Healthy Living in the North

It’s all about the big picture

This article was co-written by Reg Wulff and Doreen Bond. Learn more about all of our contributors.

20160630-RWulff-470x394Did you read our last blog post about the rollout of Northern Health’s new and improved Smoke Free Grounds policy? Now that you’ve had a bit of time to think about it, it might seem like it’s all about telling people where they can’t smoke or use vapour products. However, the Smoke Free Grounds policy isn’t only about telling people that they can’t smoke on Northern Health property; it’s actually part of a bigger picture when it comes to Northern Health’s efforts to reduce tobacco use.

Northern Health is committed to addressing tobacco use as a standard of care. In addition to the Smoke Free Grounds policy, we’ve implemented three new clinical practice standards to give our nursing staff some tools to help tobacco users manage withdrawal symptoms and get support when it comes to quitting smoking. These standards are: Brief Intervention Training for nurses, the Nicotine Withdrawal Protocol, and the Registered Nurses Initiated Action.

What does this mean for you?

Using Brief Intervention, nurses can quickly identify patients who use tobacco. It helps nurses figure out who might need nicotine replacement therapy products such as the nicotine patch while in Northern Health facilities. Brief Intervention is very simple and it only takes a couple of minutes.

Then there’s the Nicotine Withdrawal Protocol and the Registered Nurses Initiated Action. I know they sound like fancy terms, but their purpose is quite simple: these two standards give nurses an opportunity to provide tobacco users with nicotine replacement therapy products for a short period until a doctor’s order can be obtained.

Going through nicotine withdrawal can be extremely uncomfortable for a tobacco user. Providing a nicotine patch can help ease withdrawal symptoms for patients who use tobacco. The three clinical practice standards are about enabling nursing staff to take action and help tobacco users manage their withdrawal symptoms.

The Nicotine Withdrawal Protocol and the Registered Nurses Initiated Action also contribute to patient safety. They provide another option for patients who might put themselves at risk by leaving Northern Health grounds to have a smoke. After all, though they seem like distant memories now, winter conditions in the north can be dangerous for anyone, let alone patients who use wheelchairs or have IV poles to deal with.

Creating a healthy environment is essential for the wellness of patients, residents, visitors, and staff who access or work in Northern Health facilities. Northern Health wants to lead by example and provide a healthy environment for everyone where they live, work, and play. The refreshed Smoke Free Grounds policy and the three clinical practice standards are important pieces of creating that healthy environment.

So remember, if you’re a tobacco user who is about to enter a Northern Health facility, the Smoke Free Grounds policy is about everyone’s health! If you need help managing nicotine withdrawal symptoms while in facility, talk to your nurse. There is help available.

Quitting smoking can greatly improve your health and help you live longer. For more information and support, contact HealthLink BC by dialing 8-1-1 or visit QuitNow.

If you’re interested in getting 12 weeks of free nicotine replacement therapy products, talk to your local pharmacist.

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a licensing officer with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace as well as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out, and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.


Staff profile: Licensing officer Lisa Rice shares her thoughts on quality child care

Woman fishing

As a licensing officer, early childhood educator, and former child care provider, Lisa Rice has seen all sides of the child care world!

Lisa Rice is a licensing officer, early childhood educator and former child care provider. She has seen all sides of the child care world and shared this knowledge with me! With lots of families looking at child care arrangements for the summer months as the end of the school year approaches, it’s the perfect time to share Lisa’s expertise, which was originally featured in Healthier You magazine. Check out the full issue at the end of the article. If you want more information about licensing and providing safe, quality child care, visit our Community Care Licensing site.

I started by asking Lisa a few quick-fire questions about herself!

  • A bit about yourself: I’m a Newfoundlander who moved to British Columbia in 1991. We lived in Bella Coola and Smithers prior to coming to Prince George in 1998. I’m an early childhood educator and have been working in different child care roles since graduating with a diploma in Early Childhood Education in 1988. I became a licensing officer in 2004. I’m married and am the mother of two sons and the grandmother of an 18-month-old granddaughter.
  • Favourite activities: Biking, snowshoeing, and eating healthy.
  • Favourite food: My green smoothies – blend banana, orange, spinach (or anything green), and peanut butter!
  • Favourite part of your job: Seeing the work we do pay off. We support child care settings to become structured, rich, happy, and healthy environments. I recently saw a child care space where 3-4 year olds were taking part in an election activity – it’s great to see creative and inspiring things like that!
  • Who is your role model? If I had to choose one person, it would be my sister, who is bravely battling cancer. Beyond her, I feel like all people who are trying to live a healthy, positive lifestyle are important role models.
  • What is your motto? Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Man and woman skiingGiven Lisa’s experience in all aspects of the child care world, I asked her a few questions about her work and thoughts on quality child care:

What is community care licensing?

Northern Health’s Community Care Licensing program provides regulatory oversight for any facility that provides care to three or more people who aren’t related to the caregiver. This includes child care spaces. Providing oversight means ensuring that care providers are meeting minimum standards to protect the health, safety, and well-being of children. Standards cover everything from staffing to hygiene, physical requirements, nutrition, playtime, and more.

Why is licensing important for safe child care?

By establishing and monitoring minimum standards, licensing lowers the risk of negative health and safety outcomes for children. As licensing officers, we represent families so that they can be assured that the care providers looking after their loved ones are following health and safety principles.

What does a day in the life of a licensing officer look like?

It can be varied! My day might include an unannounced inspection, following up on an incident or complaint, processing a licensing application, or supporting care providers through education and outreach. A lot of what I do on a daily basis is taking upstream health principles and applying them downstream, where kids and families are seeking care.

Three people climbing cutbanksWhat does quality child care look like?

I look for environments that are safe, well-organized, free of hazards, and that invite children to learn and grow. Caregivers should also have open, positive relationships with a child’s family.

What’s interesting is to see how quality child care can be a role model for families. When kids are exposed to healthy behaviours in child care, they take this home to their families. One facility, for example, started their day with all of the kids washing their hands. They later shared that many of their families had adopted this practice at home. When kids came home from daycare, the whole family would wash their hands before doing anything else!

What does a healthy community look like to a licensing officer?

For me, a healthy community models healthy behaviours. A healthy community has families that are well-versed in healthy practices like hand hygiene, healthy eating, and the importance of outdoor play. Licensed child care spaces model these behaviours and the families take these lessons out into the community.

Check out Lisa’s original story and lots of other information about child health in the Summer 2016 issue of Healthier You magazine:

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog. (Vince no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)


Changes in the air

This blog was co-written by Reg Wulff & Doreen Bond

You know, it wasn’t that long ago that things were a lot different when it came to where a person can smoke. I can remember when smoking was allowed anywhere and anytime. It wasn’t considered hazardous to light up cigarettes in cars with children, in the office, or at a restaurant. You could even smoke on Northern Health property back in the day.

Fort St. John hospital

Northern Health is rolling out a new and improved Smoke Free Grounds policy that will go into effect at all facilities soon!

However, things have changed and now we recognize that a smoke free environment reduces many health risks for smokers and bystanders. Northern Health took action to create a smoke free environment by implementing a Smoke Free Grounds policy back in 2008. After a few years and a few tweaks (such as e-cigarettes and other vapour devices being included in the policy), Northern Health is rolling out a new and improved Smoke Free Grounds policy that will go into effect soon!

While some people might disagree with the idea of asking smokers to move off Northern Health property if they choose to smoke, the policy is supported by valid reasons:

The Smoke Free Grounds policy …

It doesn’t matter whether you work for Northern Health, are a patient in-facility, or are visiting someone in the hospital. For the Smoke Free Grounds policy to be successful, everyone is going to have a role to play!

If you’re a staff member

  • Use Brief Intervention to identify tobacco users and address tobacco as a standard of care using the Nicotine Withdrawal Protocol and Registered Nurse Initiated Action.
  • Be a role model and adhere to the Smoke Free Grounds policy.
  • Use nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products at work.
  • Let your patients know about the policy and support them in using nicotine replacement therapy products to manage withdrawal symptoms.
  • If you see someone smoking on Northern Health property, tell them about the policy. If you’re unsure of how to approach someone and talk to them about smoking on Northern Health property, ask a tobacco reduction coordinator.

If you’re a patient

  • Respect and adhere to the policy.
  • Ask your nurse about getting nicotine replacement therapy products while you’re in-facility. You can get help to manage nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
  • Look at this as a chance to go without tobacco. When you discover that your health improves by not using tobacco, it might lead to you considering quitting altogether. It’s also important to remember that by not using tobacco, you’ll heal quicker and get home faster!
  • If you do choose to use tobacco, remember that you need to leave Northern Health property to do so.

If you’re a visitor or contractor working on Northern Health property

  • Remember, the Smoke Free Grounds policy applied to everyone. Please respect and adhere to the policy.

At the end of the day, the Smoke Free Grounds policy is an important part of Northern Health’s efforts to create a healthy space for everyone.

What will you do to support the policy and ensure its success?


Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a licensing officer with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace as well as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out, and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.


Keeping children safe and healthy with routine immunizations

I’m drawn to the topic of immunization for National Immunization Awareness Week, which this year is April 23-30. It’s a chance to highlight the importance of routine immunizations and focus on accurate and up-to-date information and resources. It’s also a good time to reflect on the fact that in the last 50 years, immunization has saved more lives than any other intervention.

Immunization is one of the best ways parents can ensure their children stay healthy and protected from certain vaccine-preventable diseases!

During the first two years of a child’s life, they are very vulnerable and can be susceptible to many vaccine-preventable diseases. These diseases can have serious health consequences for many infants and young children. In some cases, they can be deadly.

National Immunization Awareness Week poster

“For the best protection, it’s recommended that parents follow the routine schedule and ensure all shots are given on time.”

In B.C., infants and young children aged 0-5 are given free vaccines that provide protection from the following diseases:

  • Tetanus
  • Diphtheria
  • Pertussis (whooping cough)
  • Hepatitis B
  • Polio
  • Haemophilus Influenza type B (Hib)
  • Meningococcal
  • Pneumococcal
  • Varicella
  • Measles
  • Mumps
  • Rubella (German Measles)
  • Rotavirus
  • Influenza
  • Hepatitis A (for eligible individuals)

The current immunization schedule for infants and children in B.C. has infants starting with their first set of immunizations at two months of age followed by immunizations at four months, six months, 12 months, 18 months, and kindergarten entry.

For the best protection, it’s recommended that parents follow the routine schedule and ensure all shots are given on time.

Here are six reasons from why it’s best to follow the routine schedule:

  1. The routine schedule is based on the best science of today.
  2. The routine schedule is safe and works very well.
  3. You will ensure your child is protected as soon as they can be.
  4. You will reduce your child’s risk of anxiety and needle fear.
  5. The risk of side effects is the same whether vaccines are given together or separately.
  6. You will reduce the number of visits and time spent getting your child’s shots.

In B.C., parents can take their children to their local health unit for immunizations.

Have questions or want more information?

  • Call your local health unit and speak to a public health nurse.
  • Speak to your family doctor or primary health care provider.
  • Call HealthLinkBC (dial 8-1-1). They’re open 24 hours!
  • Visit

About Patricia Strim

Photo and bio coming soon!


Screening & follow-up care to prevent cardiovascular disease in women in Prince Rupert

This article was co-authored by Justine Derksen and Janice Paterson

Doctor in scrubs

Evidence has shown that pregnancy is a great place to evaluate cardiac risk. In Prince Rupert, Dr. Marius Pienaar has developed a screening program and software to identify and support women with cardiovascular risks.

Scientific evidence has shown that pregnancy is a great place to evaluate cardiac risk. In Prince Rupert, Dr. Marius Pienaar, a gynecologist, has developed a screening program and software which uses the data collected during a woman’s pregnancy to assess for cardiovascular risks and to coordinate referral and follow-up to prevent cardiovascular disease.

During the pregnancy, some basic measurements such as blood pressure and weight are recorded and a panel of blood tests are performed, including blood lipids and glucose. This data is then entered into the program to calculate a risk score for future cardiovascular disease. Women with elevated risk are then offered interventions, and their primary care provider is informed of this risk.

We have a golden opportunity to evaluate pregnant women with cardiovascular risk and this should not be missed. -Dr. Marius Pienaar

Dr. Pienaar explains that if a woman has diabetes in pregnancy, she is at a higher risk of having diabetes later in life and should be tested 6 weeks to 6 months after pregnancy. Currently, only about 20% of women are tested after pregnancy. Dr. Pienaar’s new software actively follows his patients and has created a referral and reminder system where every patient can be contacted and given opportunities to attend the North Coast Maternal Health Clinic for evaluation.

Walking in snow with mountain background.

Dr. Pienaar is hoping to make this unique program and software available across the province.

Currently, Dr. Pienaar’s clinic seeks to intervene by providing clinical care to at-risk women as well as offering smoking cessation resources, on-site dietitians and diabetes nurses, and more. 100% of postpartum patients who are screened and are identified as having increased risk are offered the postpartum health clinic visit. The program is expected to increase patient awareness of their own risk of cardiovascular disease and support women to access additional health care services to help reduce their risk.

I am very appreciative of the care and information I received in the North Coast Maternal Health Clinic. This program provided me with valuable information/assessment regarding future health risks. Such insight allows me to intervene early in order to improve my modifiable risk factors and ensure my future health and well-being. -Cherie Harvey-Malthus

The clinic has been a success so far and is very efficient and cost effective. Dr. Pienaar has seen success with this quality improvement project and hopes to make the program and software available across the province. There has already been interest from Fraser Health and the Lower Mainland to emulate the clinic model at other hospitals. This is the first such clinic in B.C. and the first rural clinic in Canada specifically geared to evaluate cardiovascular risk in postpartum patients.

Check out the full version of this article: An Innovative Program in Prince Rupert is Screening and Providing Follow-up Care for Women with Risk for CVD

Justine Derksen

About Justine Derksen

Justine works for Northern Health in Medical Affairs as the Coordinator, Physician Engagement Initiatives in Prince George. Justine loves the north and enjoys the seasonal activities with her husband and adorable Bernese Mountain dog any chance she gets. Justine is currently pursuing her masters of Public Health degree, which she was inspired to pursue through her work with Northern Health. When not at work, Justine enjoys cooking, outdoor recreational activities and crafting.


A video from North Coast First Nations for health care providers

Man in First Nations regalia

A still frame from the opening of Honouring our Journey, a newly released video that provides information for health care providers about the Haida and Tsimshian Nations culture, history, and how these impact their health care needs.

“The door is open for you to learn,” says Kitkatla Councillor, Timothy Innes. “Learn how our culture is and what it entails … and who we are, then (you) can work with us more comfortably … you’re not intruding.”

The North Coast Aboriginal Health Improvement Committee (AHIC) is pleased to launch a video, Honouring Our Journey, that provides information for health care providers about the Haida and Tsimshian Nations culture, history, and how these impact their health care needs.

“If doctors and nurses come with an open mind and are genuine, lots will be returned to them as our people are kind and generous,” says Elizabeth Moore, an Elder in Old Masset.

In 2014-2015, Aboriginal Health provided financial support to each of the nine AHICs in the north to develop local cultural resources. These resources were guided by the question, “If I were a new health care practitioner in your community, what would you want me to know?”

In the video, Lauren Brown, the Health Director in Skidegate, encourages health care providers to consider “the whole person, including their beliefs and traditions.” Cindy Ignas, the Health Director in Kitkatla advises,

“You have to really listen and be very careful to not make any judgements and to understand the cultural lens that you bring as a non-First Nations person … step back from your biases, assumptions, and judgements and try to really learn, be curious and ask lots of questions.”

Betty Reece, the Health Director in Lax Kw’alaams, says, “Come out and meet the people apart from your workplace.”

This impactful video covers important and relevant topics such as:

  • the present day impacts of Residential School experiences on health care interactions,
  • the current role of traditional medicines and the importance of health care providers asking about their use to prevent possible negative interactions with prescribed medications,
  • the importance of using plain language, including family and/or translators in the appointment, and
  • learning about the gathering and use of traditional foods in health and well-being.

I highly encourage you to watch this 25 minute video and share it with others. If you have any questions or would like to learn more, Mary Wesley, video producer and the Aboriginal Patient Liaison in Prince Rupert and for the North Coast, would be happy to connect and even to facilitate group discussions following a screening.

This video is a beautiful gift from the North Coast First Nations in hopes that we all are inspired to continue our learning journeys towards a culturally safe health care system for all First Nations and Aboriginal people. Another way to develop your understanding of First Nations and Aboriginal peoples is the San’yas Indigenous Cultural Safety Training, an online course by the Provincial Health Services Authority.

A booklet summarizes the cultural resources developed by AHICs across the north.

Victoria Carter

About Victoria Carter

Victoria works in Northern Health's Aboriginal health program as the lead for engagement and integration. She is an adopted member of the Nisga’a nation and was given the name “Nox Aama Goot” which means “mother of good heart.” In her work she sees herself as an ally working together with Aboriginal people across the north to improve access to quality health care. She keeps herself well by honouring the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of her life through spending time with her friends and family, being in nature and working on her own personal growth.


TeleHealth: Bringing kidney care to remote communities

Health care team watching a monitor around a table.

TeleHealth care allows the Kidney Care Team to reach more patients in remote communities!

Within Northern Health’s vast geographical area, residents in rural and remote communities have limited access to specialist care. The vision of the Kidney Care Team (comprised of a physician, nurse, dietician, pharmacist, social worker and unit clerk) is to address this challenge by regionalizing a team-based TeleHealth kidney service, investing in technology, and providing services closer to home (similar to the face-to-face model of care) where patients no longer need to travel long distances to larger centres.

The team recognizes that TeleHealth care will not completely replace face-to-face consultations, but that there is potential to reach more patients in remote communities, including First Nations, and to increase patient engagement with specialist health care services.

Why TeleHealth?

Dr. Singh, a nephrologist on the kidney care team, recalls one patient’s experience:

A new immigrant worker was urgently referred from a remote rural community with very advanced kidney disease. The referral letter stated that he was adamant he was not leaving his community to go and see a specialist. I was able to see him the next day via TeleHealth and after meeting the renal team and receiving education about his condition, he was convinced to come to Prince George on the Northern Health Connections bus for surgery to prepare for dialysis. This gentleman is now doing home dialysis at night and is able to work and earn a living during the day without moving from his community. This is a great example where, connecting via TeleHealth, the kidney team was able to alleviate his fears, avoid unnecessary travel and stress but, above all, deliver the education about his kidney disease and motivate him for home-based dialysis. As a provider, this is immensely satisfying as timely intervention to address an urgent clinical and educational need was met to provide the best care for this patient.

What does “Tele-Kidney-Care” look like at Northern Health? Click the infographic below to download a full-size PDF.

Check out the full version of this article: Northern Kidney Care Team Leads the Way in Expanding Access to Specialist Care in Northern BC


Tele-Kidney-Care at Northern Health

Justine Derksen

About Justine Derksen

Justine works for Northern Health in Medical Affairs as the Coordinator, Physician Engagement Initiatives in Prince George. Justine loves the north and enjoys the seasonal activities with her husband and adorable Bernese Mountain dog any chance she gets. Justine is currently pursuing her masters of Public Health degree, which she was inspired to pursue through her work with Northern Health. When not at work, Justine enjoys cooking, outdoor recreational activities and crafting.


“Bright Ideas” from the northeast!

Following the success of the “bright ideas” campaign in the northwest region, Northern Health’s energy team launched the campaign in the northeast region in June. Like last time, the ideas for conservation were so great and diverse that I wanted to share them with you!

Like their colleagues in northwest B.C., staff from the northeast part of our region were recently asked to contribute “bright ideas” they had for energy-saving opportunities or other sustainability-related improvements in their workplace. The diversity and quality of ideas that we received were truly impressive! I’m excited to share these ideas to inspire and motivate your own creative energy-saving thinking and want to thank everyone who contributed an idea!

All of the entries I saw demonstrated a strong awareness of energy conservation and sustainability in the workplace. How might you conserve energy at home or at work?

Pie chart displaying campaign themes

The “Bright Ideas” for conservation that Les heard from Northern Health staff in the northeast region represented nine major themes, with ideas for action on lighting, waste, and heating & air conditioning leading the way.

Here’s a summary of the results:

  • 36 total entries (many of which included multiple ideas!)
  • 9 major themes emerged: lighting, waste & recycling, heating and cooling (HVAC), water, equipment, computers, carpooling, patient care and security.

Here’s a sample of some of the great ideas that were submitted:

From staff in Fort St. John:

Have offices compete with energy use and energy savings. Quarterly, release the amount of money and energy saved per office to all sites [and] use competition as a way to reduce energy use in the office.

Replacing [our large fridge] with a smaller energy efficient model would lead to energy savings and space savings!

From a staff member in Dawson Creek:

Upgrade light switches to motion activated switches, including in patient rooms.

Have signs in rooms or on the door as we are leaving a room saying please turn out the light. I think that a little reminder as you leave the room will help remind those who tend to forget.

A staff member in Hudson’s Hope had some similar “bright ideas” about turning lights off.

From a staff member in Fort Nelson:

Turn off all computers when not in use for an extended period of time.

Composting for all food scraps.

If one is using individual air conditioning/heating, turn off when space isn’t in use or up so it doesn’t come on when one is not there.

Install foot pedals for all sinks so they turn off once one isn’t using it.

Recycling program for all facilities.

Replace all paper towel with efficient hand driers.

Require all companies that ship to us to use as little packaging as possible.

I’m wrapping up the Bright Ideas campaign for the last of Northern Health’s three areas – the Northern Interior – now. Stay tuned for the results!

Les Sluggett

About Les Sluggett

Les Sluggett is Northern Health’s energy manager, which sees him supporting facility managers in Northern Health to explore and understand energy conservation through technologies and programs. His efforts help facilities personnel to be more energy efficient so that patients are comfortable in a reliable and safe environment. In his spare time, Les attends his local YMCA or heads outdoors skiing in the winter and canoeing & travelling in the summer. At home as at work, Les tries to reduce waste and be more energy efficient.


Change Day – what’s your pledge?

Bulletin board with Change Day materials

Change Day is about trying something new or doing one small thing to improve care. Have you pledged yet?

My first introduction to Change Day was at the Quality Forum in Vancouver earlier this year. It was described as a global social movement with a simple premise: if you are involved with health, community or social care, try something new or do one small thing to improve care.

We were all invited to pledge to make just one small change that would improve the system for everyone. With the unveiling of a newly released Change Day video, there was a lot of hype and excitement in the room. However, I must admit that this was not when I truly felt inspired. That moment came when our CEO of Northern Health, Cathy Ulrich, stood up in this room filled with hundreds of people and pledged to “on a weekly basis, acknowledge a person or team who has undertaken a quality improvement initiative.” I remember thinking that this pledge was a such small act on her part, yet so powerful in terms of employee engagement!

I did not make my pledge that day; as I am, I needed some time to process what this meant for me. Several months later, I was listening to a presentation about culture and how it affects the change process when it struck me what my Change Day pledge would be. As I was learning about the importance of creating a culture of safety and how we need to lower the cost for speaking up and raise the cost for staying quiet, I had an “aha” moment. As I work with interprofessional teams to improve or develop new process, I always make an effort to hear everyone’s ideas and feedback. However, I knew that I could also create more space to encourage this. After all, they know best! Hence my Change Day pledge, “to be purposeful in seeking front-line opinions and ideas.

What’s your “one thing”? Make your pledge today!

Marna deSousa

About Marna deSousa

Marna has worked in Northern Health for 27 years. Her background is nursing and she currently works in Fraser Lake as a Care Process Coach and Practice Support Coach. In her spare time, Marna loves to be horseback riding and spending time at the cottage with family and friends.


Back to school – don’t forget a strong immune system for your child!

Public health nurse

As you support your kindergarten child through these first few, nervous weeks, it’s important to think of what you can do to prepare their immune system for long-lasting strength!

Has it really been two weeks already? It’s hard to believe that we’re busy getting everyone organized for back to school again! For our kindergarten kids, that means learning a new routine, organizing and preparing their lunches and ensuring they have everything they need to be successful in this new environment.

But don’t forget the one thing they need that might not be on your list – a strong immune system! As you prepare your kindergarten child for school and support them through these first few, nervous weeks, it’s important to think of what you can do to prepare their immune system for long-lasting strength!

The immunization program in B.C. recommends that children aged 4-6 receive their boosters of tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, polio, varicella (chicken pox), measles, mumps, and rubella. For some children, it’s also recommended that they boost their protection against hepatitis A. The list of diseases we need to protect our kindergarteners against seems daunting, but don’t worry! Many of these immunizations are now made into combined formulations, which means fewer injections for your child. For most kindergarten kids, only three injections are needed to protect them against all of these diseases.

You may also be wondering what your local public health nurse is doing to prepare for the new school year. We are busy collecting demographic data from your child’s school and calling you to inform you of the various kindergarten blitzes or health fairs that are happening in your community. As a public health nurse, I take pride in ensuring that you have easy access to the clinics so that your child receives all the protection they need as they enter school this year. If you can’t make it to one of these community events, don’t worry because we are happy to see you in our regular clinics, too!

So, while you are actively preparing your kindergarten child for school and hearing their exciting tales of the first few days in class, don’t forget that your public health nurses and primary health care providers are also preparing to assist you in protecting your child against many harmful diseases that still circulate today! Let us make it easy for you to do the very best for your child, because I know that’s one less thing you have to worry about – especially when you might just want to focus on the excitement of your child entering kindergarten this year!

Contact your local health unit or usual primary health care provider to find out if your child’s immunizations are up-to-date. You can also visit Northern Health or ImmunizeBC for more information on vaccine-preventable illnesses and immunizations.

Lara Frederick

About Lara Frederick

Lara is a public health nurse currently working in Dawson Creek. She is currently completing her master's of nursing and enjoys volunteering for the Canadian Cancer Society and her workplace wellness committee. Lara loves to travel and one of her favorite places has been Turkey. She loves to go snowshoeing and cross-country skiing and also loves walking around exploring the outdoors with her two dogs.