Healthy Living in the North

Fort Nelson HIV Awareness Week: using language to break down barriers

A table of HIV Awareness materials is pictured.

The table of materials at Fort Nelson’s HIV Awareness Week helps educate attendees.

Language is a powerful thing. It connects to who we are and how we see ourselves. So, when someone takes the time to reach out in your own language — instead of expecting you to understand theirs — it makes a difference.

For the past five years, the community of Fort Nelson has held an HIV Awareness Week. For the most recent one, held the week of April 29, 2019, they decided to mark the occasion by doing something special for the Indigenous members of their community.

Working together with the Fort Nelson Aboriginal Friendship Society, they translated their yearly presentation on HIV into Dené, the most prominent Indigenous language in the area.

“We had one or two Elders who teared up,” said Jennifer Riggs, Regulated Pharmacy Technician and the key organizer for the event. “They were so happy that we took the time — I don’t think it mattered what the conversation was about — but they were so happy that we did it in their language. They really appreciated that we made an effort.”

Fort Nelson, located in Northeastern BC, has a large Indigenous population: roughly 14% of the population identify as Indigenous.

“This event is important in Northern BC, especially in our very isolated towns,” says Jennifer. “Indigenous people have a higher prevalence of HIV … and they aren’t getting that information. We’re trying to bring people up to date.”

This lack of information was the reason Jennifer and her team put in the time and effort to translate the presentation. She wants to ensure that they aren’t left out of the conversation. She hopes to do even more next year by translating the presentation into another Indigenous language.

HIV isn’t something that people usually get excited about, but for Fort Nelson, the event has become something to look forward to. Jennifer estimates that attendance has quadrupled since the initial event five years ago. She hopes that with continued outreach to the Indigenous communities in the area, attendance will continue to grow.

“So many people attend and we’ve come full circle, from where people weren’t talking about sex, to now having condom races at the fire department! It’s becoming normal conversation.”

For Jennifer, this is what it’s all about: to make conversations about topics such as HIV, sex, sexual orientation, and addiction less painful for people to talk about, and to make them part of everyday conversation.

“I want it to be a regular thing. I want continual education and training available all the time. It shouldn’t be a big deal.”

Mark Hendricks

About Mark Hendricks

Mark is the Communications Advisor, Medical Affairs at Northern Health. He was raised in Prince George, and has earned degrees from UNBC (International Business) and Thompson Rivers University (Journalism). As a fan of Fall and Winter, the North suits him and he’s happy to be home in Prince George. When he's not working, Mark enjoys spending time with his wife, reading, playing games of all sorts, hiking, and a good cup (or five) of coffee.

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National Indigenous Peoples Day events in Northern BC

A feather floats on calm water.

Indigenous Peoples Day is June 21!

June 21 is National Indigenous Peoples Day! Across the country, Canadians have the opportunity to recognize and celebrate the unique heritage, diverse cultures, and outstanding contributions of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.

First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples share many similarities, but they each have their own distinct heritage, language, cultural practices, and spiritual beliefs.

June 21, the summer solstice, was chosen as National Indigenous Peoples Day in cooperation with Indigenous organizations and the Government of Canada. The date was specifically chosen because many Indigenous peoples and communities celebrate their culture and heritage on or near this day – significant because of the summer solstice and because it’s the longest day of the year!

Here in Northern BC, there is no shortage of events that you and your family can attend! From Beading and Bannock in Chetwynd to a Moose Calling Contest in Smithers, families can enjoy good food and fun events while celebrating contemporary and traditional Indigenous cultures.

Here’s a selection of events happening right here in the North!

Dawson Creek and District Hospital (2 pm-3 pm)

  • Traditional Pow Wow dancers (featuring tiny tots, youth, and adult dancers)
  • Rock painting with local Métis Artist, Wayne LaRiviere
  • Bannock

Dze L K’ant Friendship Centre Hall – Smithers (11 am-3:30 pm)

  • Soapberry whipping
  • Bannock demonstration
  • Children’s activities
  • Moose calling contest
  • Cedar weaving demonstrations
  • And more!

Chetwynd Hospital Board Room (10 am-12:30 pm)

  • Beading and Bannock with Geraldine Gauthier
  • Tea will be served

If you’re not sure where to find information on local Indigenous Peoples Day events in your area, check out this list of events on the Indigenous Health website! Be sure to use the hashtag #NIPDCanada to join in on the fun online and show just how excited you are!

Shelby Petersen

About Shelby Petersen

Shelby is the Web Services Coordinator with Indigenous Health. Shelby has over five years of experience working in content development and digital marketing. After graduating with a degree in Political Science from UNBC, Shelby moved to Vancouver where she pursued a career in digital marketing. Most recently, Shelby was the Senior Content Developer and Project Manager with a digital advertising agency in Vancouver, British Columbia. Born and raised in Prince George, Shelby is thrilled to be back in the community and spending time outside enjoying everything that the North has to offer.

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Meet our Northern biking champions: Cache from Mackenzie

Cache, wearing his helmet and on his bike, have stopped on a ramp on the street.

Cache is ready to take a jump during Ride to Work & School Week.

For Bike to Work & School Week (May 27-June 2), we are featuring a number of community members who are champions for cycling, whether it be to work, school, or commuting around town.

Today we’ll meet Cache Carlson, a grade 4 student at Morfee Elementary School in Mackenzie.

What do you like most about biking?

The more I ride to school, the more I can find and hit little jumps along the way!

What do you think your community needs in order to make it easier for more people to bike to work or school?

Biking trails… bicycle specific routes.

What type of bike do you ride?

A fitbike 18: BMX!

Any bike tips you’d like to share?

Do preventative maintenance on your bike. I like to fix worn out or broken things on my bike as soon as I notice them.

***

Sounds like Mackenzie might have a budding bike mechanic! A big thank you to Cache for sharing how much fun he has on his ride to school!

Gloria Fox

About Gloria Fox

Gloria Fox is the Regional Physical Activity Lead for Northern Health’s Population Health team. She is a graduate of the University of Alberta’s faculty of PE & Recreation, and until beginning this role has spent most of her career working as a Recreation Therapist with NH. She has a passion for helping others pursue an optimal leisure lifestyle and quality of life at all stages of their lives. In order to maintain her own health (and sanity), Gloria enjoys many outdoor activities, including hiking, camping, canoeing, and cycling, to name a few. She is a self-proclaimed foodie and her life’s ambition is to see as much of the world as possible.

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Growing our own: From high school to health care in the South Peace

A woman and two young males sit behind a table at the Northern Health booth at the South Peace Secondary School career fair. A C.P.R.-simulation dummy is on the table along with Northern Health pens and star-shaped stress balls.

Grade 10 students Scott Cournoyer and Ben Powell learn about health care careers from Emaly Klomp, Dawson Creek & District Hospital Emergency Room Manager, at the annual South Peace Secondary School Career Fair.

In Dawson Creek, Northern Health (NH) staff are partnering with South Peace Senior Secondary (SPSS) to make sure young people, who are planning for the next phase in their lives, are considering careers in health care.

“We want high school-age kids to know that a career with Northern Health can be an easy answer to the difficult question: what will I be when I grow up?” says Kendra Kiss, South Peace Health Services Administrator. “Health care offers well-paying jobs, excellent benefits, and the opportunity to make an impact at the personal and community level – all in a person’s home community.”

For the last two years, Dawson Creek & District Hospital (DCDH) has given SPSS’s students the chance to gain work experience hours. Up to eight grade 11 and 12 students have rotated through different departments of the hospital, getting a taste of different roles. After high school, the NH-SPSS partnership continues to impact former students and the health care system.

“At least three students from the program have gone into medical programs and are coming back to work as employed students over the summer,” says Kendra. “Seeing students who were wide-eyed high schoolers, trying to find their way in the world come back with purpose is inspiring. As a hospital, we see great benefits, as do the students who gain real-world experience and grow professionally and personally.”

Along with bringing students to the hospital, staff are engaging SPSS students at their school. On March 14, Kendra and Emaly Klomp, DCDH’s Emergency Department Manager, joined other local employers at the school’s annual career fair. Students from Dawson Creek, Chetwynd, and Tumbler Ridge had the opportunity to ask questions about health care careers. NH’s booth (pictured) featured the “CPR for 2 Minutes” contest. Only one student was able to make a full minute, but everyone had a great time trying.

If you have questions about working at Northern Health, including about local partnerships like the one above, please contact NH’s Recruitment department:

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Communications Specialist, Content Development and Engagement at Northern Health, and has been with the organization since 2013. He grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, sports, reading, movies, and generally nerding out. He loves the slower pace of life and lack of traffic in the North.

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All Native Basketball Tournament 2019 – The Diamond Anniversary

Person holding sign with their most valuable teaching.

My most valuable teaching…” Learning how to deal with loss. I learned not to isolate and at 72 years old I joined an Elders’ walking club. 3 times a week!”

From February 10-16, the 2019 All Native Basketball Tournament celebrated its diamond anniversary in Prince Rupert. The 60th annual tournament and cultural event drew participants and fans from as far as Ahousat on Vancouver Island to Hydaburg, Kake, and Metlakatla.

The original tournament was called the Northern British Columbia Coast Indian Championship Tournament and ran from 1947-1953. The inaugural 1947 tournament was held in the Roosevelt Gymnasium at what is now École Roosevelt Park Community School, attracting about 400 spectators. Due to lack of interest, the first version of the tournament was cancelled in 1953, but by 1959, the tournament was rekindled with a new name – The All Native Basket Ball Tournament (ANBT). The first ANBT was held on March 2, 1960 and continues to the present day as British Columbia’s largest basketball tournament and the largest Indigenous cultural event in Canada.

This year, the tournament saw thousands of spectators cheer nearly fifty teams competing in four divisions: intermediate, seniors’, masters’, and women’s.

All but one of the defending champions reclaimed their titles with the PR Bad Boys losing out to Skidegate Saints 85-83. The seniors’ division title went to the Kitkatla Warriors who beat out newcomers, Pigeon Park All-Stars, 102-85. The Hydaburg Warriors took home their fifth straight masters’ division title beating out the Lax Kw’alaams Hoyas 98-74. Finally, two-time defending champs, Kitamaat Woman’s Squad, bested the Similkameen Starbirds 45-36 to take home the women’s division title for the third time.

The Northern Health sponsored Raven Room

Person holding sign with their most valuable teaching.

My most valuable teaching… “Respect one another and respect your Elders; share and be thankful for what you have.”

Northern Health is proud to have partnered with the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) to sponsor the Raven Room. The Raven Room is intended to be a peaceful space for Elders to rest and take a break from the bustle of the tournament.

Elder Semiguul (Fanny Nelson) was the room’s official host while many Elders and others dropped in for k’wila’maxs tea, coffee, baked goods with locally-harvested berry jam, fruit, and good conversation. Northern Health and FNHA staff and volunteers were on hand to offer wellness checks and advice about blood pressure, blood sugars, and cholesterol. Over 200 people visited the Raven Room and 191 people received wellness checks.

The Raven Room and wellness checks are designed to create a safe space for community members to learn about health care from a perspective outside the mainstream health care environment which can often be intimidating and uncomfortable for many. This more public space provides a safer and perhaps more familiar way to access services because others are there to witness and offer support.

Person holding sign with their most valuable teaching.

My most valuable teaching… “Pass my knowledge to the next generation.”

When asked what they enjoyed most about the Raven Room, one visitor responded, “I think that this service is an excellent idea – as it is hard to try and get to see your Dr. [The] waiting period at hospital is so out of this world.”

This year’s Raven Room theme was “the strength and wisdom of Elders.” Many Elders offered “their most valuable teaching” or “what they want to share with the younger generation” for an Elder’s Wisdom Wall (see photos).

FNHA also used other rooms to host great workshops about sports physiotherapy and taping, painting, and cedar weaving. Tournament participants and spectators were also invited to meet with traditional healers throughout the week.

Congratulations to all competitors and all those involved in organizing this event!

Person holding sign with advice for the younger generation.

What do you want to share with the younger generation? “Respect everyone! Compassion! Abuse of drugs and alcohol – say no!”

Woman holding sign with her advice for the younger generation.

What do you want to share with the younger generation? “Never give up, LOVE yourself is to respect yourself as a person. Find help when life pressure gets to hard. We DO LOVE you. you are not alone.”

Shelby Petersen

About Shelby Petersen

Shelby is the Web Services Coordinator with Indigenous Health. Shelby has over five years of experience working in content development and digital marketing. After graduating with a degree in Political Science from UNBC, Shelby moved to Vancouver where she pursued a career in digital marketing. Most recently, Shelby was the Senior Content Developer and Project Manager with a digital advertising agency in Vancouver, British Columbia. Born and raised in Prince George, Shelby is thrilled to be back in the community and spending time outside enjoying everything that the North has to offer.

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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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Dancing my way to wellness: why boogie-ing is better for you than you think

Dance partners posing together.
My Boogie with the Stars dance partner Gurinder and I.

This fall I reignited an old passion of mine: dance. Growing up I spent many hours at my local dance studio practicing jazz and my favourite, ballet. Besides teaching me important aspects of physical activity like coordination and flexibility, dance taught me important things I still appreciate now as an adult.

What dance has taught me:

  • Good posture: I learned to put my shoulders back, not slouch, and stand tall!
  • Musicality: thanks to my ballet training I still enjoy listening to classical music; leading up to Christmas I had the Nutcracker on repeat!
  • Discipline: I learned it takes hard work to learn a routine or new move! I’ve applied this skill to many things since my younger dance days, including post-secondary school and my career.

From ballet to ballroom

Now I’ve traded my ballet slippers for ballroom heels! This New Year’s Eve I’ll be dancing at the Prince George Civic Centre as a member of Boogie with the Stars (BWTS). BWTS is a fun-filled biannual fundraising gala that sees a variety of Prince George community members come together and face off on the dance floor! There are several teams, each one raising money for a different charity. My partner Gurinder and I are Team Wheelin’Warriors of the North and all of our funds will go to the BC Cancer Foundation. We’ll be dancing a salsa and swing compilation! It’s been fun to take dance lessons again and try something new. Plus I forgot what good exercise dance can be! Have you ever been curious about dance? Here are a couple reasons why you should try it, including a couple benefits I’ve discovered:

Group dance session.
A group dance session at Dance North in Prince George. 

Now that the NYE countdown is on, my partner and I are continuing to practice hard. Whether you have experience or not I’d encourage anyone to give dance a try! Are you part of a dance group in your community? What kind of dance do you enjoy the most?

Haylee Seiter

About Haylee Seiter

Haylee is a communications advisor for Public and Population Health. She grew up in Prince George and is proud to call Northern BC home. During university she found her passion for health promotions by volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society and became interested in marketing through the UNBC JDC West team. When she's not dreaming up communications strategies, she can be found cycling with the Wheelin Warriors or spending time with family and friends. (NH Blog Admin)

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Sharing stories: “What matters to you?” events help improve health care

Andrea Goodine, NE Quality Improvement Coach, and Edwina Nearhood, Patient Partner, celebrating What Matters to You Day.

Andrea Goodine, NE Quality Improvement Coach, and Edwina Nearhood, Patient Partner, celebrating What Matters to You Day in Fort St John.

Asking patients “What matters to you?” can lead to valuable feedback that helps improve health care.

When Edwina Nearwood, a patient partner with Patient Voices Network (PVN), heard about the “What matters to you?” initiative put on by the BC Patient Safety & Quality Council (BCPSQC), she knew it was the perfect opportunity for patients and care providers to share their stories.

In the words of the BCPSQC, “when providers have a conversation about what really matters to the people they care for, it helps them ensure that care is aligned with patient preferences and provide more patient- and family-centred care.”

With the support and guidance of Northern Health Quality Improvement leads and former PVN Engagement Leader Anthony Gagne, Edwina arranged an event at the Fort St. John Hospital in June 2017.

“People came to the hospital specifically to share their stories,” she says. “They wanted Northern Health to learn from their experiences and update practice.”

The event was attended by many patients and care providers, who talked about what was important to them, as well as any concerns they had.

Northern Health leaders in Fort St. John were extremely receptive to the feedback, and created an action plan with quality improvement initiatives. One example of improved service was a better system of prioritization in the radiology department that resulted in more timely service to patients.

Viva Swanson, Patient Partner, and Andrea Goodine, NE Quality Improvement Coach, with a cart full of swag for What Matters to You Day.

Viva Swanson, Patient Partner, and Andrea Goodine, NE Quality Improvement Coach, preparing for What Matters to You Day in Fort St John.

Continuing the success from 2017, Edwina and other patient partners, including Viva Swanson, hosted their own “What matters to you?” event in Fort St. John in June 2018.  Once again, the response from patients and care providers was very positive.

“Patients, residents, family, visitors, staff, and physicians were quite curious and interested in hearing the story behind it,” says Swanson. “The branding of the campaign inspired people to ask what was going on and the ‘why’ behind it.”

Patient partners are tremendously important in improving the way Northern Health delivers care. Events such as “What matters to you?” open the dialogue and improve communication between health care providers and patients.

While Edwina has already had great success in hosting these events, she knows there’s still room to grow. Her goals are to collaborate with doctors and other health care providers to grow “What matters to you?” conversations to the point where they become second nature.

For more information on “What matters to you?”, visit the BC Patient Safety & Quality Council website at www.bcpsqc.ca.

Tamara Reichert

About Tamara Reichert

Tamara is the communications advisor for the innovation and development commons at Northern Health where she works on a number of projects with the research, quality improvement, clinical simulation, and education teams. Born and raised in Prince George, Tamara grew up on a ranch where she rode horses, played with farm animals, built forts, and raided the family garden. She enjoys spending time travelling, hiking, cooking, reading, and cheering for her favourite sports teams.

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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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Stanley Cup visits Gateway Lodge

Residents and staff at Gateway Lodge in Prince George spent the morning with Brett Connolly and the Stanley Cup.

Brett Connolly shows Stanley Cup to resident.

Connolly shows the Stanley Cup to Gateway Lodge residents.

Connolly is a forward for the Washington Capitals, who won the Stanley cup this past season. As is tradition, each season every member of the winning team gets one day with cup. Most players take it to their hometowns and celebrate the championship with family, friends, and the community. Since Brett is from PG, played minor hockey here, and spent four seasons with the Prince George Cougars (WHL), it was only fitting that he brought Lord Stanley’s Cup back to where his hockey journey began.

Brett Connolly poses with Gateway Lodge staff.

Connolly (second from the left) poses with Gateway Lodge staff, including his aunt Lynn AuCoin (far right).

Connolly’s mom Dawn Connolly and aunt Lynn AuCoin are NH staff at Gateway Lodge. Both were excited to have Connolly bring the cup and share it with the Gateway residents. Residents took pictures with Connolly and the cup, a few held it and two residents even kissed the cup.

Connolly poses with resident.

Connolly pictured with 100 year old resident Elsie Christenson.

After his time at Gateway Lodge, Connolly headed straight to the CN Centre for the official Prince George Stanley Cup Party.

Brandan Spyker

About Brandan Spyker

Brandan works in digital communications at NH. He helps mange our staff Intranet but also creates graphics, monitors social media and shoots video for NH. Born and raised in Prince George, Brandan started out in TV broadcasting as a technical director before making the jump into healthcare. Outside of work he enjoys spending quality time and travelling with his wife, daughter and son. He’s a techie/nerd. He likes learning about all the new tech and he's a big Star Wars fan. He also enjoys watching and playing sports.

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