Healthy Living in the North

Choose your path and volunteer for the Canada Winter Games

Members of the Games' medical staff

Members of the Games’ medical staff (from left to right): Hedy Conwright, Venue Medical Lead; Joanne Archer, Chief Nurse; Janet Ames, Chief Medical Officer; Brian Farrance, Chief Therapist; Carolyn Bouchard, Polyclinic Lead

“Choose your path, leave your tracks and journey with us.” This motto for the 2015 Canada Winter Games calls all northerners to share their skills and passion in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to host the nation. At the Canada Games House in Prince George we are acutely aware of the countdown clock, which reminds us that we are just 12 months away from the largest multi-sport and cultural festival ever held in northern British Columbia!

What I was surprised to learn when I started working for the 2015 Games is that this Canada Games is volunteer led. From sport to transportation and everything in between, volunteers are working hard in each department of the 2015 Games.

Medical volunteers have the opportunity to help plan medical services, as well as deliver medical services to athletes at sport venues and the athlete medical clinic, the Polyclinic, at 2015 Games time. Physicians, therapists, and nurses from across the north are needed to provide these important services. Offering bilingual services is part of our mandate so there are also opportunities for bilingual medical volunteers to get involved in the 2015 Games.

Dr. Janet Ames, Chief Medical Officer with the Games, explains some of the worries she comes across when recruiting medical volunteers: “Medical professionals are often concerned about volunteering for events such as the Canada Winter Games. They express concern about not having the experience to handle sport medicine problems and may lack in field experience. Many of the problems at major games are ones they see in their own practices every day, especially the problems assessed at the Polyclinic.”

Volunteering at the 2015 Games offers medical volunteers an incredible opportunity to develop event coverage skills and to learn from the best. Dr. Ames, who has worked at past Canada Games and Olympics explains: “In terms of event coverage, if medical personnel want to gain experience we will place them in the field with more experienced first responders. There are physicians and therapists coming to the Games from all over Canada who have a great deal of experience on the field. Canada Games has always been a great place to learn new skills from those with more experience.”

Not only does working as a medical volunteer offer the opportunity to be a part of the 2015 Games, but the skills learned will create a legacy for medical event coverage in our region. The Canada Games medical committee recognizes these amazing opportunities and encourages northern doctors, therapists and nurses to join them now for 2015.

We hope you will choose your path, leave your tracks and join us in this journey as we host the nation from February 13 to March 1, 2015.

For more information on volunteering for medical and non-medical opportunities, visit the 2015 Canada Winter Games volunteer sign-up page.

Julia Stephenson

About Julia Stephenson

Julia is a master’s of public health graduate working with the 2015 Canada Winter Games. She is passionate about upstream health and creating environments that support well-being. Julia grew up in Ontario, but feels at home in B.C., and is embracing the move north with all the opportunities for outdoor activity. She enjoys hiking, camping, canoeing, swimming, and being outside exploring new places.

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Winter’s healthy opportunities

Julia snacks as she walks on a winter trail.

Enjoying a snack on a winter trail.

I must admit, when the first snowflakes fell this year, my face lit up with an ear-to-ear grin. Driving to work after the first snowfall and seeing children walking to school together, bundled in their matching snowsuits and scarves with the same grins that I had, made me so excited for this winter. I lived in Vancouver for the last two years where real winter just doesn’t happen. I had missed the feeling of waking to find myself in my own Christmas snow globe.

This is my first winter in northern BC and while I mentally prepare myself for its length, I can’t help but be excited about all there is to do. I got my first set of cross-country skis at the local ski swap and am looking forward to becoming a more competent and well-balanced cross-country skier. I borrow snowshoes from friends and enjoy taking walks through the same forests that I love to hike through in the spring, summer, and fall. I’ve also decided to continue running outdoors through the winter, which has required the addition of grips for my sneakers, cozy clothes, a headlamp, and some reflectors!

Winter here seems so different than the winters I had growing up in Ontario and at university in Montreal. I think it’s because, in the north, so much of what we do in our spare time is outdoors. On the weekends and after work or school, we go play outside, changing our whole range of options and activities. That’s exciting to me!

We can trade in our swimsuits for snowsuits, our canoes for cross-country skis, add snowshoes to our hiking boots, and grippers to our sneakers- all of this changing our outdoor experience and the potential for fun outside!

We have so many great places to explore at our fingertips: mountains, valleys, rivers, lakes, hiking trails, walking trails, ski hills, and so much more! Our exploration of these places takes different forms in each season, and that’s what makes winter great: it challenges us to interact with our surroundings in new ways.

When I started working with the 2015 Canada Winter Games, their slogan “we are winter” resonated with me. In the north, it seems that there is a true sense of pride in thriving during the long, cold, snowy winters. Northerners are up to the challenge of taking on the winter climate, of enjoying sport, and activity with family and friends in our snowy landscapes. I am so looking forward to next winter when we will welcome the country and show them what “we are winter” really means.

Julia Stephenson

About Julia Stephenson

Julia is a master’s of public health graduate working with the 2015 Canada Winter Games. She is passionate about upstream health and creating environments that support well-being. Julia grew up in Ontario, but feels at home in B.C., and is embracing the move north with all the opportunities for outdoor activity. She enjoys hiking, camping, canoeing, swimming, and being outside exploring new places.

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Bringing together a 2015 Canada Winter Games medical team

The 2015 Canada Winter Games Medical Team.

The 2015 Canada Winter Games Medical Team.

Over the last couple months I’ve had the pleasure of working with Janet Ames, Chief Medical Officer, Brian Farrance, Chief Therapist and Joanne Archer, Chief Nurse as they plan for the medical coverage of the 2015 Canada Winter Games.

Between them, these three have volunteered medical services at over 30 games from the Vancouver Olympics to the Pan American Games in Cuba; from the Commonwealth Games in Victoria to the Nagano Olympics as well as a myriad of Canada Games including Halifax, Grand Prairie, PEI and Saskatoon! Suffice to say, there are some impressive and lengthy resumes for this medical team!

Janet, Brian and Joanne are eager to share with you what they love about volunteering at sports events in the hopes that health care professionals across the north will be inspired to join them in providing medical coverage for the 2015 Games.

As Brian recalls his long list of medical involvement in sports events he notes what a special opportunity the Canada Games are:

“This will be my seventh Canada Games and I consider these games the most fun of all with a great opportunity to learn from more experienced therapists, those with different experiences and to pass on my knowledge to those just starting out.”

Providing medical support at a Game’s event provides a unique and exciting work opportunity for physicians, therapists and nurses. Joanne speaks very highly of her experience providing medical support for Track and Field events at the Commonwealth Games:

“During the actual competition week it was really exciting to be watching and cheering on the various athletes I had come to know and become fond of. Sometimes I’m not sure who was more nervous or excited – them or me. There were a few injuries, especially in the hurdles and I got in the habit of just assuming I would have to run out and help someone from the track, so when they were in the “starting position” I was as well.”

The 2015 Canada Winter Games will offer opportunities to learn and teach, prepare and respond, as well as to witness athletic performances of young Canadians rising to the top of their sport. As Janet notes,

“Along the way I have been privileged to be present at some of the most amazing athletic performances and a number of heartbreaks.  The job of the physician at these events is to be present and resourceful no matter what the issue.”

Whether you have a great deal of experience in sports medicine or are new to sports event coverage, Janet, Brian and Joanne welcome health care professionals across the north to join them on the Medical Team for the 2015 Canada Winter Games .

“We hope you decide to join the team, and for some, start your love of event coverage.”Brian, Janet & Joanne

If you are interested in volunteering and want to stay up-to-date with information please contact:

Physicians: Janet Ames, Chief Medical Officer at 2015ChiefMedicalOfficer@gmail.com

Nurses: Joanne Archer, Chief Nurse at 2015HeadNurse@gmail.com

Physio and athletic therapists: Brian Farrance, Chief Therapist at 2015ChiefTherapist@gmail.com

Julia Stephenson

About Julia Stephenson

Julia is a master’s of public health graduate working with the 2015 Canada Winter Games. She is passionate about upstream health and creating environments that support well-being. Julia grew up in Ontario, but feels at home in B.C., and is embracing the move north with all the opportunities for outdoor activity. She enjoys hiking, camping, canoeing, swimming, and being outside exploring new places.

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Share your story!

We want to highlight the lasting impact of teachers and coaches on the health and wellness of northerners by sharing stories about the positive influence of school experiences, and WE NEED YOUR HELP! Will you share your story?

These stories will be highlighted in a new resource from the Every Child and Coach a Winner (ECCAW) program, which aims to support the health and wellness of children in schools across the north. ECCAW equips ‘coaches’ with key health messages to engage children in their own health, preparing them to become healthy, responsible adults while supporting teachers to create a healthy school.

Your story, however brief, serves as an important reminder about the role of school staff, educators and coaches in the health and wellness of young people.

As an example, here’s what George Wiens in Dawson Creek says:

“As a grade nine student, I had a very dynamic English teacher. It was the first time I had experienced interactive study sessions, where I leaned philosophy and history intertwined and tied to the literature from the curriculum. After school our English teacher would take a group of us interested students to the tennis courts where he taught us how to play while continuing to learn and discuss English topics. He set different expectations for learning. We were challenged to think and act independently, to pull together why we thought and did things and to defend the actions we took. It was an incredible mentoring process that went beyond the normal hours and expectations of a classroom. I don’t think he would have called himself a coach, but he was coaching in a different way, challenging us as students and young adults. This is an experience that remains vivid and impactful for me.”

Having your voice and the stories of our colleagues and friends will strengthen this initiative and ensure that northern voices are represented in this resource.

Email your story to julia.stephenson@northernhealth.ca or post it as a comment on this post.

More info: I previously shared a blog post that describes more about ECCAW here: https://blog.northernhealth.ca/happy-lifestyles/was-your-health-or-lifestyle-positively-influenced-by-a-school-experience/

Julia Stephenson

About Julia Stephenson

Julia is a master’s of public health graduate working with the 2015 Canada Winter Games. She is passionate about upstream health and creating environments that support well-being. Julia grew up in Ontario, but feels at home in B.C., and is embracing the move north with all the opportunities for outdoor activity. She enjoys hiking, camping, canoeing, swimming, and being outside exploring new places.

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Was your health or lifestyle positively influenced by a school experience?

Young Julia

Julia remembers being positively influenced by her field hockey coach when she was a young girl – share your story!

In talking with colleagues and friends about Every Child and Coach a Winner (ECCAW), an initiative I’m involved in developing at Northern Health (more to come about the initiative in a bit!), I’ve been surprised by how many vivid memories people have of their teachers and coaches – what they said or how their actions positively impacted health and lifestyle, at the time and into the future.

It might be a coach, at the final game of a senior athlete’s career that spoke inspirationally about finding activity you enjoy beyond your high school sports career, or a school that created a supportive environment for phys-ed by ensuring safe and comfortable showering and changing spaces. The memory that continues to come to mind for me is of a high school coach’s support off the field. It was a simple thing – my field hockey coach spoke well of me and advocated on my behalf to a fellow teacher. It was hearing that she was in my corner, had faith in me, and cared enough to look out for me that continues to this day to resonate with me.

Schools are often a setting where our community comes together. From a population health perspective, the school setting is an important place for Northern Health to work in a spirit of collaboration and innovation. The population health approach is a foundational principle of the ECCAW initiative, which is what we’re developing to bring “the Northern way of caring” to schools in our region.

Research consistently affirms that health and education are connected. Children and youth can achieve their highest potential when their physical, mental, intellectual and emotional health is supported; and in turn, learning has a positive influence on student’s health (Healthy Schools BC, 2011).

This is where ECCAW comes in. We recognize that coaching is a way of being and that school staff are important coaches for children and youth. We are working in collaboration, developing a resource to support school staff in building healthy northern schools. We focus on six main health topics: healthy eating, active living, injury prevention, tobacco use, problematic substance use and mental wellness; we want to equip teachers, coaches and schools with the key messages and encourage schools to think about how they can build healthy school environments. This project is coming at an important time for northern B.C. as we gear up for the 2015 Canada Winter Games and we hope this project will help to create a health legacy after the Games!

Now, we’d like your help. We would like to hear stories from northern people about how their school, teacher, activity leader or sports coach supported health in these areas.

Do you have a memorable moment from your school years where something your school or a school staff member said or did positively impacted your health or lifestyle?

We’d like to hear from you! The responses we receive will be incorporated into the ECCAW resource and will be important illustrations of the impact of schools on the short- and long-term health, lifestyle and well-being of students.

Comment below or email Julia at Julia.stephenson@northernhealth.ca before August 31, 2013.

For more information on Comprehensive School Health, visit Healthy Schools BC’s website.

Julia Stephenson

About Julia Stephenson

Julia is a master’s of public health graduate working with the 2015 Canada Winter Games. She is passionate about upstream health and creating environments that support well-being. Julia grew up in Ontario, but feels at home in B.C., and is embracing the move north with all the opportunities for outdoor activity. She enjoys hiking, camping, canoeing, swimming, and being outside exploring new places.

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