Healthy Living in the North

Leaving a legacy: the Nordic Ski Initiative

Cross-country skiers going down a hill.

The IMAGINE: Legacy Grants are one of many ways that Northern Health worked to create a healthy legacy for the 2015 Canada Winter Games in northern B.C. New skis for the Nordic Ski Initiative in Dawson Creek means healthier, more active kids in the school district!

When the 2015 Canada Winter Games came to Prince George, they brought a symphony of action to the city – the cheers from fans watching hockey in Kin 1, the hustle and bustle of added traffic on Highway 97, athletes and their parents from across the nation wandering the streets of downtown, and, of course, the celebration of competition in Canada. But what will happen as this two week chorus fades with the Games’ closing ceremony on March 1? How will the Games be remembered and what will their legacy be – not only in Prince George, but throughout all of northern B.C.?

To ensure that the legacy is a healthy one that embodies the spirit of physical activity that the Games represent, Northern Health created the IMAGINE: Legacy Grants stream in 2014, which funded 89 projects for a total of nearly $280,000. Northern Health’s IMAGINE Grants have a long tradition of funding health promotion projects led by community partners including northern groups, organizations, schools, and districts, that support the health and wellness of northerners where they live, work, learn, and play. Ideas for projects are inspired and guided by Northern Health’s position statements addressing modifiable risk factors.

One such community partner is School District 59’s Brad Booker. Brad lives in Dawson Creek and has one of the world’s coolest jobs. He’s the vice principal – outdoor and experiential education, which means he gets paid to ensure children are engaged in outdoor activity and physical activity. In other words, Brad makes being healthy fun! Brad, who began cross-country skiing as a hobby five years ago, started the Nordic Ski Initiative – a program that allows teachers to sign out cross-country ski equipment for use by their class for one week intervals – to combat inactivity in youth. When speaking with Brad, his passion for cross-country skiing, the outdoors, and his work becomes clear; however, his enthusiasm is tempered when discussing the current state of children’s health. “It’s not looking good for young people,” said Brad. “If we can pull kids away from screens for just a little while every day, we’re helping.”

Brad said that he started the Nordic Ski Initiative to help fill the demand in the community: “Cross-country skiing is part of the culture in the southeast Peace. We have a great nordic ski club with lots of families and lots of groomed tracks around town. A lot of them are in public parks that are attached to schools, so it’s easy for kids to ski during school time.” With School District 59 owning its own track setter, there is an abundance of cross-country tracks near or on school grounds where teachers can take their classes.

Cross-country skiers in an open field with a blue sky.

It’s easy to see how “nature comes alive for kids” when they’re skiing! With the support of the IMAGINE: Legacy Grants program, the Nordic Ski Initiative will keep promoting sport and physical activity long after the 2015 Canada Winter Games have gone!

Despite cross-country skiing’s place in the community, the cost of quality equipment means that it is not readily available to everyone. Recalling why he did not take up the sport at an earlier age, Brad blames the equipment, “I tried it as a kid, but my equipment was no good and I didn’t enjoy it.” Through the IMAGINE: Legacy Grants, Northern Health has helped fund Brad’s “ski library,” providing $3,000 towards the Nordic Ski Initiative’s purchase of new equipment. “Ski equipment doesn’t become dated quickly,” said Brad of the legacy that this program and funding provide, “The equipment lasts a generation. A single pair of skis might see 30-plus kids, helping them find a new passion and a new sport. The great thing about cross-country skiing is that you can do it at any age – kids to 70- and 80-year-olds. It can be a lifelong sport.”

Greeted with enthusiasm by students, teachers, and the community, the program’s biggest hurdle is people’s attitudes towards winter. “I think a lot of people prefer to not go out in the winter time,” said Brad. “Getting kids excited at an early age is critical [in overcoming this perception]. Instilling in kids that winter is not a cold, desolate time is important. It’s also when nature comes alive for kids,” he continued, building his case. “Looking at tracks, appreciating nature – you are connected with what’s around you; it’s something peaceful.” Brad walks the pro-winter walk, too. His involvement with the program goes beyond managing its inventory as he accompanies students during their first lesson to teach them the skills they’ll need to stay safe while still having fun on the track.

Along with the physical activity that kids are getting through the Nordic Ski Initiative, Brad and his colleagues at School District 59 have noticed a change their behaviour. “The big impact that I see, and that I hear about from teachers, is that kids have gotten rid of energy. But more than that, they’ve calmed down. That’s having a positive impact on their schooling.”

Improved health, better grades, and a new, active hobby for life – these are the types of positive changes that defined the purpose of the IMAGINE: Legacy Grants when Northern Health first planned them. Seeing the impact of this project, and the others like it, ensures that the Canada Winter Games will reach beyond their time and space in Prince George, leaving a healthy legacy that the north can be proud of for generations to come.

This article was first published in A Healthier You, a joint publication of Northern Health and the Prince George Citizen.

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

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


Heads up! Concussions matter!

Parent and child wearing helmets on a ski hill.

Concussions matter! From February 24 – March 1, take the free online training at to better understand concussion prevention and management and for your chance to win a $50 gift card.

Sidney Crosby, Natasha Richardson, the National Football League, Hockey Canada. They all conjure up stories of individual struggles and organizational responses to concussions. With the Canada Winter Games entering their second week in Prince George and northern B.C., we wanted to make the most of the light shining on sports and athletes to talk about concussion awareness and education for all, not just extreme sport athletes.

The Canada Winter Games are here for two weeks, but concussions happen in our communities every day! The question is: how big of an issue are concussions in the north? Injury stats on concussion are rather difficult to gather as historically, concussions have been a very under-reported injury or they’ve been recorded under a number of different categories. What we do know is that:

  • In 2010, $2.4 million was spent on hospitalizations for concussion in B.C.
  • Northern Health has the highest rate of hospitalization for brain injury, other head injury, and concussions of all the health regions in B.C.
  • 1 in 5 youth in northern B.C. reported experiencing a concussion in the past year; many also report not seeking medical help to diagnose, treat and manage their concussion to a full recovery.
  • Up to 60% of all concussion visits were males.
  • 40% of concussion cases seen in emergency departments are for children ages 0-19, with the highest rate for boys 10-14 years old. Most of these cases came from a sport-related injury.

In response to this injury burden, and with the opportunity to create a health legacy from the Canada Winter Games, we’ve created Concussions matter! This concussion awareness, management and prevention campaign was designed to reach Northern Health staff and communities across the north as a health legacy to Canada Winter Games. The campaign has received generous support from the Concussion Awareness Training Tool and, allowing us to use and co-brand some great tools to promote and distribute across the region.

From February 24th to March 1st, we’ll be sharing a lot of concussion information and links to the CATT online training course here, on Facebook, and on Twitter. Take the free online CATT training and comment “I completed the CATT” on the Northern Health Facebook page and you can be entered to win a $50 gift card! Please help us spread the word about concussion awareness and the tools to support the management and prevention!

Concussions matter! Learn more about concussion management and prevention at

Contest rules:

  1. Only residents living in the Northern Health region can qualify to win (but we encourage everyone to take the free CATT online training course!). Not sure if you are in our region? View the map.
  2. The contesting and prizing is administered by Northern Health. Facebook is in no way responsible for contesting or prizing.
  3. Participants are entered by taking the free online CATT course and commenting “I completed the CATT” below the Facebook post relating to the contest on the Northern Health Facebook Page.
  4. No maximum entries per person. A maximum of one entry is earned by completing the CATT and commenting appropriately. Extra entries can be earned by tagging a friend.
  5. Comments deemed abusive, offensive or derogatory will be automatically disqualified.
  6. One prize will be given away. A gift card valued at $50 will be awarded.
  7. Winner will be contacted via email or social media platform.
  8. Gift card will be awarded by random draw.
  9. Gift card to be used to encourage healthy living. To ensure it is, Regional Injury Prevention Coordinators will work with the winners to determine what the gift card will be for.
  10. Northern Health reserves final approval of winning entry and gift card.
  11. Contestants under the age of 18 must have parent or guardian permission to enter.
  12. Announced prize winner is final.
  13. Entering the contest does not guarantee that you will win a prize.
  14. Northern Health employees are eligible to enter the contest and win, but will not be granted preferential treatment.
  15. Northern Health has 60 days from the time the contest closes (March 1, 2015, 11:59PM PST) to issue prize.
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.


Canada Winter Games: An opportunity for health legacy

Northern Health staff with mascot at 2015 Canada Winter Games venue

The Northern Health team has been visiting 2015 Canada Winter Games venues to share healthy living information with residents and visitors. From concussion awareness to knowledge of physical activity guidelines, the health legacy of the Games will have a positive impact for years to come!

The 2015 Canada Winter Games are in full swing in Prince George and it has truly been an exciting time for the region. Talk of the Games legacy often focuses on sport promotion, physical facilities, cultural showcase, and economic impact. For Northern Health, however, we’ve spent time leading up to the Games looking at our health legacy. What could we offer our populations before, during, and after the Games? How will Northern Health leverage the excitement of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enhance the health and wellness of northern B.C.?

  • IMAGINE: Legacy Grants: In the spirit of the 2015 Canada Winter Games, the IMAGINE grants placed special attention on projects that promote increased physical activity. Grants were awarded to 89 amazing community-based projects in 34 northern communities, totalling $279,870 for health promotion!
  • Smoke-Free Games Proclamation: Northern Health partnered with the 2015 Canada Winter Games, the City of Prince George and Promotion of Wellness in Northern BC to create and support a policy for safe, smoke-free environments for all athletes and spectators taking in the Games. Our goal is to continue these efforts with Prince George and other municipalities to enhance smoke-free bylaws for our northern populations.
  • Northern Safe Sport Tour: With provincial partners, we delivered 15 sport injury prevention and concussion management workshops to coaches, teachers, and parents throughout northern B.C. from June to December 2014. We also rolled out Concussions Matter, a campaign to further create awareness around concussions for medical professionals and community members.
  • Community Health Stars: The first three community health stars helped to launch this new program and were awarded torchbearer spots in the Canada Winter Games torch relay. This program will continue to shine a light on individuals who make tremendous differences in the health of their communities.
  • Growing for Gold: An early start with breastfeeding can contribute to our children “growing for gold!” This legacy program provides decals for businesses and facilities that commit to welcoming and supporting breastfeeding mothers and families. Look for these decals in your community!
Mandy Levesque

About Mandy Levesque

Mandy Levesque is Northern Health’s Lead, Healthy Community Development, Integrated Community Granting. Born and raised in northern Manitoba, Mandy and her family moved to Prince George in 2013. Mandy has a background in public health and health promotion and is a graduate of the University of Saskatchewan. She is passionate about innovation and quality, empowering northern populations, and promoting health and wellness across communities. In her spare time, Mandy enjoys spending time with her family and stays active by taking in the exciting activities, trails, and events northern B.C. has to offer.


Northern Health welcomes the Canada Winter Games to northern B.C.

Northern Health CEO Cathy Ulrich with Spirit the caribou mascot

Northern Health is pleased to welcome all of the Canada Winter Games athletes, officials, volunteers, supporters, and visitors to our beautiful region.

After many months of planning and preparation, it is exciting that the Canada Winter Games have arrived in northern British Columbia!

Northern Health is privileged to be an official community partner of the 2015 Canada Winter Games. I am pleased to welcome all of the athletes, officials, volunteers, supporters, and visitors to our beautiful region. I hope that you take the opportunity to explore the many aspects of our communities that make northern B.C. a wonderful place to live, work, and play.

In addition to extending a warm welcome, I want to say thank you to all of those involved in the Canada Winter Games, from the athletes vying for gold to the volunteers keeping the events running smoothly. You inspire us all to be more active, to connect to our communities, and to live healthier lives.

Whether you are competing, cheering, volunteering, or simply soaking up the atmosphere, I encourage you to keep your eyes open for Northern Health staff. Our team – including our newest team member, Spirit – will be at various games venues with information and resources to help you to stay active, prevent injuries, play tobacco-free, and eat well. If you aren’t able to make it out to the venues, check the Northern Health Matters blog regularly for Games-inspired tips and tricks to help you live a healthier, more active life.

For Northern Health, the Canada Winter Games will not end on March 1st. We have been working in partnership with other organizations to ensure that the Games leave a healthy legacy for all northerners into the future. After the medals have been handed out and the streets quiet down, our work will continue. Look for projects supported by IMAGINE: Legacy grants in your community, watch for local businesses supporting breastfeeding through the Growing for Gold campaign, and see Community Health Stars being recognized in your town.

I hope that you enjoy the Canada Winter Games and the healthy legacy that this event will leave in northern B.C.!

Cathy Ulrich

About Cathy Ulrich

Cathy became NH president and chief executive officer in 2007, following five years as vice president, clinical services and chief nursing officer for Northern Health. Before the formation of Northern Health, she worked in a variety of nursing and management positions in Northern B.C., Manitoba, and Alberta. Most of her career has been in rural and northern communities where she has gained a solid understanding of the unique health needs of rural communities. Cathy has a nursing degree from the University of Alberta, a master’s degree in community health sciences from the University of Northern BC, and is still actively engaged in health services research, teaching and graduate student support.


Vote for the NH Mascot Design!

Vote now for the new Northern Health MascotThank you so much to everyone who submitted an entry into the Northern Health Mascot Design Contest! We were really impressed with the creativity that all of the entries showed – great work!

A panel of Northern Health staff judges has taken some time to carefully consider both the illustrations and stories of each entry — taking into account originality, practicality and alignment with the NH positions statements — and we’ve narrowed it down to two!

Now we’re asking for YOUR help to decide which of these outstanding entries will become the first ever Northern Health mascot! Please take a moment to visit our voting page, read the stories that go along with each illustration, and choose whether Rex or Spirit should be the new NH mascot! Voting will close July 18, 2014.

Vote for your favourite mascot design now!

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)


Mascot Design Contest Extended!

Mascot contest sneak peek

Here’s a sneak peek at a few of our entries. Have you submitted your idea yet? You have until Friday, June 6!

Have you submitted your idea for the design of the new Northern Health Mascot yet?? The deadline for submissions has been extended to Friday, June 6 at midnight.

The mascot will represent Northern Health values and promote healthy living, including healthy eating, active living, injury prevention, tobacco reduction and more. We want you to enter an idea for a mascot that:

  • Represents all people living in the north
  • Represents healthy living
  • Is creative and fun!

On top of seeing his or her design come to life, the winning entrant will win a torchbearer spot in the 2015 Canada Winter Games torch relay!

Visit our contest page to enter your idea today!

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)


Choose your path and volunteer for the Canada Winter Games

Members of the Games' medical staff

Members of the Games’ medical staff (from left to right): Hedy Conwright, Venue Medical Lead; Joanne Archer, Chief Nurse; Janet Ames, Chief Medical Officer; Brian Farrance, Chief Therapist; Carolyn Bouchard, Polyclinic Lead

“Choose your path, leave your tracks and journey with us.” This motto for the 2015 Canada Winter Games calls all northerners to share their skills and passion in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to host the nation. At the Canada Games House in Prince George we are acutely aware of the countdown clock, which reminds us that we are just 12 months away from the largest multi-sport and cultural festival ever held in northern British Columbia!

What I was surprised to learn when I started working for the 2015 Games is that this Canada Games is volunteer led. From sport to transportation and everything in between, volunteers are working hard in each department of the 2015 Games.

Medical volunteers have the opportunity to help plan medical services, as well as deliver medical services to athletes at sport venues and the athlete medical clinic, the Polyclinic, at 2015 Games time. Physicians, therapists, and nurses from across the north are needed to provide these important services. Offering bilingual services is part of our mandate so there are also opportunities for bilingual medical volunteers to get involved in the 2015 Games.

Dr. Janet Ames, Chief Medical Officer with the Games, explains some of the worries she comes across when recruiting medical volunteers: “Medical professionals are often concerned about volunteering for events such as the Canada Winter Games. They express concern about not having the experience to handle sport medicine problems and may lack in field experience. Many of the problems at major games are ones they see in their own practices every day, especially the problems assessed at the Polyclinic.”

Volunteering at the 2015 Games offers medical volunteers an incredible opportunity to develop event coverage skills and to learn from the best. Dr. Ames, who has worked at past Canada Games and Olympics explains: “In terms of event coverage, if medical personnel want to gain experience we will place them in the field with more experienced first responders. There are physicians and therapists coming to the Games from all over Canada who have a great deal of experience on the field. Canada Games has always been a great place to learn new skills from those with more experience.”

Not only does working as a medical volunteer offer the opportunity to be a part of the 2015 Games, but the skills learned will create a legacy for medical event coverage in our region. The Canada Games medical committee recognizes these amazing opportunities and encourages northern doctors, therapists and nurses to join them now for 2015.

We hope you will choose your path, leave your tracks and join us in this journey as we host the nation from February 13 to March 1, 2015.

For more information on volunteering for medical and non-medical opportunities, visit the 2015 Canada Winter Games volunteer sign-up page.

Julia Stephenson

About Julia Stephenson

Julia is a master’s of public health graduate working with the 2015 Canada Winter Games. She is passionate about upstream health and creating environments that support well-being. Julia grew up in Ontario, but feels at home in B.C., and is embracing the move north with all the opportunities for outdoor activity. She enjoys hiking, camping, canoeing, swimming, and being outside exploring new places.


Bringing together a 2015 Canada Winter Games medical team

The 2015 Canada Winter Games Medical Team.

The 2015 Canada Winter Games Medical Team.

Over the last couple months I’ve had the pleasure of working with Janet Ames, Chief Medical Officer, Brian Farrance, Chief Therapist and Joanne Archer, Chief Nurse as they plan for the medical coverage of the 2015 Canada Winter Games.

Between them, these three have volunteered medical services at over 30 games from the Vancouver Olympics to the Pan American Games in Cuba; from the Commonwealth Games in Victoria to the Nagano Olympics as well as a myriad of Canada Games including Halifax, Grand Prairie, PEI and Saskatoon! Suffice to say, there are some impressive and lengthy resumes for this medical team!

Janet, Brian and Joanne are eager to share with you what they love about volunteering at sports events in the hopes that health care professionals across the north will be inspired to join them in providing medical coverage for the 2015 Games.

As Brian recalls his long list of medical involvement in sports events he notes what a special opportunity the Canada Games are:

“This will be my seventh Canada Games and I consider these games the most fun of all with a great opportunity to learn from more experienced therapists, those with different experiences and to pass on my knowledge to those just starting out.”

Providing medical support at a Game’s event provides a unique and exciting work opportunity for physicians, therapists and nurses. Joanne speaks very highly of her experience providing medical support for Track and Field events at the Commonwealth Games:

“During the actual competition week it was really exciting to be watching and cheering on the various athletes I had come to know and become fond of. Sometimes I’m not sure who was more nervous or excited – them or me. There were a few injuries, especially in the hurdles and I got in the habit of just assuming I would have to run out and help someone from the track, so when they were in the “starting position” I was as well.”

The 2015 Canada Winter Games will offer opportunities to learn and teach, prepare and respond, as well as to witness athletic performances of young Canadians rising to the top of their sport. As Janet notes,

“Along the way I have been privileged to be present at some of the most amazing athletic performances and a number of heartbreaks.  The job of the physician at these events is to be present and resourceful no matter what the issue.”

Whether you have a great deal of experience in sports medicine or are new to sports event coverage, Janet, Brian and Joanne welcome health care professionals across the north to join them on the Medical Team for the 2015 Canada Winter Games .

“We hope you decide to join the team, and for some, start your love of event coverage.”Brian, Janet & Joanne

If you are interested in volunteering and want to stay up-to-date with information please contact:

Physicians: Janet Ames, Chief Medical Officer at

Nurses: Joanne Archer, Chief Nurse at

Physio and athletic therapists: Brian Farrance, Chief Therapist at

Julia Stephenson

About Julia Stephenson

Julia is a master’s of public health graduate working with the 2015 Canada Winter Games. She is passionate about upstream health and creating environments that support well-being. Julia grew up in Ontario, but feels at home in B.C., and is embracing the move north with all the opportunities for outdoor activity. She enjoys hiking, camping, canoeing, swimming, and being outside exploring new places.