Healthy Living in the North

Everyday superheroes make the difference!

Mickey Mouse pin

“While it is great to see famous characters using the gear and demonstrating safe behaviours, we only need to look at the people around us, in our own homes and communities, to realize who the real famous people are in our children’s lives.”

Recently, I saw a pin with Mickey Mouse skateboarding. Visible on this tiny pin, Mickey had all the safety gear: knee pads, elbow pads, and, most importantly, a helmet. Even Mickey Mouse knows injuries are preventable!

This year’s Safe Kids Week, celebrated June 5-11, focuses on promoting safe and active transportation: walking, biking, and wheeling (which includes skateboarding, scootering, and other wheeled activities). The campaign, called “Everyday Superhero”, got me thinking about that Mickey Mouse pin.

While it is great to see famous characters using the gear and demonstrating safe behaviours, we only need to look at the people around us, in our own homes and communities, to realize who the real famous people are in our children’s lives.

Studies tell us that parents, aunties, uncles, friends, and neighbours have a far greater influence on the safety behaviours of our children. These are the everyday superheroes who can make a difference!

You won’t catch Mickey Mouse without a helmet, and Goofy doesn’t text and cross the street, but do you?

  • Do you always wear a helmet?
  • Do you put your phone away when walking or crossing the street?
  • Do you wear the right safety gear for the wheeled activity?

Join Northern Health and participate in Safe Kids Week. Our capes are invisible, but we are all everyday superheroes to the kids in our lives.

Parachute Safe Kids Week banner

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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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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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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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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Preventing injuries at home, at play, and on the road: Safe Kids Week 2016

Safe Kids Week poster

The 20th anniversary of Safe Kids Week is all about preventing injuries at home, at play, and on the road!

The warm, sunny days of spring invite us to go outside. Playgrounds fill, bikes are dusted off, and road hockey games are happening in every neighborhood. I love the feeling of freedom that spring brings. As much as I enjoy winter activities, by the time the snow begins to melt, I am eager to hike in the woods on a warm dirt path rather than a frozen one!

This is what I’m thinking as I read the newly released Chief Medical Health Officer’s Health Status Report on Child Health by Northern Health’s Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr. Sandra Allison. Reading the report, I see my family reflected as part of the larger northern community: “Living in the North,” the report finds, “presents both amazing opportunities and complex challenges for children and families.” We have the great resource of wide open spaces along with some unique obstacles that we face as a region. As a northerner, I do feel connected to my environment and the opportunity that each season presents. I think of my kids, who particularly like counting the worms we come across in our garden!

With these new spring activities starting up again comes the risk of kids being injured as they explore the season. Falls from learning to ride a bike, an inviting lake that is too enticing to ignore, and the start of a new sport all have the potential of injury for a child. My family, like all families, works hard to keep everyone safe but the risk of injury is still present. Injuries are predictable and preventable. In my family, for example, we spend a lot of time teaching our children the rules of the road while cycling.

To help us all keep our kids safe, from May 30 – June 5, Parachute Canada is celebrating the 20th anniversary of Safe Kids Week. This celebration brings awareness to the risk of injury in childhood. Parachute’s Safe Kids Week will highlight ways to keep our kids safe:

  • At home (looking to prevent burns, poisoning, falls, and water injuries)
  • At play (looking to prevent concussions and sports & recreation injuries)
  • On the road (safety on bicycles, in motor vehicles, and as pedestrians)

Did you know that in Northern Health’s region, the leading causes of injury for children and youth are motor vehicle crashes and falls? As a mother of two, this is not just a statistic, but a reminder of the preventable risks to my own family. It’s also a call to action. Join me in celebrating Safe Kids Week in the North. Take some time to check out Parachute Canada’s Safe Kids Week 2016 website and create a way to get involved in your community.

Safe Kids Week banner

How can you prevent childhood injuries in your community?

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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Getting ready for Safe Kids Week 2016: Highlighting preventable injuries

Girl wearing life-jacket at the beach.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amy Da Costa

About Amy Da Costa

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

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Risky play and the freedom to roam

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

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

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

Boy beside a tree

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Denise Foucher

About Denise Foucher

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

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Easter potlucks and food safety

Potluck items on a table

Do your Easter plans include a potluck? Take steps to make sure that your party is not just fun and delicious, but safe, too!

With Easter just around the corner, many people are preparing to gather family and friends for a feast around the table. Potlucks are a popular idea for get-togethers, helping to take some of the burden off of the host. Take steps to make sure that your potluck isn’t just fun, but healthy and safe, too!

Keeping food safe, particularly food prepared at home and brought to another location, is very important in reducing the risk of foodborne illness outbreaks.

Most cases of foodborne illness start in home kitchens not because of the food but because of how the food is prepared. The familiar symptoms many people attribute to “stomach flu” such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, fever, headache and muscle pain may not be the flu but rather foodborne illness. For some people – the very old, the very young, pregnant women and those who have a chronic illness – a foodborne illness can be life threatening.

Potluck meals bring with them the potential for food handling errors that should be avoided. Some of the more common errors include leaving perishable food at room temperature for too long (longer than 2 hours), cooking large amounts of food ahead of time and cooling it improperly, or failing to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Hot foods should be held at 60 C or above (above 140 F) and cold foods at 4 C or below (40 F).

Here’s what you should think about before you decide what to bring to your next potluck:

  1. If the item is perishable, will you be able to keep it cold or hot until it is served?
  2. Will you be able to heat the food or keep it warm once you arrive at the event?
  3. Will there be refrigeration available at the event so foods can be kept cold?

If there are leftovers, or in the event that dishes are prepared in advance of the event, ensure that they are cooled in a timely fashion. Proper cooling requires bringing the food from 60 C to 20 C within two hours and from 20 C to 4 C within four hours. Large dishes can be separated into smaller dishes to expedite the process. When reheating leftovers, ensure they reach an adequate temperature of 74 C.

Here are four simple food safety rules to remember:

  1. Keep hot food hot (above 140 F).
  2. Keep cold food cold (below 40 F).
  3. Keep hands, work surfaces and utensils clean.
  4. Never leave perishable food out of the refrigerator for more than two hours.
Neelam Hayer

About Neelam Hayer

Neelam works as an Environmental Health Officer in Prince George. She completed her BSc in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at UNBC before graduating from BCIT's Environmental Health program in 2009. Neelam grew up in northern B.C., so being back in Prince George was like coming back home for her. In her spare time, she enjoys travelling, hiking, playing soccer, trying out healthy new recipes, and spending time with family and friends.

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