Healthy Living in the North

Adulting 101: Walking safely in winter

Haylee waiting to cross a street with a reflective item on her bag.

Sometimes it’s good to get a refresher on how to “adult” and do the basics – such as walking safely! For those of you not familiar with the term adulting, the Oxford dictionary says it’s “the practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks.”

For most of us, walking is a necessary task – but what does that mean in the winter time? Along with snowflakes and shoveling, it means darker days and less visibility when out walking or driving. Did you know that nearly half (43%) of all crashes with pedestrians happen in the fall and winter as conditions get worse?

As someone who walks to work, this fact really struck a chord with me. Was I doing everything I could to make sure I was walking safely to and from work? I was able to get some road safety advice from ICBC that I want to share with you. Here are their five tips for walking safer in winter.

Five tips for walking safely in winter:

  1. Be careful at intersections – watch for drivers turning left or right through the crosswalk. I always check before I cross. Drivers may be focused on oncoming traffic and not see you. I’ve had close calls as both a pedestrian and a driver so be safe and check before you cross!
  2. Don’t jaywalk – I know it’s tempting but always use crosswalks and follow the pedestrian signs and traffic signals. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
  3. Make eye contact with drivers, as it’s hard to see pedestrians when visibility is poor in fall and winter. I go by this rule when crossing the street: if I can’t see the driver’s eyeballs, I don’t cross! Never assume that a driver has seen you.
  4. Remove your headphones and take a break from your phone while crossing the road. One thing I love about walking to work is that it gives me time to listen to a podcast or some good tunes. That said, it’s important to be aware of what’s going on around you, especially when crossing the street! Unplug and pay attention when you cross!
  5. Be as reflective as possible to make it easier for drivers to see you in wet weather, at dusk, and at night. On dark walks home, I wear blinking lights (I attach bike lights to my satchel!) and wear reflective accessories so drivers can see me.

What do you do to make sure you’re “adulting” well and walking safely in dark conditions? Leave your tips in the comments below! Stay safe and happy walking!

Haylee Seiter

About Haylee Seiter

A Northerner since childhood, Haylee has grown up in Prince George and recently completed her Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Northern British Columbia. During university Haylee found her passion for health promotion while volunteering heavily with the Canadian Cancer Society and was also involved with the UNBC JDC West team, bringing home gold as part of the Marketing team in 2016. Joining the communications team as an advisor for population and public health has been a dream come true for her. When she is not dreaming up marketing and communications strategies, she can be found cycling with the Wheelin Warriors or enjoying a glass of wine with friends. (NH Blog Admin)

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Poison prevention: can you spot the difference?

Take a look at this photo.

side by side comparison of nicotine and chewing gum.

Can you spot the difference between these two types of gum? Hint: one is safe for school-aged children, one is not.

Stumped? The gum on the left is chewing gum and the gum on the right is nicotine gum. Easy to tell the difference right? For an adult, yes. Now put yourself in the shoes of a toddler. Easy to confuse the two, isn’t it?

I’m sharing this photo (and others below) to bring awareness to Poison Prevention Week, which falls on March 18 – 24 this year. Poisoning can happen at any age; however, children are at particular risk of injury. Looking at the photo above, it’s easy to see why! Children between the ages of 1 and 3 years are at the highest risk because of the way they explore the world around them. What do toddlers do best? Put things in their mouth! They like to taste test everything!

That said, the risk of poisoning is not limited to toddlers. I have a 6 year old, who, despite my best efforts, still absentmindedly licks many items not fit to eat! Ick!

The good thing is that this reminds me that even as my children age, I need to remain watchful and always keep medications out of sight and out of reach. Generally, as parents, we do a really good job of creating safe spaces and home environments, but we can’t control everything. Visiting guests with purses or toiletry bags, or new unfamiliar spaces are a part of life and sometimes kids just can’t recognize the risk. The good news is that poisoning is preventable.

Spot the difference: poison prevention edition

Take a look at the following products. Can you spot the difference? Take a guess and share with a friend. Poison Prevention Week is a great opportunity to remind ourselves how mistakes can happen.

Nicotine chewing gum comparison.

Skittles coated medication comparison.

Chocolate laxative medication comparison.

Juice and medication comparison.

Toothpaste medicinal creme comparison.

Medications remain the leading cause of poisoning in children

Follow the recommended practice of storing medications in their original packages; in child resistant containers; and out of sight and reach of children. Keeping these practices in mind, we can significantly reduce the risk of accidental poisoning, however there may come a time when you find yourself calling the BC Poison Control Centre. The phone lines are answered 24 hours a day and offer services in 150 different languages.

When to call the BC Poison Control Centre

If a person is unconscious, having convulsions or having trouble breathing, call 9-1-1. This is an emergency.

If the person you are concerned about is awake, call BC Poison Control right away 1-800-567-8911.

Have the following information ready:

  • The details of the substance (medication, plants, cleaners, or other) that you are concerned about
  • The estimated amount taken, inhaled, or spilled on the skin
  • When the incident happened
  • The age and approximate weight of the person affected
  • How is the person doing now
  • The telephone number you are calling from

What you can expect from the BC Poison control centre:

  • A poison specialist who is a specially trained nurse or pharmacist will answer your call.
  • You will be advised if you need to go to the emergency department of if you can watch the person at home.
  • You may be given first aid instructions.
  • If the person can be watched at home, the poison specialist will advise you what to watch for, and in some cases, may call you back later to see how the person is doing.

Children act fast…. so do poisons. If you think someone may be at risk for poisoning, don’t hesitate to call.

Amy Da Costa

About Amy Da Costa

Amy Da Costa has worked in Public Health for 12 years. She recently joined the Population Health team as a part-time Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention. Amy lives in Kitimat with her husband and two children. They like to camp, swim, and cook as a family.

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Snowshoeing, skating, and safety: the perfect winter day

Last December, my family could not wait for our vacation to start so we could enjoy full days of outdoor activities together! One of my fondest memories was a day we went with a big group of friends to snowshoe on a local lake (this was a year we were fortunate to have temperatures that made the ice more than thick enough for skating parties and games). Wondering how thick the ice should be? Check out the Canadian Red Cross ice safety recommendations!

We filled our backpacks with a picnic and all the gear to go skating on the very frozen lake. The kids were thrilled to swap out snowshoes and backpacks for skates and hockey sticks. They quickly organized themselves into teams and started working up a sweat. The mothers snowshoed laps around them, ever watchful that nobody decided to venture off into the woods.

boy playing hockey on frozen lake

My son taking a shot on the frozen ice!

What struck me was that the kids did not need to be reminded to wear a helmet on the ice, or how to play the game safely. It’s just second nature now to wear the gear and play safe. This made preventing injuries that day effortless. Should there have been a fall on the ice, a couple of us had taken the Concussion Awareness Training Tool that is free online for parents. Just one less thing to be concerned about so we could fully enjoy the day.

Before we snowshoed out, we built a fire on shore to warm our hands and share our potluck-style meal, complete with warm thermoses of tea and hot chocolate. It was a wonderful day in the snow. We all left with cold toes and warm hearts… I can’t wait to do it all over again this winter!

For more information on how to keep your loved ones safe while enjoying all that northern BC winters have to offer, visit:

Natasha Thorne

About Natasha Thorne

After many years in southern B.C., Natasha was drawn back to her hometown of Prince George in 2006 by the lure of extended family, sub-boreal forests, and raising her babes exploring the backwoods of her own childhood. Whether nose in a book or in real life, Natasha is an aspiring world traveller planning overseas vacations so she and her husband can give their two children a wider perspective of living in today's global community. As the full time Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention for Northern Health, Natasha is committed to the north and is passionate about supporting the health and well-being of northerners.

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Sit less and move more for a healthier workplace

In honour of Healthy Workplace Month, I want to encourage you to take a good look at your workplace. So, what does a healthy workplace look or feel like? It could include things like:

  • The physical environment being set up to support movement, interaction, and activity.
    • Meeting spaces that are conducive to standing and stretching.
    • Bicycle storage and changing/showering facilities.
    • Sit/stand workstations in offices.
  • The social environment and workplace culture making employees feel valued and supported to pursue wellness inside and outside of work.
    • Flexibility in schedules.
    • Lunch or coffee time walking groups.
    • Workplace wellness challenges and incentives.
    • Access to programs and activities onsite, nearby, and/or at discounted rates.

Why is it important to foster and support employees to be healthy? Healthier employees tend to display:

  • Improved productivity.
  • Increased job satisfaction.
  • Decreased absenteeism (sick time, injuries, recovery time, etc.).

We know that, in theory, moving more and sitting less is better for you; however, today’s culture of convenience and constantly advancing technology has, in many cases, removed the need for physical movement at work and during leisure time. We literally only need to lift a finger (okay, maybe a few fingers) to connect with a colleague via email; that the colleague is sitting mere steps away rarely stops us from taking the “instant” route. We petition to have office printers moved closer to our desks in the name of increased efficiency and time savings when, in reality, we should be moving them further away to allow for more frequent breaks from sitting and staring at screens.

According to the latest Canadian Health Measures Survey, approximately one in five Canadian adults are meeting the current physical activity guidelines. Considering over sixty percent of British Columbians are members of the workforce, and most workers are spending a great deal of their waking hours either at or getting to and from their jobs, doesn’t it just make sense to target the workplace when looking to increase physical activity and overall wellness?

Even those who are managing to achieve the recommended amount of physical activity outside of their working hours are not immune to the health risks associated with excess sitting while at work.

Workplace wellness sometimes means stepping out of the office!

What can you do to help make your workplace healthier? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • The next time you organize or attend a meeting, why not either suggest a walking meeting?
  • If a walking meeting isn’t possible, start the meeting off by giving (or seeking) permission for all attendees to feel free to stand, stretch, and/or move around the room as they feel the need. Many people don’t feel comfortable to do this for fear of appearing disrespectful or distracted, when in reality it will likely lead to improved attention and focus.
  • Request or initiate wellness programs (check out ParticipACTION’s) and/or activities with your colleagues (i.e. walks during your breaks, organize or sign up for corporate recreation/sport teams or events, activity challenges, etc.). For extra fun and competition, open up your challenge to other workplaces.

Being active is usually far more fun with others, so don’t disregard the value of camaraderie and social support networks as you strive to make your workplace healthier. Having positive influences and relationships make going to work a far more enjoyable and rewarding experience, and I guarantee the benefits will extend far beyond your workday.

Send us photos of your workplace wellness activities; we’d love to see what makes your workplace a healthy one!

For inspiration to get going, check out this Healthy Activity Ideas List from the Healthy Workplace Month website.

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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Everyday superheroes make the difference!

Mickey Mouse pin

“While it is great to see famous characters using the gear and demonstrating safe behaviours, we only need to look at the people around us, in our own homes and communities, to realize who the real famous people are in our children’s lives.”

Recently, I saw a pin with Mickey Mouse skateboarding. Visible on this tiny pin, Mickey had all the safety gear: knee pads, elbow pads, and, most importantly, a helmet. Even Mickey Mouse knows injuries are preventable!

This year’s Safe Kids Week, celebrated June 5-11, focuses on promoting safe and active transportation: walking, biking, and wheeling (which includes skateboarding, scootering, and other wheeled activities). The campaign, called “Everyday Superhero”, got me thinking about that Mickey Mouse pin.

While it is great to see famous characters using the gear and demonstrating safe behaviours, we only need to look at the people around us, in our own homes and communities, to realize who the real famous people are in our children’s lives.

Studies tell us that parents, aunties, uncles, friends, and neighbours have a far greater influence on the safety behaviours of our children. These are the everyday superheroes who can make a difference!

You won’t catch Mickey Mouse without a helmet, and Goofy doesn’t text and cross the street, but do you?

  • Do you always wear a helmet?
  • Do you put your phone away when walking or crossing the street?
  • Do you wear the right safety gear for the wheeled activity?

Join Northern Health and participate in Safe Kids Week. Our capes are invisible, but we are all everyday superheroes to the kids in our lives.

Parachute Safe Kids Week banner

Amy Da Costa

About Amy Da Costa

Amy Da Costa has worked in Public Health for 12 years. She recently joined the Population Health team as a part-time Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention. Amy lives in Kitimat with her husband and two children. They like to camp, swim, and cook as a family.

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Learning from Nana: Making small changes to prevent falls and stay independent

Old photograph of a woman.

Amy’s Nana taught her some valuable lessons on healthy aging and staying independent.

At 90 years old, my Nana still splashed her face 10 times each morning with cold water – a tip she once read in a fashion magazine from celebrity Marilyn Monroe to keep the skin free of wrinkles. After this morning splash, Nana would dress and prepare to leave the retirement home for ice cream with her boyfriend (the only eligible bachelor in the facility who still held a valid driver’s licence).

While the story is endearing, it also shares a valuable lesson about aging: none of us ever believe we really do age. We may believe we gain wisdom or earn some much-needed free time through retirement, but it is hard for any of us to imagine the physical changes to our body that lead to a loss of independence. Even at 90, Nana did not compromise her lifestyle. She and the family just found ways to manage some of the risks that accompany aging.

Change is hard at any age so it is important to plan for it.

This year, BC Seniors Falls Prevention Awareness Week is November 7-13. Falls pose the greatest risk of injury and hospitalization to adults over age 65. I want everyone to know there are things you can do to reduce the risk and maintain your independence.

FindingBalanceBC has 4 protective factors that can reduce the risk of falls:

#1: Exercise

  • The more you move, the more your body can support changes in balance.

#2: Annual vision testing

  • Yearly vision testing is covered by MSP for those people over age 65.

#3: Home safety evaluation

  • Keeping your independence is often a matter of making small changes at home. Think handrails, grab bars, walking aids, better lighting, etc.

#4: Medication review

  • Be sure to keep a current list of all medications you take to share with your health care providers.

We all have a role to play when it comes to the safety of our loved ones. When Nana’s boyfriend was no longer able to drive, for example, she just called us to take the two of them for ice cream! Even children can help by taking a safety superhero challenge!

What’s the saying? “It is not the years in our lives, but the life in our years that matter” (Abraham Lincoln)

Plan to make the small changes needed to stay injury free and independent for the longest possible time!

Amy Da Costa

About Amy Da Costa

Amy Da Costa has worked in Public Health for 12 years. She recently joined the Population Health team as a part-time Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention. Amy lives in Kitimat with her husband and two children. They like to camp, swim, and cook as a family.

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Safe driving: Expecting the unexpected every day of the year

Halloween decorations

The scary part about Halloween isn’t the ghosts and goblins, it’s that we might only be aware of pedestrian safety on this one day a year.

“Drive like it’s Halloween every night”

This was the name of the Parachute Canada & FedEx media release for Halloween safety in 2013. It is still a great message today.

In B.C., there are an average of 2,400 pedestrians injured and 58 killed in crashes every year. So while it’s a great reminder to be cautious on Halloween when we expect to see more children outside, safe driving is a habit, not a once a year trick-or-treat event. Safe driving is about expecting the unexpected on the other 364 days of the year.

Drivers every day, everywhere can:

  • Reduce distractions
  • Reduce speeds
  • Share the road

Children on Halloween night can:

  • Walk facing traffic
  • Walk down one side of the street then the other – don’t dart back and forth
  • Wear face paint instead of a mask

The scary part about Halloween isn’t the ghosts and goblins, it’s that we might only be aware of pedestrian safety on this one day a year.

Join Northern Health to make safe driving a habit. And this Halloween, make your costume stand out – dress to be seen both on and off the roads.

Amy Da Costa

About Amy Da Costa

Amy Da Costa has worked in Public Health for 12 years. She recently joined the Population Health team as a part-time Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention. Amy lives in Kitimat with her husband and two children. They like to camp, swim, and cook as a family.

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Preventing injury with IMAGINE grants

This article was co-authored by Mandy Levesque and Denise Foucher.


Students touching jello brain

What would an injury prevention project look like in your community?

With the recent launch of the IMAGINE Community Grants offering funding up to $5,000, the time is right to take action to promote health and improve the well-being of our northern residents.

Injury prevention is one of the health promotion priorities we want to see as a project focus when the grant applications come in (deadline is October 31, 2016) and is definitely one way to ensure northern residents can stay healthy.

What injury prevention project idea would benefit your community?

Did you know that most injuries are preventable? Injuries are not “accidents.” They happen in similar, predictable patterns and as many as 90% of injuries can be prevented.

In B.C., preventable injuries that happen:

  • On the road,
  • From falling,
  • In or near water, and
  • From ATVs

are among the leading causes of death and hospitalization across all age groups. Those numbers are even higher among northern B.C. residents.

So, what does an injury prevention focused IMAGINE grant application actually look like?

Longboarders

IMAGINE in Prince Rupert supported safe longboarding. What types of injury prevention needs are there where you live?

Get inspired by these great ideas:

Water safety:

  • Host teen water safety swim nights at the local pool
  • Organize a Life Jacket Fashion Show

Falls prevention:

  • Get the gear for floor curling in community centres
  • Promote sidewalk safety in slippery winter conditions (e.g., install boxes with sand/grit and scoops) (more on falls prevention from FindingBalanceBC.ca)

Road safety:

  • Conduct a walkability assessment and look to make changes for safety (more on walkability from WalkBC.ca and HASTe)

Mental wellness:

IMAGINE grants support partnerships and build capacity, and create an opportunity to build lasting change in your community. Get your exciting injury prevention project applications in by October 31, 2016.

Injury prevention infographic


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.

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.

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So Long Summer (But it’s not all that bad!)

Creek

The view along Kleanza Creek hiking trail near Terrace, B.C.

I have to admit. I’m a fall kind of guy. Sure, the dog days of summer are good, but growing up in Revelstoke, BC, I always looked forward to the mountains getting a fresh dusting of snow and the Kokanee spawning in the local creeks. Some of my fondest memories are hiking through the woods on a crisp fall morning with a couple friends.

I’m sure that many people living in northern British Columbia share a similar memory.

Now, I know this can be a busy time of year, school has started and there’s still a few projects around the house to finish up before winter gets here. However, why not spare some time to explore your local waking and hiking trails. The days are cooler and hints of color are starting to show in the trees. Salmon are spawning and there’s still abundant wildlife to be seen. Northern British Columbia has a lot of diversity and the outdoors can be spectacular this time of year.

Hiking may be a popular summertime activity, but there’s no reason why it can’t be enjoyed through the fall and into the early winter. Eventually hiking can become snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, but that’s another blog post.

However, there are some things to consider before heading out on your favorite trail.

  • Always let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to return.
  • Northern BC is bear country. Be bear aware, especially if you’re in an area where salmon are spawning.
  • Remember that the days are getting shorter this time of year. Make sure you take that into account when planning your hikes so you can be off the trail before it gets dark
  • Be prepared. While the days might still be warm and pleasant, nights are getting cooler. Pack some warm clothing, an emergency blanket, flashlight, signalling device and fire starter with you.
  • Hunting season is underway, be aware that hunters may be sharing the outdoors with you.
  • Take your camera or smartphone; this time of year can be great for photos.

One of my fondest memories from growing up in Revelstoke was watching the snowline on the mountains get lower and lower as fall waned and winter approached. When it was about halfway half way down the mountains, a few friends and I would go hiking and meet the snow. It became a fall ritual.

20160922-reg-hiking-1

This is an old picture from waaay back on one of those trips to reach the snow!!! Taken at Mt. Revelstoke National Park.

To be honest I still watch the snow creeping down the mountains here in Terrace. I still laugh at an old memory of a snowball fight that pitted my friends Richard and Ken against me and another friend on one of those hikes. What sticks out most from that day was Richard nailing Ken at point blank range with a snowball that was actually meant for Jim or I. But I guess you had to be there!

Go ahead, get out there and embrace fall in northern British Columbia. You just might create some wonderful new memories with your friends and family.

Northern Health is sponsoring a great way to get to know (or share!) your community’s healthy features – The Great Northern Scavenger Hunt! Answering clues gets you out in your community and a chance to win great prizes.

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

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

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Concussion: There’s an app for that!

I’m sure many of us know someone who has suffered a concussion, or been unfortunate enough to experience one personally. I know several of my friends have been diagnosed with a concussion in the last few months alone.

Concussions don’t just happen in major car crashes and extreme hockey hits. A concussion is any blow to the body or head that causes the brain to move around inside the skull. This could be caused by a seemingly minor fall or hit, even where you don’t lose consciousness at all.

There are several red flag symptoms to watch for if you suspect a concussion. If you see any of the following symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Red flag symptoms of concussion

  • Neck pain
  • Increased confusion or irritability
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Seizure or convulsion
  • Weakness in arms/legs
  • Tingling or burning in arms/legs
  • Deteriorating consciousness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Severe or increasing headache
  • Unusual behaviour change
  • Double vision

App graphic

Concussion Ed is available in the Apple App Store as well as Google Play for Android devices. Concussion Ed is also available via a web-based version for Blackberry and Windows users.

If you or your child has been diagnosed with a concussion, physical and mental rest are important in making a full recovery. Parachute Canada has made learning about concussions and tracking healing easy with their new app, Concussion Ed.

Why download a concussion app?

Parachute Canada cautions:

the real dangers of most concussions occur when the injury is not recognized or is managed incorrectly. Returning to activities too early can put a child at increased risk for future concussions and serious complications.

The Concussion Ed app is designed to provide easy-to-follow information geared towards parents, youth, and educators. Concussion Ed can be used for anyone caring for a child who is suspected of having or recovering from a concussion. This app provides a format to share information with your health care provider to ensure the best care and recovery.

Concussion Ed features

  • Ways to prevent concussions
  • Recognize a concussion
  • Manage symptoms after a concussion
  • Track your recovery

Concussion facts

  • Concussions do not always include a loss of consciousness.
  • Helmets do not protect against concussions, but do protect from skull fractures.
  • A hit to the body can cause a concussion, even if the head was not hit.
  • The signs and symptoms of a concussion can be delayed up to weeks post injury.

Watch Concussion 101: A Primer for Kids and Parents then download Concussion Ed to learn more!

Natasha Thorne

About Natasha Thorne

After many years in southern B.C., Natasha was drawn back to her hometown of Prince George in 2006 by the lure of extended family, sub-boreal forests, and raising her babes exploring the backwoods of her own childhood. Whether nose in a book or in real life, Natasha is an aspiring world traveller planning overseas vacations so she and her husband can give their two children a wider perspective of living in today's global community. As the full time Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention for Northern Health, Natasha is committed to the north and is passionate about supporting the health and well-being of northerners.

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