Healthy Living in the North

“My whole life changed the day I started to smoke”

no smoking symbol

For many smokers addiction starts at a young age

“Hey, when did you start?” Bryan looks up. “When I was 13-I’m 20 now and I’m hooked.”

As we acknowledge National Non Smoking Week this week, our attention turns to youth. Nearly all tobacco use* begins during youth and progresses during young adulthood, according to the 2014 US Surgeon General Report.

What does Bryan want to say to kids who are smoking or thinking about trying it?

“Hey, that’s easy. Don’t do it. Just don’t. I’ve spent a ton of money on cigarettes. They stink. I can’t get apartments because I smoke, can’t get jobs, heck, I can’t get a girlfriend! I thought when I started I could stop whenever I wanted. I didn’t get the fact that nicotine is addictive. It controls me, I can’t control it. I was cut from the hockey team my senior year because smoking affected my ability to play the game. When I stopped playing hockey, I also was cut out from a lot of my friends. My whole life changed the day I started to smoke. I wish I knew how addictive smoking was.”

Help teens choose to say no to tobacco use. Help them be tobacco free for life. Choose now!

If you know a teen who uses tobacco, help them: tell them about QuitNow services and the BC Smoking Cessation Program. They can access free counselling by phone, text or email and free nicotine patches, gum, lozenges or inhalers.


*In this blog post and in most public health messaging, ‘tobacco’ is short for commercial tobacco products like cigarettes and chewing tobacco. Using these is highly addictive and a leading cause of disease and premature death. However, Northern Health recognizes that natural tobacco has been an integral part of many Indigenous cultures in BC for thousands of years. Traditional uses of tobacco in ritual, ceremony, and prayer is entirely different from smoking or chewing commercial tobacco. Northern Health supports the cultural and ceremonial uses of tobacco and recognizes that the benefits of traditional uses can outweigh the potential harms.

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Teachers and parents can support children to avoid tobacco use!

If kids didn’t start smoking, the problematic use of tobacco would be a thing of the past before the end of this century!

Kids learn from an early age that tobacco is bad for their health yet every day there are young people in Canada taking their first puffs. Most smokers start using tobacco before their 19th birthday, at an average age of 13. It’s obvious that education about the harmful effects of cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco is not enough to stop kids from trying tobacco.

If you’re a teacher, maybe some of your students started smoking over the summer and they’re now suffering withdrawal in your classroom!

Some teens are persuaded to try tobacco by their peers if they are more influenced by this group than their parents. They may not be aware that the first puffs of a cigarette or a flavoured cigar may lead to a lifetime of nicotine addiction. Three out of four young smokers will continue to smoke into adulthood.

How can you support children and youth in your community to avoid tobacco use?

How can you support children and youth in your community to avoid tobacco use?

It only takes a few cigarettes to make changes in the teenage brain, leading to cravings and continued use of tobacco. Even though many teens do not smoke daily, they still have difficulty quitting.

Teachers and parents can support children to avoid tobacco use with conversations about:

You have a role in supporting a tobacco free community! Northern Health supports the cultural and ceremonial use of smoke, tobacco and other legal sacred plants and recognizes the benefits of traditional and spiritual uses can outweigh the potential harms.

For more info, check out QuitNow or email tobaccofree@northernhealth.ca.

Nancy Viney

About Nancy Viney

Nancy is a registered nurse working in Northern Health’s population health team. She often imagines a day when no one in northern British Columbia suffers from the harmful effects of tobacco. In her time off, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, especially her two little grandchildren! Nancy also enjoys quilting, knitting, crocheting and many other home spun crafts.

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Teachers! Don’t just blow smoke – Cut through the smoke screen!

Outside of school building with sign that says "Student Drop Off Ahead"

With kids back in school, teachers are uniquely placed to prevent smoking amongst youth. Reg shares some great tips for teachers!

While the prospect of youth starting to smoke is concerning, there’s some great news from the 2012-13 Youth Smoking Survey. The percentage of Canadian youth who currently smoke and the percentage of youth in British Columbia who have ever tried a cigarette have both declined.

Unfortunately, some youth will start using tobacco. Teachers play an important role in educating students about the harmful effects of tobacco use.

If you’re a teacher, when you talk about tobacco, remember the following:

  • Start talking about tobacco early in the school year. Don’t wait until it becomes a problem on the school grounds before addressing it. Ensure that your school has a clear policy on tobacco and that it’s clearly communicated.
  • Speak to your students as intelligent people who can make good decisions. Don’t speak down to them or try to intimidate them into not using tobacco – rather than starting a genuine conversation around tobacco, this is more likely to create barriers.
  • Don’t make assumptions about how much your students know about tobacco. Most students are likely aware that tobacco is harmful, but might underestimate the health risks or long-term consequences of tobacco use. Be creative and engage your students in exploring the harms of tobacco use. Use a biology class to look at what using tobacco does to the body. Explore other alternatives for dealing with things like peer pressure or stress as part of a social studies class.

According to the Youth Smoking Survey, the average age a young person tries a cigarette is 13.6 years old. As a teacher, you are at the right place and in the right time to address it!

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator 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. 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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Leaving a legacy: the Nordic Ski Initiative

Cross-country skiers going down a hill.

The IMAGINE: Legacy Grants are one of many ways that Northern Health worked to create a healthy legacy for the 2015 Canada Winter Games in northern B.C. New skis for the Nordic Ski Initiative in Dawson Creek means healthier, more active kids in the school district!

When the 2015 Canada Winter Games came to Prince George, they brought a symphony of action to the city – the cheers from fans watching hockey in Kin 1, the hustle and bustle of added traffic on Highway 97, athletes and their parents from across the nation wandering the streets of downtown, and, of course, the celebration of competition in Canada. But what will happen as this two week chorus fades with the Games’ closing ceremony on March 1? How will the Games be remembered and what will their legacy be – not only in Prince George, but throughout all of northern B.C.?

To ensure that the legacy is a healthy one that embodies the spirit of physical activity that the Games represent, Northern Health created the IMAGINE: Legacy Grants stream in 2014, which funded 89 projects for a total of nearly $280,000. Northern Health’s IMAGINE Grants have a long tradition of funding health promotion projects led by community partners including northern groups, organizations, schools, and districts, that support the health and wellness of northerners where they live, work, learn, and play. Ideas for projects are inspired and guided by Northern Health’s position statements addressing modifiable risk factors.

One such community partner is School District 59’s Brad Booker. Brad lives in Dawson Creek and has one of the world’s coolest jobs. He’s the vice principal – outdoor and experiential education, which means he gets paid to ensure children are engaged in outdoor activity and physical activity. In other words, Brad makes being healthy fun! Brad, who began cross-country skiing as a hobby five years ago, started the Nordic Ski Initiative – a program that allows teachers to sign out cross-country ski equipment for use by their class for one week intervals – to combat inactivity in youth. When speaking with Brad, his passion for cross-country skiing, the outdoors, and his work becomes clear; however, his enthusiasm is tempered when discussing the current state of children’s health. “It’s not looking good for young people,” said Brad. “If we can pull kids away from screens for just a little while every day, we’re helping.”

Brad said that he started the Nordic Ski Initiative to help fill the demand in the community: “Cross-country skiing is part of the culture in the southeast Peace. We have a great nordic ski club with lots of families and lots of groomed tracks around town. A lot of them are in public parks that are attached to schools, so it’s easy for kids to ski during school time.” With School District 59 owning its own track setter, there is an abundance of cross-country tracks near or on school grounds where teachers can take their classes.

Cross-country skiers in an open field with a blue sky.

It’s easy to see how “nature comes alive for kids” when they’re skiing! With the support of the IMAGINE: Legacy Grants program, the Nordic Ski Initiative will keep promoting sport and physical activity long after the 2015 Canada Winter Games have gone!

Despite cross-country skiing’s place in the community, the cost of quality equipment means that it is not readily available to everyone. Recalling why he did not take up the sport at an earlier age, Brad blames the equipment, “I tried it as a kid, but my equipment was no good and I didn’t enjoy it.” Through the IMAGINE: Legacy Grants, Northern Health has helped fund Brad’s “ski library,” providing $3,000 towards the Nordic Ski Initiative’s purchase of new equipment. “Ski equipment doesn’t become dated quickly,” said Brad of the legacy that this program and funding provide, “The equipment lasts a generation. A single pair of skis might see 30-plus kids, helping them find a new passion and a new sport. The great thing about cross-country skiing is that you can do it at any age – kids to 70- and 80-year-olds. It can be a lifelong sport.”

Greeted with enthusiasm by students, teachers, and the community, the program’s biggest hurdle is people’s attitudes towards winter. “I think a lot of people prefer to not go out in the winter time,” said Brad. “Getting kids excited at an early age is critical [in overcoming this perception]. Instilling in kids that winter is not a cold, desolate time is important. It’s also when nature comes alive for kids,” he continued, building his case. “Looking at tracks, appreciating nature – you are connected with what’s around you; it’s something peaceful.” Brad walks the pro-winter walk, too. His involvement with the program goes beyond managing its inventory as he accompanies students during their first lesson to teach them the skills they’ll need to stay safe while still having fun on the track.

Along with the physical activity that kids are getting through the Nordic Ski Initiative, Brad and his colleagues at School District 59 have noticed a change their behaviour. “The big impact that I see, and that I hear about from teachers, is that kids have gotten rid of energy. But more than that, they’ve calmed down. That’s having a positive impact on their schooling.”

Improved health, better grades, and a new, active hobby for life – these are the types of positive changes that defined the purpose of the IMAGINE: Legacy Grants when Northern Health first planned them. Seeing the impact of this project, and the others like it, ensures that the Canada Winter Games will reach beyond their time and space in Prince George, leaving a healthy legacy that the north can be proud of for generations to come.


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

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

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

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Talk to your kids

Children in hockey gear watching a hockey game from the bench.

Children and youth face pressure from multiple fronts to try tobacco products. Movies, music, television, and even sports can glamorize tobacco. Talk to your kids about tobacco and be a tobacco-free role model!

This blog post was co-written by Nancy Viney and Reg Wulff. Reg’s bio is below and you can read more about Nancy on our Contributors page.


 

Whether you use tobacco or not, you probably don’t want your kids to start smoking or chewing tobacco. Let your kids know how you feel about tobacco and make an emotional appeal to help them avoid becoming addicted.

It’s a fact that if a young person can make it to their 19th birthday without becoming a tobacco user, then chances are they will never become one. Parents need to talk to their children about tobacco use, though, as youth can face pressure to use tobacco from a variety of sources.

We all know that peer pressure is a significant source, but what about other sources?

Movies, television and music have long had a powerful influence on youth. The tobacco industry uses that influence to exploit youth and recruit new tobacco users. Smoking in movies and on-screen is portrayed as glamorous, powerful, rebellious, and sexy while the health consequences are ignored. Listen to music on the radio and you may be surprised at how often smoking or cigarettes are referenced.

In May 2014, the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit released a report that examined the exposure to on-screen tobacco use among Ontario youth. During a 7-year period, approximately 13,250 youth aged 12 to 17 began smoking each year as a result of watching smoking in movies. Of these smokers, it’s projected that more than 4,200 will die prematurely as a result of smoking.

Kids can also face pressures while participating in sports. While Major League Baseball has long been associated with chewing tobacco, other sports like hockey and football have similar issues. The Sport Medicine and Science Council of Manitoba surveyed 2,000 athletes aged 12 to 21 regarding substance use and found that 52 per cent of male hockey players used chewing tobacco or snus. By age twenty, 75 per cent of Manitoba hockey players who took part in the survey reported they had tried “chew.”

Parents, coaches and other role models can counter these influences. Don’t assume that kids have the skills to resist peer pressure or media influences. You can help kids develop refusal skills to avoid tobacco and the addiction that can develop after one or two cigarettes. Coaches and athletes can set the example and not use tobacco products around kids. Sports and recreational organizations can develop, implement and enforce tobacco-free sports policies.

January 18-24 is National Non-Smoking Week. Let’s work together to influence youth to live a healthy, tobacco-free life.

 

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator 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. 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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Introducing Spirit, the Northern Health mascot!

Northern Health CEO Cathy Ulrich  is pictured with Spirit.

Northern Health CEO Cathy Ulrich meets Spirit for the first time.

There’s a new face of healthy living in northern B.C. He eats a lot of fruits and vegetables, gets plenty of physical activity outdoors, and has some pretty solid gear to protect his head and prevent injuries! Spirit, a caribou designed by 13-year-old Prince George resident Isabel Stratton, is Northern Health’s new mascot and will be promoting healthy living across the province!

Proudly sponsored by the Spirit of the North Healthcare Foundation, Spirit has arrived just in time for the 2015 Canada Winter Games. At his stops throughout the region, Spirit will be encouraging children to develop healthy habits, like living an active lifestyle, eating healthy foods, wearing protective equipment, and more. Getting children excited about their health is key to building a healthier north!

Spirit will be travelling across northern B.C. to take part in community events and to engage the youngest members of our communities on healthy living issues. Spirit will make health more fun and accessible to a young audience, leading to healthy habits for life!

In case you were wondering where Spirit came from, as Isabel tells the story, he has had quite the journey to a healthy life himself!

Isabel's original concept art for Spirit.

Isabel’s original concept art for Spirit.

“When Spirit was young, he was adventurous and loved to explore. Throughout the years, he became big and strong. One day, when Spirit was out discovering the world, he got a really bad cold and had to go visit the doctor. The doctor said that even though it was a minor cold, it is important to be healthy so that Spirit can prevent other diseases. To help prevent other sicknesses, he learned that it is important to wash his hands and get lots of exercise.

Spirit the caribou lives all around northern B.C. It’s important for him to stay healthy so he and his family can stay strong. Spirit really enjoys exercising, eating well, and making the right choices for himself and his body.”

We can’t wait for you to meet Spirit at a healthy event near you!

 

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

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

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Active living: Every day, your way!

Young girl on a bicycle.

Biking to school, work, or other activities can be a SMART goal and can help children and youth meet the recommended guidelines for physical activity.

From the moment you wake up in the morning until the time you go to sleep, you make many choices that affect your health each day. You may not think that today’s choices will have long-term impacts, but choosing healthier options – especially when it comes to having an active lifestyle in your youth – can set the stage for a longer, healthier life.

Active living is a way of life that encourages people to include physical activity into their daily routines. An active lifestyle includes everyday activities, like walking or biking to get to school or work. You don’t have to be in organized or competitive sports, or join a gym, or run a marathon to be active – any moderate-paced activity counts!

So how much activity do youth need?

The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for youth 12-17 years recommend at least 60 minutes of moderate-to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily. This should include:

  • Vigorous-intensity activities at least 3 days per week (cause you to sweat and be “out of breath”)
  • Activities that strengthen muscle and bone at least 3 days per week

You don’t have to get all 60 minutes at once.

Incorporating activity into your daily routines can be broken down into shorter periods throughout the day. Getting together with friends for a walk or any other type of activity not only adds a fun and social aspect but can also make time fly by. Going solo is always a choice too – putting on those headphones and heading outside for some fresh air can really get your body moving!

Man and two children building a snowman

Active living doesn’t have to involve organized or competitive sports! Build a snowman, try showshoeing, or just take a walk around your community.

Why is this important again?

The Active Healthy Kids Canada 2014 Report Card revealed that only 7% of kids aged 5-11 and 4% of kids aged 12-17 met the recommended guidelines for physical activity. Being active for at least 60 minutes daily can help children and youth:

  • Improve their health
  • Do better in school
  • Improve their fitness (endurance, flexibility, strength)
  • Have fun
  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Improve self-confidence
  • Feel happy
  • Learn new skills

So how do you get started?

One way to get going is to make a conscious effort to minimize the time you spend during the day being sedentary, which means doing very little physical movement.

Some examples of “being sedentary” include: sitting for long periods of time, watching TV, playing video games or being on the computer, and using motorized transportation. Trying something new can be exciting but also challenging, even intimidating for some people. Set SMART goals for yourself and ensure that you choose activities you like. You’ll have a better chance of sticking to the plan if you enjoy what you’re doing!

Table defining the SMART goal acronym and providing a sample active living goal.

SMART goals are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. What are your SMART goals for 2015?

Where to get more information

The Physical Activity Line is a great, free resource for British Columbia residents wanting information on active living and provides helpful tips on goal setting.

Grab a friend, set a goal, and don’t give up – you can do this!

What are you waiting for?

Get out there and find an activity you want to try and have fun! Set your stage to be active for life!

 

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

 

Mandy Levesque

About Mandy Levesque

Mandy Levesque is Northern Health’s Lead, Healthy Community Development, Integrated Community Granting. Born and raised in northern Manitoba, Mandy and her family moved to Prince George in 2013. Mandy has a background in public health and health promotion and is a graduate of the University of Saskatchewan. She is passionate about innovation and quality, empowering northern populations, and promoting health and wellness across communities. In her spare time, Mandy enjoys spending time with her family and stays active by taking in the exciting activities, trails, and events northern B.C. has to offer.

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Community Health Stars: Seamus Damstrom

Young man sitting on shore with a fishing rod.

Seamus Damstrom, a Grade 12 student at Caledonia Secondary in Terrace, B.C., is Northern Health’s Community Health Star for December!

Our Community Health Star for the month of December is an outstanding young man from Terrace who exemplifies what it means to have a passion for health and wellness and to turn that passion into action! Seamus Damstrom is a Grade 12 student at Caledonia Secondary in Terrace, B.C. He was the only northerner in the 2013-2014 cohort of the provincial Healthy Living Youth Council. As a member of that group, Seamus had the chance to lead a health-promoting project in his school.

I was fortunate to be able to connect with Seamus to talk about his project, his passion for healthy eating, and his approach to creating healthy change.

What is the Healthy Living Youth Council?

The Healthy Living Youth Council is a one-year program organized by DASH BC. Every year, students from across B.C. can apply to join the Healthy Living Youth Council. I had 13 students in my cohort and each one of us initiated a project to promote health and wellness in our school.

What type of project did you initiate at your school?

To figure out what I wanted to do, I asked myself, what are my passions? The answer: food and helping people achieve optimal health through food. At school, people know that I’m a big food guy so it made sense to start there.

At that point, I looked at our canteen and noticed that while there were a few healthy options, most of the food being purchased was items like nachos and pizza. I then decided that I would try to use our school canteen to start a food revolution – introducing healthy food options and trying to change students’ eating habits.

Young man wearing a helmet and goggles on a ski hill

Seamus initiated a project at his school to bring healthy food options to the canteen. How are you being a health star in your community?

How did you accomplish this?

It was a long process but I wanted to make sure to do it right – I knew that change wouldn’t happen if I acted like a dictator so I started with the canteen teacher. We had a great dialogue and found recipes that were healthy and feasible for the canteen to sell.

The next step was to see what my fellow students wanted – if they would actually buy these new food items. I spent four months developing and testing a survey that would let students at Caledonia rank different food items, rate their price, and tell us how often they would buy each item. During this time, I met with Northern Health dietitians, shared the survey with other Healthy Living Youth Council members, piloted the survey with 10 students, and re-designed the survey to make sure that it was ready to go. In March, 461 of 700 Caledonia students completed surveys and then I started the long process of entering and analyzing results. By April, I had my results ready to go and met with the canteen teacher again to put them into action.

To start the food revolution, we put three healthy items — hummus & pita (by far the most popular option in the survey!), homemade soup, and homemade chili — on the menu once a week. We also provided samples of these items before selling them to increase interest.

It was really important to me to do this project in a thoughtful and sustainable way. For example, instead of going in and removing the very popular nachos, which surely would have caused a riot, I worked with the canteen teacher and Northern Health dietitians to add some veggies to the nacho plate and kept the price higher than the new, healthier items. Now, for the 2014-2015 school year, nachos have been taken off of the menu and no one seems to have noticed!

How is the project going now?

I learned a ton during a reflection period after the new items had made their way onto the menu. I thought carefully about the project and applied these lessons to new food projects for this year. Although my time on the Healthy Living Youth Council is done (I’m a mentor to new participants now), a friend and I started a Healthy Living Club at my school. In addition to carrying on with the canteen food project, which is working on a follow-up survey, we have a food and nutrition bulletin board with tips and recipes at school and are working on a mental wellness board, too. The hummus and pita dish is still available in the canteen and we are working with the new canteen teacher on some new recipes. And the nachos are gone!

Young man in a park in running clothes

The Northern Health Community Health Stars program highlights exceptional individuals like Seamus who are improving health in their communities. Nominate a Community Health Star in your community!

Where did your passion for food come from?

My Grade 8 foods teacher got me into cooking. By grade 10, I wanted to become a chef and looked into the educational options for that. My parents told me to take a year to think about my different options before committing to a program and in that year, I realized that I’m more interested in using food to help people, so now I’m hoping to become a dietitian.

Food is everything for me and I strongly believe that everything you eat impacts you. Eating healthy can improve your life and I feel like there is so much to learn from food.

What is your message to people wanting to promote health in their community?

You’re never too small to make a change. I’m just a country bumpkin but I feel like I did pretty well on this project! It was a little change in a big world, but that’s where you start. Even the smallest voice can push the snowball down the hill and create a big change!


 

The Northern Health Community Health Stars program shines a light on community members across northern B.C. who are doing exceptional work, on their own time, to promote health and wellness in their community. To nominate a Community Health Star in your community, visit the Northern Health website.

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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Youth urged to use common sense and practise safe sex

Coasters with HIV awareness messages

Anyone can become infected with HIV or other sexually transmitted infections. Know your status, take precautions, and get the information you need before having sexual relations.

Anyone can become infected with HIV or other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including young people. That’s why it’s so important to take precautions before having sex, advises Shannon Froehlich, manager of support services at Positive Living North (PLN) in Prince George.

Froehlich said there are many tips young people can follow if they’re considering having sexual relations, which includes both oral sex and intercourse (vaginal and anal).

“Abstinence is the safest approach. But if that’s not an option, young people should use a condom and lubrication every time they have sex,” said Froehlich. “And young people seem to consider oral sex to be safe sex — but they should be advised that it’s not.”

Just as important, she said, is having a conversation with your partner before having sex. “And don’t drink or do drugs beforehand to prevent careless actions,” said Froehlich.

Young people in northern B.C. are encouraged to visit their local health unit if they have questions about sex or are considering having sexual intercourse. Youth who want to be tested for STIs can visit their family doctor, or they can visit the local Opt clinic, which offers sexual health services including STI testing, birth control counselling, and low cost contraceptives and supplies.

Froehlich said PLN staff can supply youths with condoms and have conversations with them about sex — which will be kept anonymous.

“We can also share information about different STIs, and give them brochures that they can take to their partner to have a discussion about sex,” she said.

PLN, a not-for-profit HIV/AIDS/HCV organization, is a Northern Health community partner, and was a key participant in Northern Health’s award-winning STOP HIV/AIDS education and awareness project. PLN can be reached at three locations in northern B.C.: Prince George at 250-562-1172; Smithers at 250-877-0042; and Dawson Creek at 250-782-5202.

Visit hiv101.ca for more information and to learn about online youth educational options.

More information:

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

Joanne MacDonald

About Joanne MacDonald

Joanne MacDonald is a communications officer at Northern Health where she works on a number of projects, including the STOP HIV/AIDS program and integrated health services. Prior to joining Northern Health, Joanne worked in the journalism and communications fields in the lower mainland, Whitehorse and Ottawa. She keeps active by taking Zumba and spinning classes. She lives with her husband in Prince George.

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World AIDS Day

Portrait of woman wearing shirt that says: "If you care, be HIV aware"

If you care, be HIV aware. For more information about HIV/AIDS and safe sex practices, visit your local health unit or Opt Clinic.

Today is World AIDS Day. For the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, World AIDS Day is a chance to get everyone involved in combating HIV/AIDS through the 90-90-90 strategy. The globally-recognized, made-in-B.C. 90-90-90 goals are:

  • 90% of those infected with HIV are aware of their status.
  • 90% of those diagnosed with HIV receive treatment.
  • 90% of those being treated have undetectable viral loads.

With routine HIV testing gaining momentum across northern B.C., we are on our way to achieving these goals.

World AIDS Day is also a time to think about prevention. Anyone can become infected with HIV or other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including young people. If you are considering having sexual relations or are sexually active, which includes both oral sex and intercourse (vaginal and anal), World AIDS Day is a good reminder to have a “sex talk.”

Visit your local health unit if you have questions about sex or are considering having sexual intercourse. Youth who want to be tested for STIs can visit their family doctor or they can visit the local Opt clinic, which offers sexual health services including STI testing, birth control counselling, and low cost contraceptives and supplies.

In addition to combating HIV, Sandra Sasaki, education manager and positive prevention coordinator at Positive Living North, reminds everyone that they can also play a role in combating discrimination this World AIDS Day by participating in local events. Vigils and awareness walks are taking place across northern B.C. this week. Visit Positive Living North to find an event to show your support and to honour those living with HIV and those we have lost to AIDS.

In Prince George, this year’s vigil will be held December 1 at the Fire Pit Cultural Drop-In Centre (1120 Third Avenue) from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

For more information about HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections, and practising safe sex, visit the Northern Health HIV/AIDS information source, hiv101.ca.

 

Sam Milligan

About Sam Milligan

Sam is the regional health systems navigator in Northern Health’s blood borne pathogens (BBP) services team. In his role, he provides education and consultation services to communities and programs across the north. Some of his responsibilities include improving community access to HIV & HCV treatment, increase testing for HIV/HCV, and provide current practice education to staff, physicians, and community members. If not at work or talking about work, Sam can be found in the realms of adventures with his two young sons or hanging out with the most gorgeous woman on the planet: his wife.

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