Healthy Living in the North

Screening & follow-up care to prevent cardiovascular disease in women in Prince Rupert

This article was co-authored by Justine Derksen and Janice Paterson


Doctor in scrubs

Evidence has shown that pregnancy is a great place to evaluate cardiac risk. In Prince Rupert, Dr. Marius Pienaar has developed a screening program and software to identify and support women with cardiovascular risks.

Scientific evidence has shown that pregnancy is a great place to evaluate cardiac risk. In Prince Rupert, Dr. Marius Pienaar, a gynecologist, has developed a screening program and software which uses the data collected during a woman’s pregnancy to assess for cardiovascular risks and to coordinate referral and follow-up to prevent cardiovascular disease.

During the pregnancy, some basic measurements such as blood pressure and weight are recorded and a panel of blood tests are performed, including blood lipids and glucose. This data is then entered into the program to calculate a risk score for future cardiovascular disease. Women with elevated risk are then offered interventions, and their primary care provider is informed of this risk.

We have a golden opportunity to evaluate pregnant women with cardiovascular risk and this should not be missed. -Dr. Marius Pienaar

Dr. Pienaar explains that if a woman has diabetes in pregnancy, she is at a higher risk of having diabetes later in life and should be tested 6 weeks to 6 months after pregnancy. Currently, only about 20% of women are tested after pregnancy. Dr. Pienaar’s new software actively follows his patients and has created a referral and reminder system where every patient can be contacted and given opportunities to attend the North Coast Maternal Health Clinic for evaluation.

Walking in snow with mountain background.

Dr. Pienaar is hoping to make this unique program and software available across the province.

Currently, Dr. Pienaar’s clinic seeks to intervene by providing clinical care to at-risk women as well as offering smoking cessation resources, on-site dietitians and diabetes nurses, and more. 100% of postpartum patients who are screened and are identified as having increased risk are offered the postpartum health clinic visit. The program is expected to increase patient awareness of their own risk of cardiovascular disease and support women to access additional health care services to help reduce their risk.

I am very appreciative of the care and information I received in the North Coast Maternal Health Clinic. This program provided me with valuable information/assessment regarding future health risks. Such insight allows me to intervene early in order to improve my modifiable risk factors and ensure my future health and well-being. -Cherie Harvey-Malthus

The clinic has been a success so far and is very efficient and cost effective. Dr. Pienaar has seen success with this quality improvement project and hopes to make the program and software available across the province. There has already been interest from Fraser Health and the Lower Mainland to emulate the clinic model at other hospitals. This is the first such clinic in B.C. and the first rural clinic in Canada specifically geared to evaluate cardiovascular risk in postpartum patients.

Check out the full version of this article: An Innovative Program in Prince Rupert is Screening and Providing Follow-up Care for Women with Risk for CVD

Justine Derksen

About Justine Derksen

Justine works for Northern Health in Medical Affairs as the Coordinator, Physician Engagement Initiatives in Prince George. Justine loves the north and enjoys the seasonal activities with her husband and adorable Bernese Mountain dog any chance she gets. Justine is currently pursuing her masters of Public Health degree, which she was inspired to pursue through her work with Northern Health. When not at work, Justine enjoys cooking, outdoor recreational activities and crafting.

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Tales from the Man Cave: Cancer awareness

A cairn on a rocky surface

The month of November is an important time for men’s health and men’s cancer awareness. Look out for the signs along the way!

Have you seen any extra stubble in your community over the last three days?

November is a great month for cancer support for men because all the lads seem to grow extra-long moustaches to raise awareness for the cause of prostate cancer. This is a good cause, indeed, and needs more support, however I am continually reminded that when it comes to cancer, there is more than the prostate involved and that testing for prostate cancer is something that needs careful discussion with your doctor. Approximately 4,100 men die each year from prostate cancer in Canada.

The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care, which advises doctors on the benefits of the prostate-specific antigen test (PSA), recommends that screening by PSA should not be done without detailed discussion with the man involved as there are risks involved from harms done through unnecessary treatment.

This is largely due to the nature of the different types of prostate cancer, some of which grow very slowly and some of which are fast-growing. Dr. Mike has a great explanatory video on YouTube.

What about those other cancers? Here’s a short rundown of the worst offenders:

Take testicular cancer, for example. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, in Canada in 2010, 40 men died from testicular cancer.

This is a cancer that can be cured if discovered early and that is why we encourage men (especially young men) to check themselves out. It is a sad thing to lose so many young men to this and it is better to go through life with one less than the alternative.

TIP: Check for lumps or bumps in the shower. 15 -35 is the most common age group for testicular cancer but it can occur at any age so just keep an eye out for anything that isn’t normal for you. HealthLinkBC has some more information on examining yourself.

Similarly, colorectal cancer kills approximately 5,100 men according to Canadian Cancer Society and is silent until well-developed.

That’s why the FIT test is recommended every two years after 50 years of age. This can be followed up by colonoscopy if anything requires further exploration.

Diets high in red meat and processed meats are a risk factor. Physical inactivity is a risk factor, as is obesity, smoking and heavy alcohol use. Diets high in vegetables and fruit lower risk and perhaps offer some protection.

Lung cancer is responsible for 10,900 deaths per year in Canada. Smoking causes 50% of all lung cancers – which is one of the reasons we keep saying “please stop smoking.” If everybody stopped smoking, there would be 5,450 fewer deaths from this disease within a few short years. There are currently no screening tests for lung cancer.

Skin cancer is also rising in numbers. HealthLinkBC has a good article here on what to look for.

The common thread? Changes.

No matter what it is: unusual lumps or bumps, changes in bowel habit, coughing up blood or blood in the toilet. Don’t be embarrassed – go get it checked out! Keep an eye on moles and if you see changes, you know what to do! Yes – check it out with your doctor!

If you bury your head in the sand, they might just bury the rest of you with it.

It only takes a simple appointment. And while you’re at it, ask what other screening options are available to you.

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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Partnership with UNBC Wellness Centre highlights the health of young men

In March 2011, Northern Health and the UNBC Wellness Centre developed a partnership to provide screenings to students to check their blood pressure, sugars and cholesterol as well as a pre-screening for stress and depression. The event was an overwhelming success so we decided to do it again!

Northern Health and UNBC once again came together to offer the same event during November 2012, building off the momentum from the Movember campaign. The event was made possible through the partnership of the Northern Health men’s health team, the UNBC Wellness Center, the Canadian Cancer Society, and the BC Cancer Agency.

men's health screening

A total of 123 men came through the men’s health screening at UNBC. Mustaches were complimentary!

A total of 123 men were screened over the two day event. Many more came by the event for health information, games, and a free photo with complimentary mustaches. We were hoping for a good turnout and the students did not disappoint!

We want to thank UNBC for hosting the event, as well as our partner agencies for all their work in making these great two days possible. Let’s continue to spread the word about men’s health in our communities!

Visit men.northernhealth.ca for more information on men’s health and community events to support this initiative.

Brandon Grant

About Brandon Grant

As the NH men’s health coordinator, Brandon Grant travels across the Northern Health region speaking with community members about the health issues men face and what we can do to improve men’s health. He has worked with a variety of community-based organizations, including the Nawican Friendship Centre and the Northern Family Health Society, and holds two master’s degrees, one in social work and one in public administration. To stay active, Brandon enjoys playing golf and tennis, and whenever possible, visits tropical destinations to go snorkeling.

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Men’s health event and screening in McBride was a huge success!

McBride Pioneer Days

The NH team promoting men’s health. L-R: Brandon Grant, Mike Benusic, Sheila Anderson, Roxanne Coates and Susanna Gasser.

On June 17th, I was able to participate in a great event held during the McBride Pioneer Days Pancake Breakfast at the Elk’s Hall. I was there to promote men’s health, along with other Northern Health staff who conducted blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol checks for men who came in for breakfast. We also had an information booth with a variety of health resources for residents.

As with most of our events across the region, the men we saw really stepped up and took on the challenge to learn more about their health, with over 30 participants lining up to get checked. As I spoke with some of the folks at the Elk’s Hall, it reminded me of the importance of the work we are doing to raise the spotlight on men’s health. The men and women who came by shared stories about their own health issues and real-life examples that have showed them how important it is to reach men at all stages of life, but especially when they’re young.

The best part about my job is visiting all the communities in our vast region, speaking with people about what good health means to them, and what we can do as a community and health authority to raise awareness about health issues of men living in the north. The work continues, but with the help of our committed Northern Health staff and our community partners, we can make men’s health better for all that call the north home. Thanks to the great folks that helped make this event possible!

Brandon Grant

About Brandon Grant

As the NH men’s health coordinator, Brandon Grant travels across the Northern Health region speaking with community members about the health issues men face and what we can do to improve men’s health. He has worked with a variety of community-based organizations, including the Nawican Friendship Centre and the Northern Family Health Society, and holds two master’s degrees, one in social work and one in public administration. To stay active, Brandon enjoys playing golf and tennis, and whenever possible, visits tropical destinations to go snorkeling.

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