Healthy Living in the North

Thinking about kids’ safety

Graphic that reads: helmets reduce the risk of severe brain injuries by up to 80%

Each year in Canada, preventable injuries cause 13,000 deaths, 60,000 disabilities and 3 million emergency room visits. Safe Kids Week is a great chance to ask ourselves what we can do to lower those numbers and prevent tragic injuries and death.

“Let’s be careful out there.” This mantra, going back to the 1980s police drama Hill Street Blues, resonates to this day. Consider that preventable injuries kill more Canadian children than any single disease and kill more youth than all other causes combined. Each year in Canada, preventable injuries cause 13,000 deaths, 60,000 disabilities and 3 million emergency room visits.

These figures come from Parachute, a national non-profit organization that describes itself as dedicated to preventing injury and saving lives through education and advocacy. It is also behind Safe Kids Week, which kicks off today and runs from May 4-10. This annual event strives to make us more aware of the frequency and severity of preventable childhood injuries. This year’s theme focuses on cycling and road safety.

Staying safe is an important message to communicate with children. What better way than to start with parents who are role models who influence the behaviours of their children. After all, why wear a helmet on the bike when mom doesn’t? Why stop at intersections if dad seems to just roll through?

There are a number of messages and recommendations aligned with the message of Safe Kids Week, starting with protecting your head. Wear a helmet! It should fit properly and be worn as designed because that protection cuts the risk of serious head injury by up to 80%!

Bikes should fit the kid. Make sure that your child’s bike is the right size for them, that the tires are properly inflated and the brakes work as intended. This is a great way to involve children in maintenance and awareness and it’s fun for them, too. It also helps if your child knows about the rules of the road and understands bicycle safety. Even a four-year-old can learn to stop and look before crossing a road and know to gear up before riding (even if they’re too young to be crossing the road alone).

Parent with a helmet adjusting their child's helmet. Text reads: Be a good "roll" model.

How can you be a good role model for kids? Do you wear a helmet? Obey the rules of the road?

Part of knowing the rules of the road includes knowing to ride on the right side, in the same direction as traffic, but also to stay as far right as possible. And kids should have a bell to announce their presence, especially when they are passing.

Though not a focus of the Parachute Safe Kids Week this year, we also include trampolines for special attention. A recent study by the BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit of children admitted to BC Children’s Hospital found trampoline-related injuries occurred at a rate of 14.1 per 1,000 cases treated at BC Children’s Hospital emergency department (no other hospital was tracked).

Of the injuries identified as trampoline-related, fractures were the most common, followed by bruises and abrasions and sprains. The most likely points of injury were the ankle, elbow and head.

Sure, trampolines can be dangerous, but we realize they are also a lot of fun. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid injury. Safety increases with smart use: limit trampolines to one person at a time; don’t jump onto or off of the trampoline; avoid flips and somersaults which can lead to over-extension of the cervical spine. Active adult supervision is also important.

Summer is a great time to be a kid and helping them to be safe can mean that it will all be fun and games!

Shellie O'Brien

About Shellie O'Brien

Shellie grew up in rural Newfoundland and moved to B.C. in 2003. After graduating from the nursing program at Thompson Rivers University in 2007 she moved to Prince George to start her career. She has a passion for population and public health and is the Regional Lead for Sexual and Reproductive Health. After falling in love with the north she purchased a rural property and began to build her hobby farm and family. She enjoys the outdoors, animals, recreational dogsledding, reading, and healthy living. When not at work, she can be found happily doing something outside on her farm with her family.


Safe Kids Week 2015: Cycling and road safety

RCMP officer and youth wearing helmets on skateboards.

This year, Safe Kids Week is looking at cycling and road safety with an emphasis on helmets, safe road users, and parents as role models. Look for safety events happening in your community or inspire others and organize an event of your own!

I’m so happy when I see children pulling into school grounds, parks and friends’ houses on their bikes, skateboards and scooters. Who among us can’t identify with the exhilaration of the wind whipping at your face as you pedal and push your way along the streets? The freedom of the open road – there’s nothing quite like it.

Recognizing that children are particularly vulnerable road users and knowing that injuries are the leading cause of death and disability to children, this year Parachute’s Safe Kids Week is promoting awareness of cycling and road safety across Canada. Please take a moment to consider and plan for how you and your community can join in this national campaign running May 4-10, 2015.

This year’s Safe Kids Week theme will focus on:

  • Helmets
  • Safe road users such as drivers, cyclists and pedestrians
  • Parents as role models and influencers

Parachute can support your community Safe Kids Week activities. Check out their website for many great resources including an online toolkit, a backgrounder on cycling and road safety, and an event guide.


Make sure that your children cultivate a love not only for physical activity and the outdoors, but for enjoying these activities safely!

Bodies are made to move and regular physical activity is critical to healthy child development. Every time a child steps out onto a street or sidewalk with family and friends, abilities are tested and realized, memories are made. Encouraging and building on a love for walking, running, biking and skateboarding safely and without injury are priceless gifts to our children. Join us in promoting cycling and road safety in your community by participating in Safe Kids Week 2015. For more information, please visit Parachute and

Denise Foucher

About Denise Foucher

Denise is an injury prevention coordinator with Northern Health’s population health team and is passionate about working towards health and wellness for everyone in Northern B.C. When not at work, Denise can be found out at the lake, walking her dog, planning her next travel adventure, or snuggled in a cozy chair with a good book.


Learning to love my bike

Andrew and his bike

Andrew learned to cherish the opportunity to ride his bike to work every day! Do you use active transportation to get to where you’re going?

For several years, my body and I did not get along. I had osteoarthritis in my hips that caused considerable pain and seriously limited my mobility. For years, I had gotten my daily exercise by walking, but as the pain in my hips worsened, the walking faded away. I became more and more sedentary and packed on a lot of weight.

In 2006, I had my right hip resurfaced and in 2010, I had the left one done. The pain was gone but I discovered that the surgery changed the angle of the joint and that, combined with years of avoiding pain-causing exercise, meant that I couldn’t just go back to my old exercise routine.

Then I got an email about Bike to Work Week, and a real change started for me. Making a commitment to ride to work for a week seemed doable, so I tried it. After the week was over, it seemed like something I could keep on doing. In a short time, biking to work evolved into a routine that now works for me.

I start work at 8 a.m. every morning but my day starts at 6 a.m. I have a light breakfast and head for the aquatic centre. Twenty lengths of the pool and ten minutes in the steam room, followed by a shower, take about forty five minutes, giving me enough time to ride my bicycle to work. Swimming and bicycle riding both take a lot of strain off of the hip joints allowing the muscle to build and the joint to get used to mobility again.

At first, getting up early to swim and riding my bike every day seemed like a chore, and I had the “five more minutes” argument with my pillow every morning. After a while though, I began to notice some changes: I realized that I felt better all day, I have more energy, and my clothes started to fit better. What seemed like a long ride a few months ago now seems like a short hop, and I find myself looking forward to my daily routine.

When the weather closes in, I feel anxious about possibly not being able to ride my bike. I have taken to going for a ride in the evenings as well, and on Saturday mornings, my partner and I ride our bikes to the Farmers’ Market or to our favorite coffee shop. When I began this routine, a friend said it would cost a lot to go swimming every day, but funny thing about it is that it doesn’t. I save more in gas by not taking my van to work every day than it costs for a monthly swim pass. What was a chore a few months ago has become a cherished part of my life. With the arrival of Fall, I know I’ll need to find something to take the place of the bicycle when the snow flies. I did see an exercise bike at a garage sale last weekend. Guess I’ll clear some space in the rec room…!

Getting to your daily destination using active transportation (like riding a bike) is a great option for many reasons! How do you actively travel around your community?

[Editor’s note: Don’t forget to enter the Healthy Living Week 4 Challenge and tell us about how you source local food for your chance to win a great mini freezer!]

Andrew Burton

About Andrew Burton

Andrew is a Community Integration Systems Navigator for Northern Health’s HIV and Hepatitis C Care team and works to support healthy living practices in communities across northern B.C. Andrew is developing positive activity and diet practices for two reasons: to deal with his own health concerns, and to “walk the talk” of promoting healthy living. Building on his training and experience in creative arts therapy, Andrew founded and runs the Street Spirits Theatre program promoting social responsibility among young people. This work has been recognized nationally and internationally as a leading method of social change.