Healthy Living in the North

Food Security, Part 1: What is household food insecurity?

Today is World Food Day, a day to promote awareness of food security around the globe. In northern BC, almost 1 in 5 households struggle to afford a basic, nutritious diet. When I first read this statistic, I was shocked. In a country as resource-rich as Canada, how is it that 17% of northerners either don’t have enough food, or worry about running out?

Defining food security

Let’s start by defining food security. Simply put, it is the ability to access enough safe and healthy food, at all times. It includes many things such as:

  • Access to food stores and markets
  • Access to land to produce food
  • Getting enough food to support a healthy life
  • Maintaining a healthy food system

But walking through food stores in many northern communities, we don’t usually see empty shelves. If there is so much food available in our stores and markets, how is it that some households worry about running out?

Food security and income

The main reason is that some households do not have enough income to buy food. This is called “household food insecurity” (HFI): when a household worries about, or does not have enough money to purchase healthy food. Since starting my role as food security lead for Northern Health, this has been one of my biggest learnings: household income is the biggest predictor of HFI.

But it’s not just that food can be expensive. Rather, it’s that some household incomes are not enough to support a healthy diet. In fact, households on a fixed income (e.g. social assistance), or who work minimum wage jobs, are at the highest risk of being food insecure. For those on a fixed income, almost half – about 44% – of their income goes to food, compared to 15% of the household income of higher wage earners. This 44% doesn’t include other costs associated with food (e.g. travel to food stores), nor does it include housing and childcare. It’s a tough situation for many households.

Food security is a determinant of health

Given that many households struggle to buy food, it’s no wonder that HFI is a serious public health issue in BC. But why, exactly? To answer this, let’s take a step back and look at what impacts health. There are many things that we don’t often think about, things that go beyond food or lifestyle “choices.” These are social factors, such as where we are born or how much money we make, and they can impact health long before we’re sick. They are often conditions over which we don’t have much control.

Food security’s impact on health may seem obvious: eating nutritious foods can help keep you healthy. But, while this can be true, having enough money to buy food in the first place can have more of an impact on health than food choices alone. In fact, there are many chronic health conditions that are connected to HFI, including mental health.

Addressing household food insecurity

Fortunately, there are many determinants of health that can be addressed through policies and programs. Advocacy initiatives can also inspire change; for example, today is World Food Day, and tomorrow is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Here in BC, one tool we use is monitoring food costs over time, to help determine the household income required to purchase a basic, healthy diet. The Food Costing in BC 2015 report showed that food costs are on the rise. The 2017 data will be available soon; how will the results compare? Stay tuned for the next blog posts in this series:

To learn more about HFI in northern BC, check out this helpful infographic.

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 a recent graduate of the UBC dietetics program, where she completed her internship with Northern Health. She has experience 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 is looking forward to exploring more of the North!

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Active school travel planning for improved health and better grades

The transition from summer to autumn, with back to school and back to regular routines, is always a busy time. Hopefully you’ve managed to find time for outdoor activity, taking advantage of the evening light while we still have it, and not just hiding inside, staring at screens.

Stats on the rates of active transportation in children.Increasingly, research is telling us a few disturbing facts:

  • We’re not active enough to reap the numerous health benefits associated with being physically active.
  • We are spending far too much time being sedentary (seated or lying down, often staring at a screen), so much so that we are at greater risk of chronic disease.

These stats apply to people of all ages, but with a new school year underway, I’d like to focus on what can be done to improve the situation for our next generation, specifically through the promotion of active transportation to and from school.

The physical activity grades are in

According to the latest ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth, only about a third (35%) of Canadian children and youth are active enough to get the 60 minutes of heart-pumping activity they need each day, landing us the marginal grade of D+ in Overall Physical Activity.  The bad news doesn’t end there; our grade in Active Transportation is a D-, meaning that only 21% of 5-19 year olds in Canada regularly use active modes of transportation, while nearly two thirds use inactive modes, such as being dropped off by a personal vehicle or bus.

Physical activity leads to better brain health

NH Mascot, Spirit the Caribou, walking to school with Gloria Fox.We’re well aware that there are many reasons that children and youth should be active, but now we have yet another incentive to consider: brain health! Along with this year’s Report Card came an Expert Statement on Physical Activity and Brain Health in Children and Youth, stating, “For better brain health, all children and youth should be physically active on a regular basis. In addition to physical health benefits, physical activity also improves cognition, brain function and mental health.” (ParticipACTION, 2018). So, now that we know for sure that physical activity is not only good for the physical body but also the brain, it stands to reason that kids who are regularly active will be better set up for success in school.

Promoting active transportation, or people-powered transportation such as walking, cycling, or wheeling, has the potential to make a positive impact in many ways:

  • Increased daily physical activity.
  • Improved overall health.
  • Improved mood and focus.
  • Improved cognition and problem-solving skills.
  • Decreased air pollution as a result of less vehicle reliance.

This fall, consider how active school travel might work for your family or local school

  • HASTe BC (Hub for Active School Travel) has a handy online Active and Safe Routes to School Toolkit that presents nine different ideas for ways to incorporate more active transportation into daily school life; this way, you can choose the option(s) that will work best for you and your school!
  • Another option is Parachute Canada’s Walking School Bus Event Guide; it’s easy to follow and quick to implement.
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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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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Breastfeeding-friendly spaces: Make breastfeeding your business

Breastfeeding friendly spaces decal stating, "we welcome you to breastfeed any time, anywhere."Protecting, promoting, and supporting breastfeeding takes an entire community, big and small. That’s why Northern Health is happy to support a provincial-wide initiative to encourage breastfeeding-friendly spaces across the north.

The Breastfeeding-Friendly Spaces program has created a toolkit to help businesses and organizations create a welcoming, breastfeeding-friendly space for all families. The toolkit includes:

  • A window decal, featuring the universal breastfeeding symbol, to be prominently displayed in front windows. Displaying this decal shows your commitment to support breastfeeding.
  • A companion tip sheet that offers information about how employers and staff can support breastfeeding families.

The importance of breastfeeding

Did you know that a woman’s right to breastfeed is protected by law in BC? As per BC’s Ministry of Justice:

  • Nursing mothers have the right to breastfeed their children in a public area.
  • It’s discriminatory to ask a mother to cover up or breastfeed somewhere else.

While these facts are not new, it may not be common knowledge. Northern Health is committed to supporting breastfeeding-friendly spaces across northern BC. We encourage all businesses and organizations to do their part to contribute to a positive community that recognizes the importance of breastfeeding!

Breastfeeding friendly spaces decal on the window of the library entrance.

Ignacio Albarracin, Public Service Manager for the Prince George Public Library, stands at the library’s entrance with the new provincial Breastfeeding-Friendly Spaces decal displayed.

A closer look

The Prince George Public Library is one in a growing list of northern BC organizations that is proud to declare their facility to be a breastfeeding-friendly space.

“The public library is a welcoming space, it’s an inclusive space, and serving households with children is one of our core services,” says Ignacio Albarracin, the library’s Public Service Manager, about why they have put up the decal. “We understand that it’s the law, that women have a right to breastfeed anywhere, and this is also consistent with our values to make this a family-friendly space. We want mothers to feel that it’s safe and appropriate to bring their children here. We want them to feel that they’re not going to be bothered or judged if they breastfeed their children here.”

This breastfeeding-friendly spaces decal and tip sheet were created in partnership with Perinatal Services BC, all BC health authorities, the Ministry of Health, and the BC Baby Friendly Network. The new program will be replacing Northern Health’s existing “Growing for Gold” program, which was developed for the 2015 Canada Winter Games and featured a window decal stating, “Naturally, you can breastfeed here.” We appreciate the northern businesses and organizations who have supported this initiative and they can expect a new toolkit in the mail very soon.

When you order a decal, your business/facility will be added to the list of breastfeeding-friendly spaces on the Northern Health website. Help us send this important message: “We welcome you to breastfeed any time, anywhere,” by requesting your decal now!

Want to do more? Consider displaying these posters as well:

Jessica Quinn

About Jessica Quinn

Jessica Quinn is the regional manager of health promotion and community 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 also manages NH's social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, 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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Welcome to 2018 Breastfeeding Week

An infographic featuring the 10 steps to successful breastfeeding, from the World Health Organization.

The 10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, from the World Health Organization (WHO). Original: http://www.who.int/nutrition/bfhi/bfhi-poster-A2.pdf

Happy Breastfeeding Week! This week is celebrated annually in Canada from October 1-7 to promote the importance of breastfeeding, and it’s an opportune time to highlight breastfeeding as the foundation of lifelong good health for babies and mothers.

Northern Health is committed to supporting facilities and communities to adopt the Baby Friendly Initiative (BFI) 10 Steps recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). The BFI is a world-wide effort to implement practices that protect, promote, and support breastfeeding.

As a registered nurse and mother of two breastfed children, I find Breastfeeding Week to be a great time to reflect on my breastfeeding experience – even from 15 years ago! As a parent, the BFI provides a framework that reassures me that hospitals and communities are making efforts to achieve standardization of these internationally endorsed 10 steps. Parents may use these 10 steps to help guide their decisions regarding infant feeding and breastfeeding and the supports they may expect from their care providers.

Here are some highlights of how hospitals and communities support mothers to breastfeed (adapted from the WHO’s Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding):

  1. Hospital Policies – not promoting infant formulas, bottles or teats; making breastfeeding care standard practice; keeping track of support for breastfeeding.
  2. Staff Education – training staff on supporting mothers to breastfeed; assessing health workers’ knowledge and skills.
  3. Prenatal Care – discussing the importance of breastfeeding for babies and mothers; preparing women in how to feed their baby.
  4. Care Right After Birth – encouraging skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby soon after birth; helping mothers to put their baby to the breast right away.
  5. Support Mothers With Breastfeeding – checking positioning, attachment and suckling; giving practical breastfeeding support; helping mothers with common breastfeeding problems.
  6. Supplementing – giving only breastmilk unless there are medical reasons; prioritizing donor human milk when a supplement is needed; helping mothers who want to formula feed do so safely.
  7. Rooming-In – letting mothers and their babies stay together day and night; making sure that mothers of sick babies can stay near their baby.
  8. Responsive Feeding – Helping mothers know when their baby is hungry; not limiting breastfeeding times.
  9. Bottles, Teats and Pacifiers – counsel mothers on the use and risks of feeding bottles, teats and pacifiers.
  10. Discharge – referring mothers to community resources for breastfeeding support; working with communities to improve breastfeeding support services.

As we celebrate breastfeeding this week, I invite you to look forward to additional posts throughout Breastfeeding Week 2018!

Vanessa Salmons

About Vanessa Salmons

Vanessa is a registered nurse and Northern Health’s Early Childhood Development lead for preventive public health. Located in Quesnel, Vanessa supports prenatal, postpartum and family health services across the north. She is married with two children and is always busy with the family’s many activities. Work/life balance is important to Vanessa. When she is not at work, she enjoys spending time with family and friends entertaining and cooking. Vanessa stays active through walking or running with her dog Maggie, spinning and circuit training. A good game of golf or a good book is always a bonus!

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IMAGINE grants: Why not your community?

When we invest in healthy communities, we all win!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy granting!

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

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Checking in with a wildfire evacuee one year later: “How they treated me in Prince George, I just couldn’t believe it”

Three men, all evacuees from the Williams Lake Seniors' Village, pictured at the UNBC residences during the 2017 wildfires.

L – R: Keith McCreight, Gordon Woods, and Sture Kallman, all evacuees from the Williams Lake Seniors’ Village, pictured at the UNBC residences during the 2017 wildfires. Woods passed away earlier this year.

Sture Kallman has nothing but positive memories of his time as an evacuee during 2017’s wildfires. Kallman, 88, is a resident of Williams Lake Seniors Village, and was evacuated to Prince George last year along with other residents in mid-July 2017.

“I just about cried when I left Prince George because of how well you treated us,” said the former high-wire artist. “I met so many nice people, and you made us feel so good right from the very first minute we arrived there.”

Kallman was impressed with how the city coped with the influx of evacuees.

“I just couldn’t believe it, taking on 10,000 people. I couldn’t believe it could be done so wonderfully,” he said. “The mayors of Prince George and Williams Lake — they had a big load on their shoulders to carry, to be able to make decisions from day to day.”

He was impressed by the healthcare services he received as well, recalling how a doctor took the time to check on him at 11pm one night.

“I know the doctors were overworked with that tremendous increase of people, and especially when elderly people come, they need more attention,” he says. “When I left Prince George, I wished I could write a thank you letter to the people who looked after all of us and were so wonderful.”

A highlight of his time in Prince George was a trip to the circus with Brenda Schlesinger, a project manager at UNBC, who invited Kallman to attend with her family after learning he had worked as a high-wire performer in his youth.

Schlesinger also took Kallman to Aleza Lake, where he was able to savour “wonderful memories from when I worked there.”

“It was also great to see how the business people responded to the crisis, giving discounts to evacuees,” he added. “I just couldn’t believe how good it could be. I also enjoyed the wonderful entertainments every night.”

Evacuations are not planned for Williams Lake this year, but Kallman says, “If I was evacuated again, I would love to come back to Prince George – they treated us like kings!”

He was happy to return home to Williams Lake Seniors Village after the 2017 fire season was over.

“It was so nice to come home and I was really proud of the people here, how well they looked after everything,” he said. “They did a tremendous job of it, and they made us feel really welcome back, they made us feel really at home.”

After returning home, Kallman had hip surgery in Kamloops and is now walking a little. “Every day, I feel improvement,” he said.

Kallman, who will be 89 on September 25th, attributes his health and longevity to hard physical work and describes moving to Canada from Sweden as “the best thing I ever did.”

Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!

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Mackenzie wins BCAA Play Here contest, construction to begin in September

The first view of Mackenzie's new playground's conceptual design.A new playground is coming to Mackenzie, thanks to the efforts of those who voted in the BCAA Play Here contest. Mackenzie won one of three $100,000 grand prizes, which will go directly into building a play space for the children in Mackenzie. See their bid video.

“When we got the call saying we had officially won, I felt thrilled and relieved,” said McKinnon. “We were all so happy that all that work paid off. The disappointment would have been gut-wrenching had we lost.”

When the Play Here campaign was first announced, Andrea Wolowski, Northern Health’s Health Services Administrator for Mackenzie, brought the idea to the “Mackenzie Gets Healthy” committee which she co-chairs with Joan Atkinson, who’s since retired from the District of Mackenzie.

“The addition of a new playground to Mackenzie will be beneficial to the community in the sense that it will provide a place for families to gather, form relationships, build community spirit and do it in a healthy way while enjoying the great outdoors,” said Wolowski.

One of the biggest issues was that the proposed site was on District of Mackenzie land. But Atkinson found someone at the district office who championed the idea and successfully secured the land for the bid. Leanne McKinnon, a Registered Nurse (RN) at the Mackenzie & District Hospital & Health Centre, stepped forward to put a bid together and lead the campaign.

The second view of Mackenzie's new playground's conceptual design.Since Mackenzie was announced as a grand prize winner, a playground design has been approved and work will get underway in late September. This will be a community built playground. About 25-30 volunteers will be split into teams of 5-6 to build the playground under the supervision of a certified playground installer. The hope is to have the play structure up in one day.

“This is a huge win for the community of Mackenzie. Currently we have no safe playground for the two- to five-year-olds and no community spaces in Mackenzie that will allow people to meet and socialize,” said McKinnon. “Playgrounds provide children an area to practice developmental skills from physical to social.”

The campaign organizers wish to thank everyone who was involved.

“When a town of 3,500 people wins a provincial-wide competition, you know we had some help. As soon as we realized we were the only community in Northern BC, we quickly created the “Unite the North” campaign,” said McKinnon.

Northern Health congratulates RN’s Leanne McKinnon and Hannah Clarkson for their work in getting a bid together and promoting the contest. Thanks also goes out to Andrea Wolowski for getting the ball rolling on this bid and to the District of Mackenzie for their cooperation and support.

About BCAA Play Here:
BCAA has a long history of protecting kids in BC, on and off the road. The goal of BCAA Play Here is to continue this tradition by giving children in BC better places to play.

Brandan Spyker

About Brandan Spyker

Brandan works in internal communications at 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 and daughter. He’s a techie and loves to learn about new smartphones and computers. He also enjoys watching and playing sports.

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IMAGINE Grants: Agwiiyeet’inim̓ ahl g̱ahlgim̓ – We pass it on to our children

When Liza Haldane, LELP Coordinator, applied for an IMAGINE grant on behalf of the Lisims Early Learning Partnership, she wanted to honour the early learning table’s goals of celebrating their pre- and postnatal families by hosting an event that also raised awareness of the gaps in services for vulnerable members of the Nisga’a Nation: Lax̱galts’ap, Gingolx, Gitlax̱t’aamiks and Gitwinksihlkw (northwest of Terrace). For a goal like this to be achieved, she recognized that including the traditional and cultural values of the Nisga’a region would be very important. The relationships between generations and families would also have to be considered in the planning process and the event would have to carefully balance different traditions alongside the needed pre- and postnatal services. With all that in mind, project “Agwiiyeet’inim̓ ahl g̱ahlgim̓ – We pass it on to our children” was born!

A family hugging and smiling together.The goals of the project and event included:

  1. Honour the families who are expecting or who have newborn infants, and celebrate newborns in a traditional ceremony.
  2. Raise community awareness of the importance of supporting families who are expecting and who have newborn infants.
  3. Work together and practice Nisga’a law of Sayt-k’ilim-goot (one heart; to be united) by sharing services and resources for the betterment of Nisga’a families.
  4. Register families for existing programs and services.

How it happened:

Part of raising community awareness for supporting new or expecting families was done by welcoming entire families and the community to the event. This meant, during the event, families were circled and a prayer was said, making a commitment to support these families in raising their children.

At the event, prenatal families were invited to the front of the hall, honoured with a poem, and given a canvas painting to acknowledge their commitment to bringing a baby into this world. Families with newborns had the opportunity to have their questions answered, via a customized questionnaire that was provided. The babies were welcomed into their community with a beautiful house crest blanket, adorned upon them by their Wilp family members (members of a Wilp are all descendants of a common female ancestor). The total number of babies: 23 altogether!

A creative drawing of a pregnant woman.In order to share existing resources and programs, LELP partners, including early learning centers, public health nurses, community health representatives, Success By Six, and village governments, worked together and were united in delivering the ceremonies. Having partners experience and share equal time in the ceremonies helped balance tradition and incorporate wellness. After the ceremony, registration forms were made available and parents registered their children for the Imagination Library (books to kids program). Service providers spoke during the post-ceremony meal, promoting Dax̱gadim Anluuhlkw (translates to Strong Nest, which is a delivery and development strong start program), Welcome Baby Bags, and other relevant services.

“These events were so emotional. To see two to three generations of families proudly welcoming their babies into the community evoked emotions of happiness, pride, and so much love! At the end, we encircled the families in a community prayer, holding them up with words of strength and encouragement – it was very spiritual and moving.

A Chief got up and spoke at the end of the Laxgalt’sap/Gingolx event – he was full of gratitude and blessings for the ceremony. He said after tonight, he was once again filled with hope for our community, our culture and traditions. It brought many of us to tears.”

-Liza Haldane

What’s next?

As a result of this successful event and the sparked interest in traditional child rearing, organizers delivered a “Yask” workshop (rights of passage) for pre- and postnatal families and are working together to deliver another set of welcome baby ceremonies. These workshops will eventually rotate into smaller communities. The plan is to deliver ceremonies annually!

What is a Northern Health IMAGINE grant?

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

 

 

 

 

 

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Wellness outside of the meal

As I dietitian, I hear the word “wellness” used so often in an extreme way, I fear the meaning is lost in translation. I define wellness by doing an activity that brings a sense of joy – like sitting down to enjoy a fresh cinnamon bun out of the oven. I see wellness in two contexts: First, how it applies to my work as a long term care dietitian, and second, how it applies to my life at home.little girl in blue dress holding a big leaf

As a long term care dietitian, I often get referrals to see residents regarding their diet (diet simply meaning the food we eat – nothing more). Referrals come in all shapes and sizes; it could be due to “Mrs. Jones’” diabetes, or “Mr. Smith’s” dementia. Whatever the reason for seeing a resident, I always approach the visit from a place of wellness.

This means I might liberalize Mrs. Jones diet so that she can have the monthly birthday cake with her tablemates. Why – doesn’t she has diabetes? Yes she does, however Mrs. Jones finds joy in eating cake and this activity makes her feel included in the festivities of her new home. This is wellness!

For Mr. Smith, I might change his diet to finger foods and speak with the staff about the opportunity to offer him a quarter sandwich and walk with him for a while when he’s walking the halls. Why? Mr. Smith likes to eat, but finds sitting down for a meal confusing and overwhelming. A sandwich while walking is easier, and it makes him feel good while providing him the nourishment his body needs. Nothing fancy, but when he lived alone, he loved eating sandwiches!

It’s incredible to think that even without focusing on what’s being eaten, the very act of eating can have a wellness effect on someone. Which brings me to how this sort of wellness applies to my family!

Our family lives outside of town on a larger lot, but by no means an acreage. In the last five years we’ve welcomed two children, built six raised garden beds, learned how to bee keep with one hive, and as I write this article, my husband – who’s no handyman – is building a coop for the six chicks chirping in our dining room.two kids sitting on a deck enjoying Popsicles

We don’t garden because home grown veggies are healthier; we do it because the act of gardening brings us all joy. We don’t have bees (which I’m terrified of) because the honey is better for you, we do it so we can enjoy it with our friends. We’re raising chickens not for their eggs, but because we want to have animals around our young kids. Our hopes are that this can help teach them empathy – and yes, to be frank, my almost two year old eats three eggs for breakfast. That one is a win-win for everyone!

Whatever it is that you do, or eat, I hope that you can spot the benefits in both the food and the act, and both of these important parts bring you as much joy and wellness as possible!

About Dena Ferretti

Photo & bio coming soon!

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