Healthy Living in the North

Healthy schools matter

Once again the summer has whizzed by and it’s time to think about the new school year! Hopefully you enjoyed a healthy, happy summer and had a chance to share what wellness means to you.

A couple weeks ago, Emilia shared information about school nutrition but there is so much more to healthy schools! A healthy school is one that creates a healthy setting for learning, playing, and working. Students have opportunities in all parts of their school experience to develop healthy habits, including physical, mental, social and intellectual.

Comprehensive School Health

Northern Health has adopted the internationally recognized Comprehensive School Health framework that is promoted provincially by Healthy Schools BC. In this approach, it is not just about what happens in the classroom; it involves the whole school environment, addressing four interrelated areas of focus:

  • Social and Physical Environment
  • Teaching and Learning
  • Partnerships and Services
  • Healthy School Policy

When the school’s actions are coordinated across these areas, the impact on student health and learning is so much greater. Here are some benefits of this flexible and adaptable approach:

  • Better health & well-being for students, educators & staff
  • Increased feelings of support from school
  • Improved behaviours and healthy choices at home & in the community
  • Increased understanding of connections between curriculum and real life

Healthy Schools in Action

Think this all sounds complicated? Here are some examples of schools across the north that are leveraging grants to fund some great health related projects that show Comprehensive School Health in action.

Chetwynd

The Chetwynd Social Planning Society partnered with the Moberly Lake after school program to provide opportunities for children to learn drumming.

Valemount

The Valemount Elementary School Parent Advisory Council (PAC) purchased snowshoes for students to borrow so they can get outside for fresh air, sunshine, and exercise.

Skidegate

The Sk’aadgaa Naay Elementary School in Skidegate purchased needed supplies & equipment for teaching students to grow and preserve food.

These are just a few great examples! Many northern schools have shared their success stories with Healthy Schools BC. Visit Healthy Schools BC for more stories about healthy schools in our region!

 

Heather Ouellette

About Heather Ouellette

Heather is a Registered Nurse currently working in Population Health as the Regional Nursing Lead, Healthy Schools. Past work experiences include Public Health and teaching nursing at UNBC and in a previous life in Edmonton, home care and acute care nursing. When not outside adventuring with her friends and dogs, she likes to play in her garden during summer and sew quilts and garments in winter.

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Plug into Prince George: tapping into trail and friendship networks

boardwalk forest

Many trails around Prince George are accessible-including the Ancient Forest.

Running, walking, hiking, and biking have always been part of my life. When I moved to Prince George in the winter of 2005, I knew I needed to make friends with similar interests, so that spring, I took a “learn to trail run” class. Twelve years later, I’m still enjoying outdoor adventures with people I met in the class!

Over the years, our group has found many excellent trails in and around the city of Prince George to enjoy fresh air and exercise all year round. Often, our dogs accompany us so we make a rather large pack! We feel fortunate to live in a place with such accessible natural beauty.

For those who enjoy a nice stroll, brisk walk, or leisurely bike ride, you can find a list of accessible trails on the Prince George Tourism website. Many are fully accessible and suitable for those using wheelchairs or scooters, or for parents with children in strollers. Feeling ambitious? Complete the entire 11 km heritage river trail circuit for a trip through the city’s history. Ferguson Lake also has trails and docks so you can walk or canoe on site – it’s only 5 km from highway 97 & Chief Lake Road!

forest

Getting outside is a great way to unplug and recharge.

For more adventurous souls, there is the Cranbrook Hill Greenway and its connecting trails, Forest for the World, Otway Ski Centre, and Pidherny Trails. The trails are suitable for hiking, walking, running, or mountain biking – and they have great names like “Kitchen Sink” and “Espresso”. We have seen moose, bears, foxes, and an incredible variety of birds. Oh, yes, and wild blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries – hey, sometimes you need a snack when you’re out on the trail! Just be sure of what berry you are picking – if you don’t know, don’t eat it!

Feel like getting out of the city? How about a bike ride down Willow Cale Road to Buckhorn Lake for a picnic? It’s easy riding with minimal traffic. Want to venture a bit further? Check out the trails maintained by the Tabor Mountain Recreation Society – Dougherty Creek Mobility Trail is fully accessible!

kids posing by tree

Posing with Treebeard, the oldest tree in the ancient rain forest!

Want to make a day of it? Try a hike up Teapot Mountain or take a picnic down the highway to the Ancient Forest with its accessible boardwalk. I love taking my camera and photographing the interesting lichens, and mushrooms – and of course the obligatory shot of the kids standing by the oldest tree in the forest, Treebeard!

And just because the snow is long gone, don’t think these trails are only for summer use! Both Otway and Tabor Mountain have groomed cross-country ski trails in winter. Or break out the snowshoes on some of the connecting trails around the Greenway and Forest for the World. The area is just as beautiful in winter – and no bugs to bother you!

Where do you go to unplug and get active in your community? Do you have a favourite local trail? If you’re in Prince George, I hope to see you out this summer!


Last fall we asked our readers to share how they plug into their communities through the Great Northern Scavenger Hunt!  We received some amazing entries and information about how to get active and plug into communities all over northern BC. Check back for “Plug Into” posts featuring tips and suggestions from those submissions!

Heather Ouellette

About Heather Ouellette

Heather is a Registered Nurse currently working in Population Health as the Regional Nursing Lead, Healthy Schools. Past work experiences include Public Health and teaching nursing at UNBC and in a previous life in Edmonton, home care and acute care nursing. When not outside adventuring with her friends and dogs, she likes to play in her garden during summer and sew quilts and garments in winter.

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Ride into Summer with Bike to Work & School Week

Bike riding on a bike path

Bike paths separated from motor traffic encourage more cycling and improve safety for everyone.

Remember the good old days when your bike was not just your only form of transportation, but your ticket to freedom and independence? The summer would pass in a blink as you racked up countless miles riding anywhere and everywhere on your bike, rolling back home at sunset with “rubber legs” and giddy from all the fun had with friends. I can almost smell the warm summer evening just thinking about it.

Sure, times have changed. We’re adults now. We have jobs, time crunches, deadlines, and commitments. Regardless, we have an excellent opportunity to bring some of that old nostalgia and joy back to the season, as well as set the younger people in our lives on the path to creating their own summer memories: it starts with taking part in Bike to Work (& School) Week from May 29-June 4. I’m guessing once you’ve made a conscious decision to ride rather than drive as much as possible for a week, you will realize so many benefits to cycling that you’ll want to continue this healthy (but fun!) habit for the rest of the summer.

Here are just a few of the benefits:

  • Increased physical activity: Many of us struggle to find the time for physical activity; utilizing active transportation options automatically adds physical activity into our day, which of course brings its own benefits.
  • Increased productivity: The fresh air and adrenaline boost provided by your commute will help you show up at work or school alert, refreshed, and ready to take on the day.
  • Improved mental well-being: Taking the time on your commute home to clear your head and burn off some steam will leave you feeling much fresher mentally when you arrive home than you would be after driving.
  • Increased safety: Increasing the number of people who cycle decreases traffic congestion, increases active transportation user visibility, and makes the roads safer for everyone involved.
  • Financial savings: No fuel or parking fees (or tickets!).
  • Environmental benefits: Reduce your greenhouse gas emissions (Bike to Work BC will let you know exactly what your impact is as you log rides… how cool is that?)
  • Social benefits: Being on your bicycle allows you to connect with other cyclists and pedestrians you meet on your commute; the sight of your grinning face as you sail by may also inspire someone else to park their car and ride instead!

I must confess I have not always been a huge fan of cycling. I loved it as a kid, but as I grew up I became very nervous around traffic. And don’t even get me started on mountain biking! Let’s just say “what goes up must come down,” so I can’t see much mountain biking in my future (insert chicken clucking here). However, over the last year I have been rediscovering my love for cycling on paths and roads while being vigilant to protect my safety, following the rules of the road, keeping my eyes and ears on alert to the traffic around me, and riding accordingly. My confidence continues to grow with practice. I will be participating in Bike to Work Week on a Northern Health team for the first time (officially) this year, but it certainly won’t be my last!

Join a team today; you could be the lucky winner of a cycling trip for two on the Dalmation Coast in Croatia! Register here: https://www.biketowork.ca/ – see you on the road!

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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Community skating project scores in Telegraph Creek!

Northern Health’s IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to a variety of groups with projects that make northern communities healthier. Our hope is that these innovative projects inspire healthy community actions where you live! Check out the story below and read more IMAGINE Community Grant stories.


Outdoor ice rink

Various community partners came together to make skating accessible for students and families in Telegraph Creek.

What do you get when you take a revitalized outdoor skating rink, invested and engaged community partners, new equipment, and a community of children, youth, and families looking for recreational opportunities to enjoy during the long, cold winter? You get a Community Skating Project that benefits the entire community!

Last spring, the principal of the Tahltan School, located in Telegraph Creek, applied for an IMAGINE Community Grant to support the school’s interest in providing skating equipment and activities for the students that would also be accessible and inclusive for the entire school community. The original plan for the project was to get the gear and skate on the local lake and, through a partnership with the Tahltan Band, to offer a few trips to the nearest indoor rink, located 112 km away in Dease Lake.

Fortunately for the staff, students, and families of Telegraph Creek, an unexpected and welcome partnership along the way with the local RCMP made this community initiative even more successful than the original plan! The RCMP staff took on the task of putting in ice at the local outdoor ice rink in Telegraph Creek and maintaining it throughout the season so that all could access and enjoy the rink! They even offered a celebration day once the ice was ready where they gave out free hot chocolate and snacks for everyone.

The positive impact of having outdoor recreation was amazing to witness. The rink was mainly enjoyed by the youth, and in a community where there are limited recreational opportunities, it was rewarding to see them having so much fun.- Mark Van Wieringen, First Nations policing constable

Aerial shot of ice rink

Once the weather cooperated in Telegraph Creek, a beautiful outdoor rink took shape and provided a winter recreation option in the community.

The great success of the new project also came with some challenges that are not unique to our northern communities:

One challenge was weather: not having a usable ice rink until the weather was cold enough and then it became too cold! There were plans in place to get a school bus for our school that we could use for trips to skate in Dease Lake but unfortunately that bus was delayed, which made it difficult to organize a trip. We were lucky that the RCMP staff were able to make ice on the outdoor rink this year. -Nancy Danuser, vice principal, Tahltan School

Families skating on outdoor rink

With support from the local RCMP detachment, families in Telegraph Creek got to enjoy a community celebration and an outdoor ice rink!

Through community partnerships, some flexibility, and a bit of seed funding, fantastic project ideas can be realized and last in the community for years to come:

The IMAGINE grant has made it possible for children without skates to participate… it has allowed us to support other community events like the Winter Carnival by lending skates to those who need them. -Nancy Danuser

What can you do to improve the health of your community and who can you partner with to make it happen? Submit your IMAGINE grant application today!


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. At the time of this story’s publication, the deadline for the next cycle of IMAGINE Community Grants is March 31, 2017.

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.

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Writing a grant application – anyone can do it!

Group of young people with archery equipment

The Eagle Eye Archers in Prince Rupert are one group that benefited from an IMAGINE grant. Take steps to make sure that your grant application hits the mark!

For many people, even the thought of writing a grant proposal or application is intimidating. Rest assured that by keeping a few key tips in mind, anyone can do it!

Most grant programs get more applications than there are funds available. Whether you are applying for one of Northern Health’s grants (IMAGINE Community Grant applications are now open!) or are looking into a different grant program, follow these tips to ensure that your application stands out above the rest!

1. Know your project plan

  • Read the application beforehand and ensure that you are able to answer all questions and sections fully. Your enthusiasm for your project should come through.

2. Know your audience

  • Who will be able to participate in this project and the activities? Northern Health grants are keen to support projects that reduce health inequities and help those who are disadvantaged or vulnerable to improve their access to supports and resources for better health.

3. Confirm your timelines

  • Many grant programs have multiple cycles per year as well as deadlines for project completion and evaluation. Does your project start date fit within this timeline or should you wait for a future cycle?

4. List key project partners

  • Strong partnerships = strong projects! Working with other groups builds capacity and can be a great opportunity to learn from one another. Partnerships also help to ensure sustainability. Having more people involved can help to grow the project and increases its chance of lasting.
  • When listing partners, you should be able to explain their roles and responsibilities in the project.

5. Describe and connect project goals and activities

  • Be very specific about what you want to achieve in your community through your project. What is the ultimate goal(s)? What will success look like?
  • You should be able to directly connect your planned activities to these goals.

6. Explain the benefit to community

  • Applications should describe why a project is needed in your community. What sets your project apart from others in the community?

7. Have a clear budget

  • Remember to include all of the costs that will be associated with your project activities. Ensure that the total cost of the project is explained, specify the amount being requested from the grant, and identify where any other sources of funding will be coming from.
  • Confirming fundraising efforts or that other sources of funding have been explored shows community engagement and motivation for the project to succeed. Don’t forget to identify in-kind or free supports.
  • Ensure that the funding you are requesting fits the grant criteria. For example, if wages aren’t eligible for coverage under the grant criteria, don’t request them in your application.

8. Describe the future plans to keep the project going

  • We want to support projects that are thinking about sustainability from the beginning and we are less likely to support a one-time event or activity. Provide details on how the project will continue to grow in your community. Use a grant like our IMAGINE grant as the seed to get you started!

9. Get letters of support from partners and community members

  • Letters of support from project partners, additional funders, or people who will benefit from the project in the community are a great help! They show engagement and investment.
  • One or two letters are enough, but they should be specific to the project.

10. Choose an exciting project name

  • Choose a name for your project that will grab people’s attention – whether that’s the person reading the application or someone who wants to learn more about your project in the community. Be unique but keep it simple!

11. Learn from others


A version of this article first appeared in the winter 2016 issue of Healthier You magazine.

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.

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Imagining accessible recreation in Chetwynd

Northern Health’s IMAGINE Community Grants provide funding to a variety of groups with projects that make northern communities healthier. Our hope is that these innovative projects inspire healthy community actions where you live! Check out the story below and read more IMAGINE Community Grant stories.


Recreational equipment

With the purchase of bikes, helmets, sporting equipment, bear bells, hiking poles, fishing rods, and life jackets the Imagine Chetwynd project provided access to recreational opportunities that may not have been available to people otherwise.

Last spring, the Chetwynd Visitor Centre set a goal to create more opportunities for people to experience fun activities in their area, with a focus on improving the health and wellness of residents and visitors. From this goal – and some seed funding support from IMAGINE Community Grants – Imagine Chetwynd was born!

Through the purchase of bikes, helmets, sporting equipment, bear bells, hiking poles, fishing rods, and life jackets – as well as strong partnerships developed with the Chetwynd Public Library and the Tansi Friendship Centre – the project provided access to recreational opportunities that may not be available to people otherwise. The library helped promote the project and ran a Facebook Page where people could share stories and photos after using the equipment. The friendship centre supported the distribution and storage of some of the equipment, which improved access for youth, seniors, and families.

The positive outcomes as a result of the project were the community partnerships. The combined effort to create or enhance activities within the community was a positive experience. Partnering with groups who have the ability and skills to promote and deliver helped create success in the project. Community members welcomed, and were pleased with, the opportunity for friends or out of town family members to join them in trail hikes, bike rides, and fishing lakes and local rivers in the area; the local sporting goods store owner supplied the tackle for fishing. -Tyria Plamondon, Chetwynd Visitor Centre

IMAGINE Community Grant funds supported the purchase of bikes, helmets, fishing gear, and a variety of sporting equipment to get the program started.

The Imagine Chetwynd project will continue to be a sustainable program as the equipment and supplies acquired through the IMAGINE grant funding have longevity and equipment maintenance or replacement costs have been budgeted for the future.

One of our most eye-catching investments was a vibrant, candy apple red tandem bike. This beautiful, strikingly unusual bike was an eye opener and head turner when it was out in the community. It caught the attention of young and old alike… The bike provided our community with a little treasure that sets us apart from other northern communities. -Tyria Plamondon

Two men on tandem bike.

One of Imagine Chetwynd’s most eye-catching recreational investments: a bright red tandem bicycle!

It has to be mentioned that the project is not just a summer project. Included in the purchase of sporting and recreational equipment (rackets, balls, horseshoes, etc.), funds received also supported the purchase of snowshoes and an ice auger for ice fishing, so residents and visitors can enjoy the outdoors all year long!

The Imagine Chetwynd project has opened opportunities for exposure to all of our parks, activities, courts, lakes, streams, and attractions through the use of free equipment and ease of access provided with the project. -Tyria Plamondon

This project is a great example of what some local initiative and thinking outside of the box can do to create fun, accessible, and health-promoting opportunities for people in the north!

For more information on the Imagine Chetwynd program and to see some cool photos of this project in action, check out the Chetwynd Visitors Centre on Facebook.


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. At the time of this story’s publication, the deadline for the next cycle of IMAGINE Community Grants is March 31, 2017.

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.

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What captured your attention this year? Top 10 blog posts of 2016!

Photo collage of pictures from stories featured in article

Which article was your favourite?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love year-end “best of” or “top 10” lists!

Not only are they a fun way to discover great stories, books, recipes, songs, movies, or whatever else you might want, but they reveal something neat about our collective interests.

So, what captured our readers’ attention and imagination in 2016? It’s an eclectic mix that includes stories of northern health care providers and northern families, expert tips and recipes for the outdoors, a beautiful video about Haida and Tsimshian Nations culture, and more!

Here they are: the 10 most-read blog posts from the Northern Health Matters blog in 2016!

#10: Loving yourself: Be bold, be beautiful, be brave!

#9: Foodie Friday: A hiker’s power food

#8: Foodie Friday goes camping! Eating well & tantalizing taste buds in the backcountry

#7: Pumping iron: First foods for building strong babies

#6: A video from North Coast First Nations for health care providers

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

#4: Setting SMART goals

#3: Congratulations to NH’s newest Health Care Hero, Barb Crook

#2: “I always knew that I would come back to nursing”: Richelle’s story

#1: “The village helped to raise our child”: A Smithers family reflects

Thank you for reading in 2016! We look forward to sharing more stories with you in 2017!

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.)

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Orange Shirt Day

Two women dressed in orange

Marking Orange Shirt Day in Kitsumkalum.

I was honoured to be invited to Kitsumkalum’s Orange Shirt Day by Charlene Webb, the community health director. Although I got to wear a beautiful locally designed orange shirt, enjoy yummy orange food, and visit with many people, this event has a sad undertone.

What is Orange Shirt Day?

September 29th is Orange Shirt Day – a day of remembrance and recognition of residential school survivors and those who did not survive.

It is a day each year to acknowledge the harm done by the residential school system to children’s self-esteem and well-being and to remember that every child matters. Orange Shirt Day grew out of Phyllis’ story. In 1973, when she was 6 years old, Phyllis attended the Mission school. On her first day of school, her clothes (including a special, brand new, shiny orange shirt) were taken from her and replaced with a uniform. Orange Shirt Day is an annual opportunity to engage in a discussion on all aspects of the residential school system.

Residential schools

September is when children go back to school and it is therefore timely to remember the Indigenous children in Canada who were taken from their families and travelled long distances to attend residential schools. Instead of being nurtured and supported, many suffered emotional, physical, and sexual abuse there.

Residential schools are a dark part of Canadian history that make me very sad. As a 6th generation Canadian white woman with First Nations children, I have struggled with this part of Canada’s history. I first learned about residential schools when I was pregnant with my first child. I was devastated that such a thing could happen. As a parent, I cannot imagine a more heart wrenching and devastating experience than having my children forcibly removed and taken far away where I cannot protect them or care for them.

Woman wearing "Every Child Matters" shirt

Orange Shirt Day is a day each year to acknowledge the harm done by the residential school system to children’s self-esteem and well-being and to remember that every child matters.

Learning more

As hard as it is, we need to acknowledge that this tragedy occurred and learn more about it so that it never happens again. I encourage you to explore several resources:

Cultural humility

Part of healing from this difficult history in Canada involves all of us developing our cultural humility – our ability to be respectful, self-aware, and lifelong learners when it comes to the experiences of others.

I encourage you to join me and participate in the First Nations Health Authority social media campaign to engage all of us in advancing cultural safety and humility in the health system. In my daily life, I strive to do my part to help create an environment in Northern Health where people feel safe from racism and discrimination. Make a pledge today and share it on social media. Together we can make a difference.

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.

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“The village helped to raise our child”: A Smithers family reflects

Young man sitting in a restaurant wearing a Sport Chek uniform

With the support of a microboard and various community members, Jesse recently joined the workforce in Smithers.

When you walk into Sport Chek in Smithers and see Jesse Clegg unpacking garments and hanging gear, you may not realize the significance of that moment.

You may not realize the number of people, programs, time, and advocacy that created that moment. You may not realize that moment wouldn’t have been possible just ten years ago, or that it shines a light on some ongoing challenges facing families. You may not realize that what you’re seeing is a powerful example of a healthy family supported by a healthy community.

And this is exactly why Jesse’s story is so important to share.

“When you have a child with a disability,” said Anita Clegg, Jesse’s mother, “there are no days off.” Jesse, now 21 years old, was born and raised in Smithers. Jesse has Down syndrome and, throughout his life, the Clegg family was committed to breaking ground in the community. “We put ourselves and Jesse out there,” shared Anita, “because it was important for us to show that everyone has abilities. As people learn more and connect with Jesse, we’ve seen shifts in thinking.”

When Anita says that “the village helped to raise our child,” this is not a cliché. While Jesse’s parents continue to assume a strong advocacy role, the impact of community members, organizations, and businesses on Jesse’s life is profound.

Consider the local bowling alley …

“Anything round that moved, Jesse was on it!” said Anita. “So bowling was a good fit. Jesse couldn’t start with Special Olympics until he was a teenager so, when he was 10, we asked about joining the town league. The bowling alley was very supportive and Jesse joined a team with typical kids. One year, he was the high scorer for the teen youth league! Jesse still loves to bowl and the bowling alley is a safe, welcoming, and familiar place for him.”

… and the pediatrician …

“Our pediatrician truly went to bat for Jesse. He understood Jesse’s needs, made connections that others wouldn’t have made, and helped to advocate for Jesse from birth right until he turned 18.”

Young man holding a wrench

In addition to being an artist and photographer, Jesse has taken up industrial iron furniture making.

… and the family friend …

“Safe and reliable respite is so important for families,” shared Anita. “We were very fortunate to have a family friend offer to take Jesse one day each week, starting in his last year of high school. They started out by just playing cards with me around but now they spend the afternoon together. Jesse has dinner with her family.”

… and the local business owner …

“Jesse is now in the workforce,” said Anita, “and that involved a lot of people coming together. It was a lengthy process but well worth it! When we told Jesse that the employment plan was going to be possible, his exact words were: ‘Everything is perfect!’ This process started with Jesse’s microboard (nine family members and community members) working with Jesse to create a picture of his skills, interests, and strengths. Jesse shared that he’d love to work at Sport Chek – which came out of the blue to us since he’d never been there! Our local WorkBC office asked the manager if they’d be interested in a supportive employment opportunity. The manager instantly said yes and went even further, integrating Jesse as a full team member, without a support person. His colleagues trained him and have been fantastic – many of them knew Jesse from school.”

Young man sanding stool top.

Jesse puts the finishing touches on a bar stool he built.

These supportive community experiences, however, also point to some of the challenges that Jesse’s story illuminates:

  • Access to health and social services is an important determinant of health. Unfortunately, Jesse’s pediatrician – whose role cannot be understated – recently retired. Anita identified this, along with some other changes to local social service delivery, as a challenge.
  • Respite for families is crucial. The Cleggs benefited from the generosity and support of their friend. Unfortunately, Anita shares that funding for organized respite and semi-independent housing for young adults with disabilities is being spread thinner and thinner.
  • Jesse’s new work life is a fine example of how integration has made a huge difference for him. This hasn’t always been the case. As Jesse made his way through the school system, the Cleggs experienced both integration and segregation, often changing based on policy and funding. They chose to home-school Jesse for a period of time when the school system was unable to meet his needs.

What does this boil down to for Anita Clegg?

“Smithers is a wonderful place and an amazingly generous community. My son knows way more people than I do,” she laughed, “and people watch out for him. There are just a few missing pieces, especially for some of the day-to-day, nitty-gritty challenges of raising a child with a disability.”

Concepts like healthy and inclusive communities can be hard to define, but in Jesse’s case, they are clear and their impact is profound. It’s the friend offering respite, the welcoming bowling team, and the local business eager to offer him work.


This article first appeared in Healthier You magazine. Find the original story and lots of other information about accessibility in the Fall 2016 issue:

 

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.)

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Bringing out the best: Breastfeeding, the World Health Organization and Quesnel

Mothers seated on couch breastfeeding infants.

Breastfeeding moms and babies at Quesnel Quintessence Breastfeeding Challenge in October 2015.

Living in one of northern B.C.’s smaller communities, you may not expect to be able to access globally-recognized, high quality training opportunities for free, right on your own doorstep. Yet this is exactly what a very successful initiative in Quesnel has been able to do.

The Baby Friendly Advisory Committee (BFAC) worked to successfully increase rates of initiation for breastfeeding at GR Baker Memorial Hospital in Quesnel. They recently widened their focus to increasing breastfeeding duration support in the community.

Benefits of breastfeeding

The benefits of breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of life are well researched, with numerous health benefits for mother and baby. The goal is to increase the number of babies who are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life (as recommended by Health Canada). Exclusive means that they receive nothing but breast milk until they are six months old (i.e., no solid foods, no water or breast milk substitutes) unless it is medically necessary. In order to meet this goal, the Baby Friendly Advisory Committee felt it was important to engage the community to support breastfeeding mothers. So, in November 2015, they offered a three day training using the World Health Organization breastfeeding course –a required course for every maternity nurse.

Breastfeeding course

The three day course was held at the Quesnel & District Child Development Centre –a child-friendly space. “The room had couches and tables and a kitchen for the participants – which included five breastfeeding moms as well as eight interested service providers,” says Bev Barr, Pregnancy Outreach Program Coordinator and BFAC co-chair, who was tasked with coordinating this initiative. “It was originally planned for April but we decided to postpone until November and commit to advertising and promotion.”

The group was determined to address potential barriers that are unique to breastfeeding moms. The final plan, in order to make the training accessible, included making the course free, choosing a location with free parking, making sure healthy lunches and refreshments were provided and – of most importance – ensuring child care arrangements for breastfeeding moms were in place. As a result, the final group included five breastfeeding moms among the attendees. “We all learned about breastfeeding while holding babies.”

“We had no idea how this would go,” says Bev, “and I was incredibly overwhelmed at how positive the response was, especially during that first day because of the high level of technical information. That day is very medically-focused, covering the physiology of breastfeeding, the nutritional composition of breast milk, and the health benefits to mother and baby. The next two days look at more practical issues and problem solving. The participants loved it all! At the end of the first day, they were talking about how much they hadn’t known and how much more they wanted to know.”

“What we have now is a well-informed and knowledgeable cohort who can support success in initiation and duration of exclusive breastfeeding in the community. Already we have heard three service providers say they are using the information in every visit. The course, in some ways, is bringing back networks of breastfeeding support that used to exist in many families and communities. It’s vital we have this capacity and knowledge in the community.”

Breastfeeding mother

Breastfeeding course participant Dawn Giesbrecht feeds baby Oliver.

Population health approach

It strikes me, as I reflect on my conversation with Bev, that this small, impactful project exemplifies some of the most important principles of Northern Health’s population health approach. The population health approach argues we need to get “upstream” on the river of diseases and causes of poor health in northern B.C. That is, addressing risk factors before they cause ill health is preferable to treating symptoms later on.

What are the principles shown by the BFAC project?

Do it right, not fast was obvious in the decision to wait and build readiness and interest in the audience group. Share what you have to offer and let the group do the work was evident in the willingness to offer a top-flight training opportunity and trust the group to rise to the occasion.

Understanding and addressing the specific barriers to participation that are unique to the group is also key. In this case, providing food, free parking, comfy chairs and a willingness to have babies in the room addressed a set of barriers that can exclude nursing mothers. Capitalizing on the passion and knowledge professionals can bring was also prominent in this work.

Partnership and collaboration were integral. In Quesnel, Northern Health was present in the room with professional expertise and insights and with concrete supports that addressed barriers to participation. At same time, Northern Health was sitting alongside its community members, learning with the community. Learning together is a way to build strong relationships and new connections that strengthen capacity to address issues of local importance.

Underscoring this, of course, is the passionate commitment of the working group who have dedicated years of service to supporting breastfeeding best practices in Quesnel. The BFAC is collaborative and includes representation from a number of individuals and groups. These torchbearers have lit a fire under the participants. The only request of participants was that they would commit to sharing their new knowledge and implement it in their own personal and professional circles. Many are now inspired and seeking additional training because of this opportunity.

The enthusiastic response of the participants to the training and their willingness to work with the new knowledge has given Quesnel a new and strong cadre of breastfeeding champions. The project also points the way to success. In a quiet and unassuming way, Northern Health professionals showed that partnership and population health are important parts of the good work in and by community to improve the health of northerners.


  • Do you have a breastfeeding story or experience to share? Tell us what breastfeeding means to you, your family, and your community by entering Northern Health’s World Breastfeeding Week contest before October 7!
  • This work was supported in part by an IMAGINE Community Grant. IMAGINE 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.
  • Read more IMAGINE Community Grant stories.
  • This article first appeared in Healthier You magazine. Find the original story in the Spring 2016 issue:

Theresa Healy

About Theresa Healy

Theresa is the regional manager for healthy community development with Northern Health’s population health team and is passionate about the capacity of individuals, families and communities across northern B.C. to be partners in health and wellness. As part of her own health and wellness plan, she has taken up running and, more recently, weight lifting. She is also a “new-bee” bee-keeper and a devoted new grandmother. Theresa is an avid historian, writer and researcher who also holds an adjunct appointment at UNBC that allows her to pursue her other passionate love – teaching.

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