Healthy Living in the North

Cast away my friend!

Fly rod and ties

For Reg, “Fly fishing is truly an art. It’s the art of reading the water and finding that elusive quarry. It’s the art of picking the right fly and casting it so smoothly that it barely ripples the water’s surface when it lands. However, it all begins with the art of convincing your wife that you need to go fishing.”

I have to admit, the last few weekends have been busy. Between laying flooring, hanging a door, and cutting/installing/painting trim and baseboard, there’s been little time for anything else. Well, not much other than multiple trips to the hardware store and re-hanging the door because the walls aren’t straight and I wasn’t happy the first time around!

But now that I’m finished renovating, I can turn my attention to more important things. It’s time to go fishing!

Now, I’m not talking about fishing from a boat or sitting in a lawn chair beside the Skeena River with your rod in a rod holder. I’m talking about putting on the neoprene waders and getting out fly-fishing.

Have you ever tried it?

Brook trout

A brook trout is one of several fish that you can find in our region’s rivers!

In addition to being fun, fly-fishing has some real health benefits.

  • Fly-fishing is a great way to get some exercise, as you need to move around to do it. As well, there’s the resistance provided by walking in water and weight from wearing a vest filled with gear. Fly-fishing is low impact and provides exercise for your upper body as well as your lower body. Try spending a day fly casting and wading through a stream. I guarantee you’ll feel it at the end of the day!
  • Fly-fishing is a great way to challenge yourself mentally. It takes skill and knowledge to read a stream and find those elusive fish. There’s also a bit of practice needed when it comes to casting a fly rod. But don’t be discouraged! The basics can be learned quickly and after a bit of instruction, you can be out there casting away. To be honest, fly-fishing can be as simple or complicated as you want to make it.
  • Many fly-fishermen also tie their own flies. My stepfather, who was a great fly-fisherman, tied his own flies and built custom fly rods. He even sold enough flies to buy a camper for his truck! If you enjoy being creative, fly-fishing provides many ways to express that creativity. But be warned, it takes a lot of flies to pay for a camper!
  • Fly-fishing is also a great way to reduce the stress in your life. It takes you back to nature and helps you focus on the moment. It can also provide a chance to socialize with other anglers. That said, if solitude is what you prefer, being alone on a beautiful stream is a great place to be.
  • I’m sure you’ve heard that eating fish can be part of a healthy diet, too, as fish are a good source of Omega-3 fats. Why can’t that source be a freshly caught trout or salmon?
Fish in a net

“The best fish stories begin with small fish and big imaginations.”

Now that you’re itching to go fishing, here are a few things to remember:

  1. Always check the regulations and make sure you have the appropriate licences.
  2. Make sure you’re prepared for the weather.
  3. Let someone know where you’re going.
  4. Take the appropriate precautions in bear country.

Northern British Columbia has some great opportunities to catch a variety of fish. Why not give fly-fishing a try? After all, what’s the worst that can happen, other than getting hooked?

Just don’t expect me to tell you where my sweet spots are!

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.


Spreading men’s health across the north!

Two speakers at a conference.

Holly Christian (Northern Health) and Trevor Kehoe (First Nations Health Authority) speak at Men’s Health Works. What can you do to promote men’s health?

When working in an emerging area of health promotion in the north, it can often feel like you’re the lone soldier on the battlefield. The battle we are currently waging is men’s health.

Statistics on the cost of men’s health in Canada released by the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation are startling to say the least and highlight the ongoing need for prevention work.

Northern Health has been a key player in the men’s health movement in Canada, gaining much attention for the cause with the release of the insightful Where are the Men? report. That’s not to say there aren’t other groups working on men’s health in larger centres. There are also groups focused on specific men’s health issues. We’re likely all aware of the Movember phenomenon and many other pockets of prostate cancer work being done.

However, men’s health is complex and involves more than just their testicles. The risks for chronic disease (including sedentary behaviour, obesity, poor diet, stress and smoking) are showing up in all men of all age groups. In fact, there’s never been a better time to come out from behind the 8-ball (pardon the pun) and figure out our next move.

Men’s Health Works

On June 8, 2015, thanks to the Centre for Excellence in Cancer Prevention and the BC Healthy Living Alliance, researchers, health promotion staff and community members came together in Prince George for the Men’s Health Works workshop. It was a great opportunity to showcase, for a northern audience, men’s health work happening across B.C. and beyond!

Men’s Health Works covered topics including men’s health in the workplace, suicide and depression, First Nations men’s health, and a highlight of POWERPLAY and Working on Wellness, two research projects taking place in northern, male-dominated workplaces (to learn more about Working on Wellness, check out the latest issue of A Healthier You magazine!).

The passion for men’s health in the room was evident! The fact that the men’s health message is spreading is a testament to the work of not only researchers and health authorities like Northern Health, but the amazing work of community members who are making men’s health a priority and talking about it at home, work, school, and on the ground!

My key takeaway messages from the workshop were:

  • Women have a huge role to play in the health of men. As mothers, sisters, daughters, spouses, aunties, cousins and friends, they need to encourage and support the men in their lives to prioritize their health.
  • Workplaces are in a unique position to support men’s health in an environment where men spend most of their time. Policies that support health both at work and after work lead to healthier, happier workers.
  • Local champions for men’s health can have a big impact in their communities.
  • Current Canadian research is leading to the development of resources aimed at men that address depression, suicide, and social isolation.

What can you do to help promote men’s health?

Holly Christian

About Holly Christian

Holly Christian is a Regional Lead for Population Health. She has a passion for healthy living and health promotion and is a foodie at heart. Originally from Ontario, she has fully embraced northern living, but enjoys the warmth of the sun and the sound of the ocean. She swims, bikes and runs, and just completed her first marathon.


Excellence in Northern Health nursing: Valerie Waymark & Leslie Murphy

Last week, I had the privilege of introducing you to two Northern Health nurses who received Nursing Excellence Awards from the College of Registered Nurses of British Columbia in 2014. This week, I am excited to share the insights of two more award winners, Valerie Waymark and Leslie Murphy, who shared their thoughts on the award and on working in northern B.C.

Valerie Waymark holding award

Valerie Waymark, regional manager of community care facilities licensing, was one of six Northern Health nurses recognized by the College of Registered Nurses of British Columbia in 2014.

Valerie Waymark, regional manager, community care facilities licensing, Prince George

What does this award mean to you?

This award carried a lot of meaning and poignancy for me. Over 15 years ago, I decided to get more involved in the professional group that was to become the CRNBC. I was elected to the board for two terms. I learned so much over those terms and my position on the board gave me the chance to be involved in past award galas. One year, I pinned corsages onto the award winners; another year, I handed the recipients their roses as they walked onstage. As I was helping out at those galas, I’d often think: “Wouldn’t it be cool to get that award?” And now, over ten years later, I was one of the nurses walking across the stage!

For me, there was so much synchronicity getting this award, this year. This is the last year that the CRNBC will be giving out the awards (the awards are being transferred to the Association of Registered Nurses of BC) so it was really poignant, given my past involvement in the CRNBC, to be part of this final group of CRNBC award recipients. It was also special to see that the awards in 2014 were presented by Rob Calnan, who was the president of the organization during one of my terms on the board. I hadn’t seen Rob since my time on the board so to be recognized by Rob and the CRNBC in the last year that this would be possible was quite special.

The award also feels special because it confirms the values that I hold near and dear. For years, I’ve been persistent about sticking to my personal values related to leadership so to be recognized by my peers feels very validating.

And, sadly, my husband passed away less than two months after the awards ceremony. He was with me for the presentation and I know he was very, very proud. That is a memory I will hold close to my heart for many years to come.

What do you enjoy most about working in northern B.C.?

I have lived and worked all over the place but have been in northern B.C. for about ten years. What I find most distinctive is the opportunity that the region provides – doors open here that may not have opened elsewhere. Also, there are unique circumstances that make the job more challenging and more fun. For me, our region’s uniqueness is proven every time that I sit in on health care discussions with representatives from around the province. Whenever I’m at these meetings, people always seem to ask: “What is the northern perspective?” To me, the reason that this question keeps coming up is because people in the north have, and are not afraid to express, different viewpoints. I value and appreciate those differences.

I also feel like there is a different camaraderie in northern B.C. People here come together unlike any other region I’ve lived and worked in. I am inspired every day by the generosity and compassion of people in the north.

Leslie Murphy holding award

Leslie Murphy, manager of maternal child services, was one of six Northern Health nurses recognized with a CRNBC Nursing Excellence Award in 2014.

Leslie Murphy, manager of maternal child services, Prince George

What does this award mean to you?

It is such an honour to be recognized by your peers! The award was very humbling and, for me, this feeling was driven home at the gala event itself. I kept seeing the other award recipients and wondering how it was that I fit amongst them! I also found it really meaningful to see the letters of support that had been written for my nomination – and even more special to be able to share those letters with my mother, who was very proud. There were letters written by students I had mentored, physicians with whom I have worked, nursing mentors, and peers who have all played such integral parts in my career.

What do you enjoy most about working in northern B.C.?

I have worked with Northern Health in northern B.C. for my entire 22-year career so I can’t really compare it to anything else! What strikes me as special about the north, though, is that despite (and perhaps because of) the huge territory that Northern Health occupies, nurses get to develop strong relationships with others across the region. We share policy, procedures, insights, and experiences. I love getting requests for information and advice from across the province. It seems to me that northern nurses are able to work together despite geography and demographics, which I see as a testament to the spirit of collaboration and teamwork in northern B.C.

What’s more, I get to be a jack-of-all-trades! I love working in small, remote regions and try to encourage students to get a taste of rural nursing, like I had in my career.

In all, six Northern Health nurses won Nursing Excellence Awards: Lisa Cox, Celia Evanson, Linda Keefe, Leslie Murphy, Barb Schuerkamp, and Valerie Waymark. Visit the CRNBC website to read their full bios.

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.)


Tales from the Man Cave: It’s time to slow things down!

Winter road in northern B.C.

It has been a wild winter in northern B.C.! Snow, rain, ice pellets, beautiful sunshine, bitter cold, and more – sometimes in the same week! With so many different conditions changing so quickly, it is important to match your speed to the road conditions! (Picture by Northern Health staff member Shellie O’Brien)

Lately, I’ve noticed that despite the snow and ice we’ve been seeing across the north, people are still driving too fast! It’s time to slow down!

Two years ago on the way to my son’s birthday lunch downtown, I was forced off of the road by two logging trucks. I was behind one of the trucks when the other decided to overtake me on a bend. That truck caused a white-out condition which caused me to lose control and go for a serious spin. I had to write off my van.

Amazingly, the truck drivers were so pressed for time that they never even acknowledged my dilemma and just kept going.

I can tell you that for me and my daughter, this was a very distressing event. I also remember that the slide really felt like it was in slow motion. All we could do was look at each other and pray. Luckily we came to a halt on the centre of the road several metres downhill and walked away from it.

Judging by the speed of the vehicles whizzing past me on icy roads, it seems like we are a people of faith – we really must believe in the ability of our tires to work miracles.

We keep being told to reduce our speed and that speed kills, but no one seems to be listening. Well, perhaps we listen for a week but then it’s rush here and rush there again, with our speed gradually creeping up.

Of course, as the saying goes, I am probably preaching to the choir but sometimes even the choir needs a reminder to stay in tune.

Please keep an eye on your speed to match road conditions. The vehicles in ditches should serve as reminders that the roads are not that good and that our tires may not be the only factor!

Slow down, won’t you! It’s a short life as it is.

Find more winter driving tips at WorkSafeBC.

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.