Healthy Living in the North

The Boon Docs: No Trespassing

Boon Docs comic, "no trespassing," by Caroline Shooner.
The Boon Docs comic, “no trespassing,” by Dr. Caroline Shooner.

About the Boon Docs:

The Boon Docs is a comic about practicing medicine in a small town. It’s about raising chickens and having sheep instead of a lawnmower. It’s about being nice to your neighbours (or else). But don’t be fooled: it is not always simple or idyllic. There are hungry bears and peckish raccoons out there. Rumors get around faster than the ambulance, and the store often runs out of milk.

Caroline Shooner

About Caroline Shooner

Originally from Montreal, Dr. Caroline Shooner joined the Queen Charlotte medical team in 2007 and has been living and practicing as a family physician on Haida Gwaii ever since. Caroline is interested in how the arts and humanities can help promote health and allow us to look more critically and meaningfully at how we practice medicine. In 2015, she completed an MSc in Medical Humanities at King’s College London. During that year, she was introduced to the field of Graphic Medicine and started creating a series of cartoons inspired by the comic side of small town medicine: The Boon Docs.

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A 5-minute drill with Health Emergency Management

Image sharing the definition of a 5 minute drill.

How would you respond in an emergency? Tough one to answer, isn’t it, especially as emergencies can vary so much. Many of us probably remember doing fire or earthquake drills in elementary school, but even though emergencies can still happen at any moment, we don’t practice what to do that often. In a healthcare setting, there are so many different types of emergencies, threats, and risks that can occur on a daily basis. We write procedures and response plans for these things, but our Health Emergency Management (HEM) team is taking it further, with their new 5-minute drill.

The 5-minute drill is an exercise, either physically acted out or discussed, that simulates an emergency response plan or process for just a single function or time frame within the first five to 20 minutes of an emergency.

“This is an important activity for hospital staff to participate in so that we’re prepared in the event of an emergency, to discover how we’re not prepared, and to take away some of the assumptions of who should be doing what,” says Jana Hargreaves, Northern Health Coordinator, Health Emergency Management BC. “The benefit of doing these in this format is that it’s less taxing on staff as far as shift coverage, time constraints, and they can be done on duty with minimal impacts to staffing.”

The different kinds of codes to practice with 5 minute drills.

Drills are usually focused around the different hospital emergency codes, such as code red (fire), code orange (disaster or mass casualties), or code black (bomb threat), which according to Jana is “the most fun because it’s easiest to act out with a small group.”

The Northern Health (NH) HEM team has been engaging with site champions (staff volunteers) at NH sites to help roll out these drills since last May. So far, Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace, Wrinch Memorial Hospital in Hazelton, and the University Hospital of Northern BC in Prince George have been practicing the drills on a regular basis.

“We have been receiving some excellent feedback that the drills are a way to ‘start the discussion’ about emergency codes that are in place in our facilities,” says Jana.

The HEM team plans on releasing new sets of each year, with the next being slated for May 2019. Some hospitals have taken the templates Jana has made and created their own 5-minute drills.

If your Northern Health site wants to run their own 5-minute drill, contact the HEM team at HEMBC@northernhealth.ca.

Jessica Quinn

About Jessica Quinn

Jessica Quinn is the regional manager of digital communications and public engagement for Northern Health, where she is actively involved in promoting the great work of NH staff to encourage healthy, well and active lifestyles. She manages NH's content channels, including social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc). When she's not working, Jessica stays active by exploring the beautiful outdoors around Prince George via kayak, hiking boots, or snowshoes, and she has recently completed her master's degree in professional communications from Royal Roads University, with a focus on the use of social media in health care. (NH Blog Admin)

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Robson Valley communities opt for virtual health care to improve rural emergency services

(Editor’s note: This article first appeared in our staff publication, The Northern Way, Fall 2018 edition. Read the full issue here.)

Health care providers posing with telehealth system.
Health care providers in Robson Valley launched a pilot project in November 2016 to evaluate the benefits of using telehealth to improve Northern Health’s rural emergency services. Here they are testing the system. Back row (L-R): Dr. Stefan Du Toit, family practitioner, Dr. Jatinder Baidwan, Northern Health locum (on the monitor), and Kimberly Duncan, RN; front row (L-R): Raymond Tabeshi, medical student, Brendan Lilgert, nurse practitioner student, and Sussana Gasser, RN. Photo: UBC Digital Emergency Medicine Evaluation Team.

Telemedicine technologies such as real-time videoconference consultations are enabling rural health practitioners to deliver improved emergency health care in the Robson Valley.   

Dr. Ray Markham, a general practitioner based in Valemount, BC, and Chief of Staff for Robson Valley, is one of the physicians spearheading the Robson Valley Virtual Medicine project. He says the “virtual care approach” works like this:

  • Rural family physicians in Robson Valley community clinics/emergency rooms use videoconferencing or secure text messaging to link with emergency physicians in Prince George;
  • Nurses-patients at clinics/emergency rooms in Valemount and McBride use video links to connect with local, on-call family physicians at home; and
  • General practitioners connect virtually with patients at their homes.

“Virtual support of clinicians providing emergency care in the Robson Valley has resulted in a number of patients not having to travel for their care,” says Markham. “And it’s improved the confidence and comfort of nurses and physicians in low volume settings. You realize you’re not alone – someone else has their eyes on the patient and can be supportive.”

Pilot Project Launched

Valemount and McBride are served by a total of five physicians, but on weekends or after hours, only one nurse and one physician provide emergency services to clinics in both areas. That means some patients may have to travel 90 kilometres between McBride and Valemount to actually see the on-call physician. In addition, some patients may have to be transferred to Prince George for care, over 200 kilometres away. Depending on the season, that means ambulance crews can run into inclement winter road conditions like snow and ice, or wildlife on highways. Remote locations also mean that ambulance crews are often out of cell phone range.

Markham credits Dr. John Pawlovich as the person who initially saw the need for virtual emergency health care support in northern rural areas. As the video lead for the Rural Coordination Centre of BC, Pawlovich has been providing telehealth support to First Nations communities for several years, working with the Carrier Sekani Family Services (CSFS) group across northern BC.

Following Pawlovich’s lead, the Robson Valley Virtual Medicine initiative began as a pilot project in November 2016, led by Northern Health and the Northern Interior Rural Division of Family Practice (NIRD). Over the ensuing 18 months, the telehealth approach was used and evaluated in 26 consultations. An evaluation report of the pilot, conducted by the UBC Digital Emergency Medicine Evaluation Team, was released in April 2018. Its findings showed that virtual care improves rural patient care and safety, reduces patient transfer costs, and builds relationships between rural and emergency physicians. Another benefit? It reduces stress for rural physicians, especially in acute situations.

Patients support the telemedicine approach, as well.

“The more hands involved, the better,” says a patient interviewed for the evaluation report. “The experts were right there on hand. It gives great assurance for the patient that they were in good care with two doctors on hand and two doctors on video.”

Building Rural Capacity

Dr. Stefan Du Toit, who co-led the initial testing and use of the Robson Valley virtual medicine system, is also based in Valemount, but also handles emergency calls from McBride. He says with rural doctors consulting with emergency physicians using hand-held cameras or videoconferencing stations, the physicians acquire information directly, then decide if a patient needs to be sutured, for example, or undergo a more complex procedure.

Du Toit says during the pilot, for example, Robson Valley physicians had to do three electrical cardioversions in one week. In that procedure, atrial fibrillation is corrected with an electrical impulse to the heart which resets the heart’s rhythm. Thanks to support from Prince George emergency physicians, the procedures were done locally with no complications, and patients did not have to be transferred to Prince George.

“We usually get trained as students to deal with these types of cases but very few of us have to deal with them commonly as physicians,” says Du Toit. “And when you have someone who can guide you through the case, it helps with education and teaching.”

Adds Du Toit: “Where virtual care helps me significantly is when we’re on call on the weekend – just a doctor and a nurse. We have to keep our hands on the patient. So, if you have a video call linked, you can keep your hands on the patient, and have a conversation in the room. It’s that extra support that you need sometimes. Patients and physicians benefit.”

Embedding Virtual Support

With the pilot project completed, there is still work to do to ensure the virtual medicine project continues to thrive. Among some of the recommendations made by the evaluation team:

  • Roll out stable, easy-to-use technologies slowly, provide training, and ensure IT support;
  • Involve all members of a team-based care model in the virtual care process, including regional and provincial partners such as BC Ambulance Service;
  • Address physician compensation, workload, and time factors to encourage virtual care buy-in;
  • Conduct a cost analysis to verify the cost savings resulting from virtual care.

Markham says the new system has already resulted in improved communication, learning, and understanding between rural and emergency physicians and specialists. Virtual care has also led to improved collaboration between rural family physicians and nurses in Robson Valley communities.

Telemedicine in the North

The pilot project’s success has also resulted in NIRD receiving further funding from the General Practice Services Committee (GPSC) to advance the virtual care work. The GPSC is a partnership of the Government of BC and Doctors of BC.

“It’s evolving all the time and other pieces are being added on to it. For example, a link can be sent to a patient to access videoconferencing by phone, laptop, iPhone or Android device, which enables clinicians to do virtual home visits not only with local patients, but also those in outlying areas,” says Markham.

He adds that communities including Vanderhoof, Fraser Lake, Mackenzie, Burns Lake, and Quesnel have all expressed interest in the virtual medicine project, noting that CSFS communities such as Takla Landing and Tachet have been leading remote telehealth work for years. Du Toit is the co-lead, through NIRD, to get videoconferencing up and running across the north.

“It’s really centred around providing better care for our patients, and support for clinicians,” says Markham. “It’s providing appropriate care with confidence.”

Collaboration has been key to the implementation and success of the pilot project. In addition to co-leads Northern Health and the Northern Interior Rural Division of Family Practice (NIRD), other collaborators involved with the Robson Valley Virtual Medicine project are local physicians, several specialists, and the following organizations:

  • BC Emergency Medicine Network
  • Telus (assisting with telecommunications needs)
  • Northern Partners in Care
  • Rural Education Action Plan
  • Rural Coordination Centre of BC 
  • BC SUPPORT (Support for People and Patient-Oriented Research and Trials) Unit
  • UBC Digital Emergency Medicine Evaluation Team
  • St. Paul’s Hospital Redesign
  • Project Manager Georgia Betkus
Joanne MacDonald

About Joanne MacDonald

Joanne MacDonald is a communications consultant for Northern Health. 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.

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Happy 100th birthday to the Auxiliary to UHNBC!

Lindy Steele and Colleen Nyce with the commemorative plaque.
Lindy Steele, Auxiliary President, receiving the commemorative bronze plaque from Colleen Nyce, Northern Health Board Chair.

Have you ever had the pleasure of celebrating a 100th birthday? I’m lucky enough to say I have – not once, not twice, but three times in my life!

The first centennial I attended was about four years ago, for a lovely lady who I’m sad to say has now passed. The second was a year and a half ago, celebrating a very dear friend, who I’m still lucky enough to visit with on a regular basis. The third was particularly special… and just this past week!

This birthday party was for the Auxiliary to the University Hospital of Northern British Columbia! This organization is run by volunteers, and spends countless hours (over a million during this 100 years) raising money to help the residents of Prince George and surrounding area get the health care they need!

Two Auxiliary members unwrapping the mural.
Two Auxiliary members proudly unwrap the mural that now greets anyone entering UHNBC.

Here’s to 100 more!

The special occasion was celebrated by a number of the auxiliary volunteers, members of the Spirit of the North Healthcare Foundation, local dignitaries, and residents of Prince George. A beautiful mural now hangs over the auxiliary desk in the main lobby, unveiled during the celebration alongside a bronze plaque commemorating their 100 years of tireless work! The tokens of appreciation were presented to Lindy Steele, Auxiliary President, by Colleen Nyce, Northern Health Board Chair.

In their century of service to the people of Prince George and neighbouring communities, the Auxiliary to UHNBC has donated over $5.5 million and, as previously mentioned, over one million volunteer hours, to help improve health care at UHNBC. Their goal is to provide service to the hospital community by raising funds through the Auxiliary Gift Shop, The Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Shop, fundraising, and donations. They rely on the support of the community to assist them, and it’s obvious to me this partnership is working!

Humble beginnings

It all started in 1919, in the form of providing linens, drapes, and other incidentals to the hospital. From there, the Auxiliary continued to grow and take on different fundraising opportunities to raise money for necessary items, from linens, to operating equipment, and anything else you can imagine!

UHNBC Auxiliary 100 birthday cake.
Fact: you can’t have a 100th birthday without a cake!

Say hello!

If you’ve ever walked through the doors at UHNBC as patient, a visitor, or as an employee, you’ll have seen Auxiliary volunteers in their pink smocks, or burgundy vests, doing what they do best: helping others.

They’ll direct you to the room of a loved one or the friend you’re visiting, check you in for appointments at clinics, or help you through the gift shop in the hospital atrium, a hidden gem in my opinion!

I believe volunteers are a huge part of what makes this, and any, community thrive. Whether times were good or extremely hard, these volunteers continue to be the smiles that greet you and the helping hands that guide you where you need to go.

Thank you Auxiliary!

The Auxiliary to UHNBC is hosting the British Columbia Association of Health Care Auxiliaries (BCAHA) annual conference and AGM in Prince George in April of this year at the Prince George Civic and Conference Center. I don’t doubt they will all celebrate this milestone, as we all should, with the UHNBC Auxiliary members. If you see one of these wonderful people, please thank them for their service.

Lorrelle Hall

About Lorrelle Hall

Born and raised in Prince George BC, Lorrelle loves her hometown and is proud to be a PG girl, through and through! She and husband Lyn have raised twin daughters, and love being active in the community. Lorrelle works as an Executive Assistant to the Northern Health Communications team, and works closely with the Hospital Auxiliaries and Foundations. When not at work, she loves to spend time with her kids, mother, many siblings, and friends! She loves to volunteer, and travel wherever the sun is shining!

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Clinical simulation helps nursing school instructors provide better training

Simulation Debriefing Training Workshop Facilitators and Attendees.
Simulation Debriefing Training Workshop Facilitators and Attendees. L – R: Michael Lundin, Coordinator, Northern Clinical Simulation, Northern Health and Workshop Facilitator; Joey Zeller, CNC Instructor, Quesnel Campus; Suzanne Betts, CNC Instructor, Prince George Campus; Shelby Montgomery, CNC Instructor, Prince George Campus; Danielle Brandon, CNC Instructor, Prince George Campus; Stacey Conway, CNC Instructor, Prince George Campus; Lyndsy McFadden, Yvonne Mott, CNC Instructor, Prince George Campus; Tara Green, CNC Instructor, Prince George Campus; Lizann Schultz, CNC Instructor, Quesnel Campus; Liza Voliente, CNC Instructor, Prince George Campus; Nancy Esopenko, CNC Instructor, Prince George Campus; Anita Muchalla Yeulet, CNC Instructor, Prince George Campus; Tanya Barrett, Clinical Nurse Educator, Northern Health and Workshop Facilitator; Crystal Patenaude, CNC Instructor, Prince George Campus; Renee Peterson, CNC Instructor, Quesnel Campus.

For health sciences students, clinical simulation is an important part of learning. It lets them practice on realistic mannequins known as simulators without risk to patients. And of course, their instructors’ knowledge of simulation techniques is key.

On January 11, Northern Health’s Clinical Simulation Program hosted 16 nursing instructors from the College of New Caledonia (CNC) for a simulation training session.

The all-day session took place at the University Hospital of Northern British Columbia (UHNBC) in Prince George, and instructors from CNC’s Prince George and Quesnel campuses participated.

The training focused on the debriefing part of simulation education. This is when the instructor and students discuss the simulation session after it’s over, discussing what went well and areas for improvement. This is the first time a debriefing workshop has been offered by Northern Clinical Simulation.

“This session is part of the evolution of simulation use in year 2 at the CNC campuses,” says Nancy Esopenko, a CNC instructor in the Northern Collaborative Baccalaureate Nursing Program. “In 2018 we began a pilot project for students around simulation. We wanted everyone to take part in simulation during their medical or surgical rotations at UHNBC and GR Baker Hospital in Quesnel. Before this, the students’ exposure to simulation varied. We wanted all our students to learn using simulation.”

By taking this training, instructors are increasing their knowledge around simulation. This makes the sessions with students even more valuable.

“Debriefing is a very important part of simulation training and overall learning. It enhances the experience for both instructors and students. This training has given our instructors the tools to have difficult conversations,” says Nancy, who’s also Year 1 & 2 Coordinator in the nursing program. “It was very valuable to watch experienced instructors word their questions. We appreciated the chance to practice before teaching students.”

The experience has been beneficial for both new and experienced instructors: “They’re more confident in their approach and communication style,” says Nancy. “All the instructors learned new ways to engage in conversations and provide feedback. They liked playing the student role during the simulation scenarios, too – it let them see things from the student perspective.”

The commitment shown by the CNC instructors in taking part in these workshops will a go a long way in training future nurses for years to come.

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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UNBC PhD student awarded national fellowship to study stroke care

Daman Kandola with Northern Health supervisor Jessica Place and academic supervisor Davina Banner.
L-R: Dr. Jessica Place, Executive Lead, Regional Chronic Diseases; Daman Kandola, recipient of the HSI Fellowship; and Dr. Davina Banner, academic supervisor.

UNBC PhD candidate Daman Kandola was recently awarded a 2018/2019 Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Health System Impact Fellowship (HSIF). She’s one of only three PhD fellows in BC, and 20 from across Canada. Daman’s research focuses on the delivery of stroke-related care across the Northern Health region.

Daman is the first person from UNBC to be awarded a CIHR HSIF fellowship and is excited to be recognized.

“It’s amazing to have the importance of this work recognized on a national level and to celebrate some of the research we are doing at UNBC,” she said.

This 1-year fellowship supports Northern Health’s mission of promoting health and providing health services to Northern and rural populations. The fellowship is funded jointly by Northern Health and CIHR’s Institute of Health Services and Policy Research. The goal is to train the next generation of scientists in hybrid research and policy careers to work in health systems to address challenges in health service delivery, clinical care, and innovation.

Broken into three phases, Daman’s study looks at the different ways to arrive at the hospital and the time taken to receive stroke care. Sites she’s studying are ones with computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans — they include the University Hospital of Northern BC in Prince George, GR Baker Hospital in Quesnel, Dawson Creek and District Hospital, Fort St. John Hospital, Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace, and Prince Rupert Regional Hospital. The study is expected to finish in fall 2019.

To understand patient experiences, Daman’s interviewing stroke survivors and their family members.

“This information is very meaningful to learn about each person’s experience. Numbers don’t tell the full story, so hearing directly from those affected is important,” she said. “Findings from this study may be relevant to similar small urban, Northern, rural, and remote regions. We hope that this work will improve health services for acute and time-sensitive conditions including stroke.”

Daman also said she’s grateful for the expertise of her mentors, including academic supervisor Dr. Davina Banner, Northern Health supervisor Dr. Jessica Place and cardiac and stroke lead Kristin Massey. “We’re fortunate to have a wonderful team support this fellowship including patient partners,” says Daman.

If you’d like further information about this work, or if you or someone you know has had a stroke in the last two years and is interested in sharing their stroke experience, contact Daman at kandola@unbc.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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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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Clean hands are your best defence against the flu

Hands washing with soap.
The most effective and easiest way to prevent the spread of the flu is to have good hand hygiene.

Flu season is once again in full force. Influenza, or the flu, is a virus that causes fever, cough, headache, sore muscles or joints, fatigue or weakness, and a sore throat.

It’s spread through contact and fluid transfer, including breathing in the virus if someone sneezes or coughs, and doesn’t cover their mouth. It can also be shared by dirty surfaces and dirty hands. The most effective and easiest way to prevent the spread of the flu is to have good hand hygiene.

There are two ways to keep your hands clean. The first is just to… wash your hands. The soap and friction together wash the germs down the drain. Hand-washing tips:

  • Use regular soap, not antibacterial soap. Antibacterial soap can help create antibiotic-resistant germs.
  • After soaping your hands, sing a song like Happy Birthday (twice) or Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star while you rub your hands together. (Dancing in place and harmonizing with the person at the neighbouring sink: optional!) Both songs give you the ideal scrub time of about 20 seconds.
  • Make sure to wash the back of your hands and in between your fingers.
  • Rinse well and gently pat your hands dry.
  • To stop your hands from drying out, use lotions as needed.

The second way to keep your hands clean is to use hand sanitizer. Things to consider:

  • The sanitizer should be made up of at least 60% alcohol.
  • It’s convenient to use and you can keep it in your car or purse.
  • Use enough to keep your hands “wet” for 20 seconds. Rub your hands until it evaporates.
  • If your hands are visibly dirty, don’t use hand sanitizer. Instead, wash your hands. If this isn’t an option, use a wipe or towelette to get rid of dirt, then use hand sanitizer.

When should you clean your hands?

  • Before and after eating.
  • Before and after feeding someone else.
  • Before preparing food and after handling raw meat.
  • Before and after caring for someone who’s sick or injured.
  • Before inserting and removing contact lenses.
  • Before flossing your teeth.
  • After using the washroom or helping someone use the washroom.
  • After sneezing, coughing or using a tissue.
  • After handling pets or animal waste.
  • After cleaning.
  • After handling garbage.

80% of common infections, including the flu, are spread by our hands. Keep others safe, and keep yourself safe – clean your hands!

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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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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Food Security, Part 3: A call to action

All British Columbians have the right to access a healthy diet in ways that are right for them. In two previous blog posts, I highlighted  household food insecurity and the Food Costing in BC report. With the knowledge that 17% of households in Northern BC are food insecure, what are our next steps?

It is important to mention that decreasing household food insecurity isn’t about decreasing the cost of food. This is because we also must ensure that our food system is healthy and sustainable. Part of a just food system is making sure growers and producers are paid a fair wage – which is reflected in the cost of food.

Community food security

There is a lot of wonderful food systems work happening in Northern communities that focuses on food growing, preparation, and eating. This focus on improving the food system works to increase community food security, which is the ability to access a healthy, safe, and culturally appropriate diet, while maintaining a sustainable, healthy, and just food system. Community food security programs can:

Household Food Insecurity: An income-based issue

However, while community food programs offer a lot of value, household food insecurity is an income-based issue that needs income-based solutions. The root cause of household food insecurity isn’t the price of food or distance to grocery stores. It’s also not lack of food skills or education; it’s that some households do not have enough income to purchase food. Community food programs do not address income deficits directly. According to local community advocate Stacey Tyers,

Food programs that focus on local and sustainable agriculture, (e.g. community gardens) are very important for the health and wellbeing of a community. However, without also addressing income, many community members still cannot afford to put food on the table.”

Changing the situation for those who struggle to meet their basic needs must begin with a focus on income. Exploring income based solutions is the most effective way to decrease household food insecurity:

Ultimately, no person should have to worry about getting enough food. BC would benefit from income based solutions that raise the income of fixed wage and low income earners, so that all British Columbians can have their basic needs met. Without addressing income, household food insecurity will remain a concern in our communities,” says Stacey.

Income based policy has been shown to work:

  • The risk of household food insecurity drops by 50% once low income adults reach the age of 65 and become eligible for seniors’ pension programs (a form of guaranteed income)
  • Newfoundland and Labrador invested in poverty reduction work, which saw a reduction in household food insecurity among social assistance recipients

Access to food is a human right – all Northerners should have their basic needs met. The health impacts of food insecurity go far beyond individual and household food patterns, or food and lifestyle “choices”. Household food insecurity is closely linked to income, and factors such as low income and unpredictable employment more deeply impact health than food choice itself.

Individuals, communities, and governments all have a role to play in making BC more food secure.

Wondering how you can get involved?

Check out the first two blogs of this series:

Laurel Burton

About Laurel Burton

Laurel works with Northern Health as a population health dietitian, with a focus on food security. She is a big proponent of taking a multi-dimensional approach to health and she is interested in the social determinants of health and how they affect overall well-being, both at the individual and population level. Laurel is experienced in working with groups across the lifecycle, within BC and internationally, to support evidence-informed nutrition practice for the aim of optimizing health. When she is not working, Laurel enjoys cooking, hiking, and travelling. She loves exploring the North!

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