Healthy Living in the North

Catching up with Myles Mattila

“I am not a mental health professional by any means, I’m just a hockey player.”

Myles Mattila in his hockey uniform.

Myles Mattila may not have the credentials, but he’s got the passion – enough of it to be a heck of a mental health advocate. Founder of MindRight and a former Northern Health Community Health Star (see our original story on him here!), Myles now lives in Kelowna BC, playing with the Kelowna Chiefs of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. Although hockey plays a huge part in his life, so does mental health awareness. With Bell Let’s Talk Day coming up, it was the perfect time to catch up with Myles and see what’s changed in the past couple years.

Remind us, what is MindRight?

MindRight is a place where athletes who are experiencing any range of mental health challenges can visit and find support. Whether it’s professional resources for coaches or players, peer to peer support, or just having someone to talk to, MindRight can help.

What’s coming up? Anything exciting?

We’re planning for a MindRight app, which is great because it provides some more accessibility for youth athletes, and really can open up the door to other leagues. I think that’s the overall goal, to take MindRight and spread it into bigger leagues so more players have access to it.

What role do you think coaches, team managers, and sport organizers can play in mental health promotion/ prevention?

I think they play a huge part. If you watch my video on how MindRight sort of began, I talk about my teammate who was going through some ups and downs. I saw him acting differently, and I was worried.

“His smile was gone, but he kept saying, “’I’m fine.’”

So, I brought it to my coach’s attention, someone I looked up to at the age of 13, and thought had all the answers. Unfortunately, coaches don’t always know the best procedure, and my coach actually took hockey away from him. That was devastating.

Hopefully MindRight can be used by both coaches and players so they can find resources that help. I think coaches and organizations should let players know it’s ok to speak up, or even better, encourage mental health awareness. It can be as formal as having a speaker come in and present, or as easy as using green tape on your stick and gear to promote Mental Health Awareness Week.

In your experience do coaches, or peers, know how to support someone that does speak out for help?

Before, not as much, but now, yes, I think so. Older coaches can sometimes have different mindsets, probably because mental health wasn’t a well-known topic to them in their youth. They have that “old time hockey” mentality.

It’s kind of hard to ignore the issue now because it’s being recognized so often. Schools champion it, pro athletes speak to it. One in five people are affected in some way by mental health. Awareness and learning is key to changing how we act and fight the stigma attached to it. Coaches and organizations can change – my past coach changed once he heard my story!

Many sports organizations/clubs have zero tolerance substance use policies meaning someone can be kicked out or excluded from positive peer groups and social connections. Do you think there is a better way to handle substance use?

It’s tricky. In my opinion, I don’t think booting players from a team or organization resolves the problem, but I can also recognize the risk of substances within a team atmosphere. A person’s mental health has to be considered, but the team has to be protected as well.

I think best way to handle that sort of situation is to really dive into the team, figure out what’s going on and create a plan. If you can find out what’s wrong, and if that person is willing to be helped and looking for change, they should be given that opportunity.

“At the end of the day, a team is like a family. You don’t want to see your family go through hard times.”

Recognizing everyone has mental health, and that it is not a fixed state, how can sport contribute and foster to positive mental health in youth?

Sports provide an incredible atmosphere for growth. If you break it down, you’ve got a common goal, a team connection and lots of interaction – it’s a really underrated and cool opportunity to create a positive mental health support network.

Why is it so important for youth to talk about their feelings and experiences?

Honestly, it’s simple. You can’t get help without speaking to the right people. I think there have been cases where youth athletes reach out to the wrong people, and get shamed for talking about mental health. It makes them shut down and stop looking for help.

If you reach out to the right people who know how to respond and help correctly, people at places like Foundry, you can get the real facts you need and go from there.

What do you believe is the best way to educate youth on mental health and substance use?   

I’ve always thought that presentations play a big part in educating, but in my experience, the peer to peer network is the best, which is why sports and teams are so perfect for educating. If someone within a team atmosphere can be an ambassador, the guys listen.

I’ve always admired Kevin Bieksa and his advocacy for his friend and teammate who passed away, Rick Rypien. When young athletes see pros speaking about themselves and teammates, it’s relatable. We’re all playing the same game, so it’s not too hard to imagine that some of us may be going through the same problems.

Make sure to check out MindRight today. We wish Myles all the best moving forward with this hockey career and his mental health advocacy!

And don’t forget to nominate your Community Health Star now!

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We did it for the gram

A collage of photos on our Instagram feed.

That’s right! Northern Health now has an Instagram account.

Why Instagram?

Instagram is the perfect place for us to show off photos of our amazing region, our super talented staff, and, of course, tons of health information. A healthier north means being as available as possible to the people around us, and Instagram provides another great way for us at Northern Health reach out to our region and beyond!

Have your say!

We’re always open to suggestions, and we’d like to know what you’d like to see more of. If you have any idea of what you would like to see come through our Instagram account, please let us know (via email at healthpromotions@northernhealth.ca or DM us!)

Give us a follow on all our channels

Although our Instagram is brand new, you can also find us on many other social media feeds. Check them all out. You never know, the health tips and information you learn today might just impact your tomorrow!

Instagram: @northernhealthbc

Facebook: Northern Health

Twitter: Northern_Health

YouTube: Northern Health BC

Thanks for following!

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Are you showing up for your city?

Members of the Fort St. James community who attended the hospital announcement.
What a great turnout for Fort St. James’s new hospital announcement!

When is the last time you went to an event to support your community?

I racked my brain, combed through it back and forth for memories of civic events attended, and, I have to say… it was pretty sparse. I make sure to attend Remembrance Day each year, but other than that, I’ve been pretty well absent from public gatherings of any kind in my hometown of Prince George, BC.

But, that was before I went to Fort St. James, BC.

When I found out a colleague and I would be sitting in on the Minister of Health’s announcement of the much needed new hospital, I really anticipated a small turnout. “It’s a sunny morning,” I reasoned to myself. “People will show…” Well, like most days when something is planned outside, the sunny morning slowly morphed into a bitter, frosty, wind-chilled afternoon.

Uh oh, I thought, there goes our turnout. I honestly didn’t expect anyone to come freeze for an announcement of a new building, even such an important one.

But, as the clouds drifted in, so did the people: Two by two, then four by four, then a school bus of kids carrying drums! Older people, young people, and everyone in between. I couldn’t believe how many came, and each of them with a general excitement and interest for what was happening.

The sense of their community and civic pride, I’ve got to say: it impacted me. Neighbours, colleagues, friends, families, all chatting, all willing to stick it out in the cold for each other – that’s a pretty cool feeling, and it leaves you wanting more.

I realized, maybe that’s the point of going to these community events. It doesn’t have to be the most interesting or relevant thing to you or your life, but it could mean something much more to the person living across the street. That mentality makes for a connected, healthy community. Thank you Fort St. James for showing me the power of your community! Going forward, I’m going to make more of an effort to attend my own community’s announcements and gatherings.

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The most ~wonderful/stressful/jam-packed/crazy~ time of the year.

Tinsel, lights, snowmen, dinner, dishes, regular family, extra family, cold weather, sick kids, no school, tree, decorating, stockings, baking, thinking of presents, buying presents, wrapping presents…

“Holy S…anta Claus. Mom, how do you do this every year?”

I may have prefaced Santa with a few other adjectives when my mom, who I think I should start calling Saint Diana, began to list some of the challenges the holiday season typically brings for her. My poor mom. After hearing that, I couldn’t help but feel bad. This pressure to create the perfect occasion for so many people – no one person should have to bear that weight, whether it’s your mom, dad, you, or anyone!

Is it the most wonderful time of the year? It can be! But with the expectation and anticipation of a magical holiday comes a whole lot of work and stress. We have to remember that one of the big goals for this time of year should be to enjoy the company of family and friends.

This holiday season, let’s make sure we’re all doing our part to create a less stressed experience for all. Here are a couple easy ways to balance the cheer.

Family members at a pier on the ocean.

Plan ahead. If you’re hosting, keep it simple. Try menus you can make ahead of time or at least partially prepare and freeze. Decorate, cook, shop, or do whatever’s on your list in advance (yes, I know, easier said than done). If you’re visiting (or supporting your guests) and drinking alcohol, consider a plan for getting home safely at the end of the festivities – many communities offer special holiday transportation services and/or free ride programs like Operation Red Nose in Prince George.

Organize and delegate. Rather than one person cooking the whole family meal, invite guests to bring a dish.Kids can help with gift-wrapping, decorating, and baking. If you see one person rushing to do everything, that’s an opportunity to lend a hand.

Practice mindful eating and drinking. It’s no secret that the holidays expose us to an abundance of delicious food and drinks. Eating‘one more cookie’ or sipping on ‘one more drink’ are normal parts of holidaying, but be mindful of how your body is feeling. You can help maintain your regular sense of well-being by eating regular meals and snacks and engaging in fun physical activity. It’s a great time of year to combine indoor treats with outdoor experiences like snowman-building or skating!  

Stay within budget. Finances are a huge source of stress for many people. Do yourself a favour: set a budget and stay within it. It’s the time you spend, not the money, that really matters.

Remember what the holiday season is about for you. Make this your priority. Whether it’s the holiday advertising that creates a picture that the holidays are about shiny new toys, always-happy families, and gift giving, remember that this season is really about sharing, loving, and time spent with family and loved ones. No two families are alike, so develop your own inexpensive but meaningful family traditions. Also, remember not to take things too seriously. Find fun or silly things to do, play games, catch up on your favourite Netflix show, play with pets, spend time alone or with friends – all of these are good ways to reduce stress.

Connect with your community. Attend diverse cultural events with family and friends. Help out at a local food bank or another community organization. This is a time of year where you can truly leave a positive impact.

Soon, I’ll be flying out to see my family for the holidays.I know as soon as I get off the flight, Mom is going to be there, and she’ll want to make this another trip for the books. I’m sure it’s going to be the case, but because my sister and I are going to pitch in and help make it happen! I encourage everyone to do the same for the Saint Diana in their family.

Happy Holidays!

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Spirit hits the ice for the Spirit of the North Healthcare Foundation

Some members of the Northern Health Communications Team were at the CN Centre to cheer on the Prince George Cougars and raise money for the Spirit of the North Health Care Foundation!

The team brought along some health resources, including flu information and the Northern Health Connections Bus! Spirit the Caribou even stopped by for some high fives and to meet up with old buddies, Rowdy Cat and Santa Claus.

A big thank you to our volunteers who didn’t make the photos – Kaili Keough, Anne Scott, Cheona Edzerza, and Tianna Pius.

Check out some of the night in the photos below! 

3 guys holding a large presentation cheque.
That’s a big cheque! Northern Health raised over $700 for the Spirit of the North Healthcare Foundation at the Cougars game! Pictured above, Caleb Wilson (Prince George Cougars), Curtis Mayes (Spirit of the North), and Robbie Pozer (Northern Health).
team members around a booth.
The Northern Health and Northern Health Connections booths. Lots of great resources were available here and chuck-a-pucks were sold to raise money for the Spirit of the North Healthcare Foundation. From left to right: Fiona MacPherson, Jesse Priseman, Sanja Knezevic, Bailee Denicola, Anne Scott, Mike Erickson, Brandan Spyker, And Haylee Seiter.
spirit the caribou and santa.
Spirit the Caribou and his good buddy Santa Claus talking about how all the reindeer are doing up north.
spirit on a zamboni at a hockey game.
Spirit hopped on the Fanboni to throw out some stuffed animals to the Cougars faithful.
Spirit the caribou standing with his friend Robbie.
Spirit and his buddy Robbie, wondering where Rowdy Cat is?
spirit and rowdy cat hanging out with thumbs up.
Spirit and his buddy Rowdy Cat hanging out cheering on the Cougars!
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Fire infographic

A dramatic infographic presents Northern Health’s response to the 2017 wildfires. Greg Marr, NH’s Regional Director, Medical Affairs, and Jason Jaswal, Prince George Director of Long Term Care and Support Services, presented it at the BC Health Care Leaders Conference in Vancouver.

infographic showing statistics during 2017 wildfires

Sincere thanks to everyone involved in supporting the northern wildfire response both this year and last year, including NH Emergency Management and all NH staff members and physicians, and thank you to Jason and Greg for highlighting these details!

Greg and Jason side by side in suits.

Greg Marr (L), NH’s Regional Director, Medical Affairs, and Jason Jaswal, Prince George Director of Long Term Care and Support Services, at the BC Health Care Leaders Conference in Vancouver.

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Diagnosis: Retiring. Here’s what retirement looks and feels like to two long term Prince George doctors.

As my co-worker, Bailee, and I walked down the street to meet up with and interview Drs. Garry and Susan Knoll, we jokingly bantered back and forth what we would do if we were retiring. The Knolls have been family doctors in Prince George for over 25 years, and they’ve finally made the decision to retire. Susan officially left her practice at the end of September and Garry is hoping to be done at his practice by January 2019.

“I bet they’re popping a big ol’ bottle of champagne and sailing to Tahiti!” I exaggerated.

Bailee, a tad more realistic than myself, mentioned something about being leaders in the medical community… something something? My mind was on a sailboat in Tahiti.

But, moments into the interview, I soon discovered, and probably should have predicted, Bailee was right. Even though the Knolls are parting from their full-time practices, the two doctors still have their stethoscopes on the heartbeat of the medical community. Here’s what each of them had to say on the topic of “retiring.”

susan knoll sitting on a bench with a statue, eating ice cream.What will you miss about practicing full time?

Susan:

I’ll miss my patients. I’ve been looking after them for 20+ years. We have a relationship with each other and we’ve been through a lot together.

I’ll also miss the camaraderie at the office. I have been sharing an office with Ed Turski for most of the years in Prince George and Lindsay Kwantes joined us about six years ago. Both were fantastic partners – we never even came close to an argument! And our MOA, Colleen Price looked after us and our patients very well. I think we all respected and liked each other. Lindsay moved to be near family this summer, so we recruited two new grads from our Residency Program, who I was privileged to oversee through their training. It made it somewhat easier to leave, knowing that our office remains in good hands. But it will still be hard, in some respects, to part ways with that “family”.

Garry:

I’ll miss feeling that sense of accomplishment at the end of the day, and all the fun I had in the office. I really enjoyed the intergenerational relationships we built, and working with everyone at the hospital. I just came from a meeting with my interprofessional team and it was really good – we’re really getting to know the team and what people bring to the table, which makes it tough to leave.

I’ll also miss being part of the forward progress our system is making. It’s nice to be a part of a plan from the beginning, and since switching to integrated primary and community care, it’s been like going to Mars! There’s no turning back. We’ve decided to commit to a plan that I’m confident it will be better for everyone in the long run. It feels like we’ve recently made such positive strides in the right direction.

What are you looking forward to most about being retired?

Susan:

Well I can tell you what I won’t miss! I won’t miss getting up to an alarm and rushing through rounds, then rushing to the office, and that feeling of always being late!

Now that I have a bit (a lot) more time, I’ve joined the Cantata Singers, which is great. I’m also able to hang out with my grandkids more and attend to all the “pieces of my wellness pie”! I’m looking forward to doing more travelling also.

Garry:

You know, as a doctor, you’re always in a rush and with a lot of time pressure. I won’t miss that. I also won’t miss all the documentation!

Are you planning to stay involved with the medical community in some way?

Garry:

I’m still going to work some shifts at the Nechako walk-in clinic and cover for other doctors’ vacations at my clinic. And I’m still going to help with the Prince George Divisions of Family Practice for a bit. We have a lot of friends in the medical community still, which makes it easy to stay connected. In Prince George, doctors have really good foresight and can grasp the ‘big picture’ of medicine. It keeps us very interested in what’s happening locally.

Susan:

I’ll still be doing a few shifts at the Nechako walk-in clinic as well. Prince George has a really unique medical community that makes us want to stay involved. About 40% of our Family Physicians were graduates of our Residency program here in Prince George – I don’t know anywhere else that’s like that.

garry knoll cycling on a road in the summer.When you’re both retired, will you be doing anything immediately to celebrate?

Susan:

Truthfully, the last day of work at my clinic just slipped by. When you’re in charge of making sure everything will run smoothly when you’re gone, it sort of sneaks up on you. I didn’t even have time to tell my patients or the medical office assistant that it was my last day! The clinic had a lovely celebration later.

Garry:

When I finish, we’re planning to go cross-country skiing for three weeks in the New Year! Honestly, when you’re in charge of a practice, you don’t really get a “clean cut.” In one way or another, you’re involved. I think the hardest thing will be when we both decide to hand in our licenses. That will be a tough day.

In your career, did you ever experience physician burnout or woes? Would you have any advice for medical students who might be experiencing something similar?

Susan:

I experienced a bit of burnout about 10 years ago. Luckily, I was able to recognize it, so I decided to get a coach and I discussed my values and what I hoped to get out of life. It was then that I decided to scale back the number of patients I was seeing in clinic, and added the part-time position of site director for the Family Practice Residency Program, Prince George site.

It’s so easy to get sucked into the vortex and just go, go, go. Some advice for new graduates and medical students: read my article on wellness. It’s important to keep a balance in life and not be afraid to make changes. Realize that good work is part of the balance, you’re contributing, and it makes you feel good.

Garry:

I’ve never had the burnout experience, although lately I have been thinking a lot about retirement! There have been times when I’ve felt frustrated, but I think any job has those.

The last 12 years I’ve been really focusing on finding a way forward for my practice, and the patients in the practice. I want patients to have a doctor that’s going to be there for the long term. Now that the practice has that, it makes it a LOT easier to step back.

Longitudinal care is so much better for patients and doctors – to have that long term relationship with their doctor. My hat’s off to the patients that have been there to educate residents over the last long years!

My advice for burnout: Self-reflection is important to be committed to. It’s important to receive feedback, and you need that group of people willing to give it in your professional and social life. You have to ask yourself, “Am I doing the things in life that align with my values?”

What was the biggest challenge for each of you both being general practitioners (family doctors)?

Garry:

I think the biggest challenge was getting time off together. It was always a big scheduling event. We cared for the same patients in La Ronge, Saskatchewan, and so we always talked about them when we weren’t at work. When we moved to Prince George we didn’t have the same patients, so we didn’t have that connection. There are definitely upsides to always understanding each other’s work demands.

Susan:

For me, balancing the call of work and family was challenging. It actually became easier to overwork when the kids grew up, because they weren’t at home demanding our time. Overworking is easy when you both have busy schedules!

So, as it turns out, “retiring” to this pair of doctors is more about slowing down than anything else. Although there are no immediate plans of sailing towards Tahiti, it was genuinely satisfying to hear the praise and confidence they have for the direction northern BC healthcare is headed, and the people who are involved in moving it forward.

Thank you Garry and Susan for your interview time, and for leaving a lasting positive impact on your community!

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School Safety: The old and the new

Special Constable Fred Greene gives the facts about school safety in today’s world.

As I walked into the Prince George RCMP detachment to discuss school safety with Special Constable Fred Greene, I thought back to my school years. Was I safe back then? I think so. I knew to look both ways before I crossed the road, drugs and cigs were bad, and planning a safe ride home was a good thing. Pretty simple, right?

Well, to fall on that old cliché: “Times have changed.”

fred greene at a desk.It seems that each new generation of students has to deal with both the safety concerns of old (like crossing the road safely), and new safety hurdles that previous groups didn’t have to deal with. Technology has changed, social norms have changed, heck – even the climate has changed! Luckily, one thing hasn’t changed: the importance of teaching students about school safety and what they can do to be proactive.

That was why it was so great to sit down with S/Cst. Greene, an RCMP Community Safety Officer with more than 10 years’ experience. As someone who has presented hundreds of personal safety talks to student bodies ranging from elementary schools to universities, he was able to break down the big topics with me.

Here’s the big four, and what he had to say about each:

Pedestrian Safety

“Make eye contact and hand gestures with drivers before crossing street.”

Remember:

  • Use marked and signalled crosswalks, not shortcuts.
  • Wear light or reflective clothing at night.
  • Use sidewalks when provided, and walk facing the traffic if they’re unavailable.

drugs being exchangedDrug Awareness

“Plan ahead. As you make plans for the party or going out with friends, you need to plan ahead. You need to protect yourself and be smart. Don’t become a victim of someone else’s drug use. Make sure there’s someone you can call day or night, no matter what, if you need them. And, do the same for your friends.”

Remember:

  • First time use of street drugs can be fatal.
  • Usage and eventual addiction of prescription meds can be an easy way to get hooked on hard street drugs.
  • Consider that fentanyl may be found in street or non-prescribed medication.
  • Be cognizant that date rape drugs are easily attainable and can be found locally. They’re colourless, odourless, and easily placed in any drink.

Cyberbullying

“No information is truly private in the online world; an online ‘friend’ can forward any information posted on your site in a moment. Every text, conversation, photo, or phone call once sent will be permanent, public and searchable. If you delete a post, it can always be found.”

Remember:

  • Cyberbullying can be investigated under the Criminal Code as stalking, harassment, or threats.
  • If you receive bullying messages, don’t respond. Print them off and tell someone.
  • Anyone can pretend to be anyone, or anything, they want online.
  • Any inappropriate photos of someone under 18 years old on a device is considered child pornography.
  • Watch out for classified ads and inquiries from out of town or country. Be cautious of anyone asking for payment by Western Union or Crypto-currency.

Street Safety

“Stranger Danger. Don’t go with, take anything, or talk to a stranger. An adult never needs help from a child.”

Remember:

  • You are always safer in a group.
  • Use the buddy system when walking, attending events, or simply to talk to if you’re having a bad day.
  • Stay in well-lit areas at night and don’t use isolated trails.
  • Know your location at all times in case you need to reach someone or call 9-1-1.
  • Never meet a person from social media for the first time by yourself; meet in a public place with a friend or parent.

Interested in more safety tips? Visit these resources!

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Help your Community Health Star shine!

All over northern BC, in every community, there’s someone who’s pumping health and wellness back into their community. This could look like many different things: they’re raising awareness for mental illness; they’re supplying a healthy eating initiative to their town; they’re encouraging others to get up and be active; and who knows what else?!

Community Health Star Logo The best part? These folks are doing this for nothing other than to make the community they live in healthier and happier! At Northern Health, we call these people Community Health Stars (CHS), and we want to help them shine!

Each month, Northern Health would like to showcase a CHS, but we can’t find them without your help. When chosen, a CHS wins their choice of prize from Northern Health, and is highlighted through our social media channels plus the Northern Health Matters blog! Nominations will be accepted on an ongoing basis, so once a nomination is in, they’re eligible to win later as well!

Wondering what a Community Health Star looks like? Here are a couple examples of past Stars:

Peter Nielson – Quesnel, B.C.
Peter is a retiree who has always had a passion for helping seniors. He has created and supported several groups to address a wide range of issues impacting seniors. His message to others? “Check on your neighbours. If you know a senior, keep an eye on them.”

Myles Mattila – Prince George, B.C.
Myles works to promote youth mental health throughout the Prince George area and works with Mindcheck, a program that addresses mental health in a manner that is accessible for youth. It features a broad range of topics, including depression, mood, and anxiety issues; coping with stress, alcohol and substance misuse; body image, eating disorders, and more!

Hollie Blanchette – Valemount, B.C.
Hollie has served on 17 different community committees in Valemount, inspiring projects like Valemount Walks Around the World, the building of the Bigfoot community trail system, working towards a dementia-friendly community designation, looking into projects to keep seniors happy and healthy at home, coordinating a visiting hearing clinic, installing indoor/outdoor chess, and more!

So, who’s doing what around you? Do you know someone who’s helping others? Someone who betters your community? Nominate them as a Community Health Star!

Nomination takes almost no time at all, and you can help put the spotlight on someone who’s been doing something good for others and deserves to be recognized!

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IMAGINE grants: Why not your community?

When we invest in healthy communities, we all win!

Did you know that IMAGINE grant applications are being accepted right now until September 30th? That means you could receive up to $5,000 to put towards a healthy initiative in your community!

imagine stone.Do you have a community idea that dabbles in one of the following areas?

  • Healthy eating and food security
  • Physical activity and active living
  • Injury prevention
  • Tobacco-free communities
  • Positive mental health
  • Prevention of substance harms
  • Healthy early childhood development
  • Healthy aging
  • Healthy School Action

If yes, then fill out an application today! If you’d like to check out our past grants, have a look at our IMAGINE Grant Map!

If you’re curious on what makes a successful grant application, check  out IMAGINE Community Grants: Key factors for success in community! or Writing a grant application – anyone can do it! These two articles can help you kick start your idea, and give you the inside track to writing an awesome application!

Let’s make this IMAGINE granting season the busiest yet. After all, why not you, and why not your community?

Happy granting!

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

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