, and routines of a new school year help connect and ground our children to each other and the physical world around them in a way that the global community (internet and social media) cannot.

September and back-to-school season is a time to reconnect and connection can be a positive force in a child’s life for the long term. As parents, we can support the wonder, excitement and connection to education:

Back-to-school season also reminds us of our connection to the built environment, school, and playground. Motor vehicle crashes continue to lead the injury-related hospitalizations for children in the North. A community approach to safety develops our “connection protection”:

  • Make eye contact. Learn about pedestrian safety. Talk to kids while crossing the street about making eye contact or a connection with drivers. Look, listen, and be seen.
  • Use the crosswalk. Take the time to hold hands, connect, and walk with children while crossing; kids under age 10 are not ready to judge traffic safely and still rely on parents and drivers to protect them.
  • Slow down. Finally, view school zones as one last chance for an important connection. My 4-year-old thinks a 30 km/hr school zone is the slow zone by which he can wave goodbye to his sister for the day. For now, I will let him think that’s exactly what it is!
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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Is distracted driving really only about cellphones?

When I heard of the new distracted driving fines increasing, I have to admit, I was pleased. When I am on the road, I see countless people texting or talking on cellphones and I feel a little nervous driving alongside them.

When I think of distracted driving, I think cellphones. I think of that phone call I have been waiting for that happens to come in as I am driving home. I think of the buzz of a text tempting me to just take a peek while the red light seems to go on and on.

What I didn’t really consider is the passing of water bottles to the backseat because my children are acting like they have been days without water as a distraction. I did not consider the radio surfing to find the right song a distraction. These all take my eyes off the road and my mind away from driving, even for a few precious and seemingly harmless seconds. Although the actual law is for handheld electronic devices, when it comes to preventing injury and death, distracted driving is anything that distracts you from driving, period.

Cellphones are the most common distraction for drivers and are thought to be the cause of high numbers of car crashes and fatalities in recent years. In fact, in 2011, distracted driving caused more car crash fatalities in B.C. than impaired driving. We have good evidence that cellphones and driving do not mix, but what about other distractions? It’s curious that I had only framed distracted driving around cellphones. I am sure I am not the only one.

I am not saying that it is impossible to change the radio station while waiting patiently for the light to change. What I am saying is that maybe we should be looking at everything that distracts us while we navigate a 1500 kg complex machine while moving at speeds up to 120 km/hr with our loved ones beside us. When I first earned my licence, I remember feeling humbled in my responsibility to navigate my car in complex scenarios and to keep myself and those around me safe in potentially dangerous situations. With so many years of driving under my belt, I am a confident driver but, dare I say, a bit lacking in remembering my responsibility as a driver to stay focused and attentive.

This summer while I am driving out to the lake, I will enjoy the sunshine and the songs on the radio about summer, but will commit to being more attentive than I have as of late. I will continue to not let a cellphone distract me, and will also plan ahead to ensure that other people or circumstances will not take my focus away from the road.

Join me in making this commitment to not get distracted while driving and keep our loved ones safe this summer!

 

Distracted driving in B.C. (ICBC)

Distracted driving in B.C. (infographic) ICBC

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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A family’s plan to prevent drowning

Family in a canoe

Paddling is a fun northern activity for so many families in our region! When you are on, in, or near the water, be sure to wear a life-jacket!

July 17-23, 2016 is National Drowning Prevention Week. Parachute Canada has some important information that really frames this topic for me:

Did you know?

  • Children under 18 are at greatest risk of drowning in rivers, lakes, and ponds.
  • Boys are more likely to drown than girls.
  • Drowning can happen in an instant.

I want to encourage everyone to have a safe summer, but I know that talking to parents about safety can be tricky. It only takes media coverage of one injured child to spark all sorts of harsh judgements and criticisms of parents. Sometimes I wonder if what I write about childhood safety will be viewed as a criticism of things parents aren’t doing. I certainly hope not.

You see, I am also a parent of young children. I am not perfect, not even close. We have “close calls” or times when I feel we have come far too close to one of my children experiencing a preventable injury. Every day, I wonder if I am enough for my children. What I can tell you is that when I parent without support or help, I am in fact setting myself up for failure. No single person is meant to be enough or everything for our children. There is a reason we say “it takes a community.” It really does!

When it comes to water safety, the same is true. No single plan is enough.

Water injuries are predictable. There are many ways to reduce the risk of drowning.

  • Children need to swim within arms’ reach. Drowning is often silent. When kids get into trouble, they do not call, wave or signal; all of their energy is used just keeping their head above water. Visit the Lifesaving Society (BC & Yukon Branch) for more information.
  • Actively supervise all children around water. According to the Red Cross, the absence of effective adult supervision is a factor in 75 per cent of deaths by drowning for children under the age of 10. An older sibling is no substitute for parent supervision.
  • Wear a properly fitted life-jacket every single time kids are on a boat. Young children and weak swimmers should wear a life-jacket on, near, or in the water. Want to learn how to properly fit a life-jacket? SmartBoater.ca has you covered with great video tutorials!
  • Learn to swim. Learning to swim and play safely around water is a life skill in Canada. Enrol in swim lessons at the local pool.

This isn’t a menu of options, where you just pick one. These are multiple ways to protect children and prevent drowning that can all be used together. Even though I may teach my child to ask permission to enter the lake every time, there will always be the one time it gets forgotten. I will blink, look away, and get distracted countless times. Relying on many strategies or supports is not a sign of weakness, it is responsible parenting. And it drastically decreases the risks of incident for my children.

So, parents, you do not have to do it alone! Use whatever resources are available to make sure that water play is safe play!

Want a new tool to add to your water safety plan? Enter our Facebook contest for your chance to win a life-jacket!

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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