Healthy Living in the North

What is MILK? It’s time to protect, promote, and support maternal & child health!

(Note: co-authored by Sarah Gray, Primary Care Nurse)

As a Lactation Consultant with Northern Health and a new mother, I am deeply passionate about maternal and child health. It’s an honour to support families along their desired feeding journey. I strive to provide evidence-based information that empowers women and their families to make the best decisions. In my work, I keep my personal birthing and feeding journey close to mind. I find it important to connect with families as a fellow parent, as this provides another level of support.

Through an intimate and artistic lens, MILK brings a universal perspective on the politics, commercialization, and controversies surrounding birth and infant feeding over the canvas of stunningly beautiful visuals and poignant voices from around the globe.” (www.milkhood.com, 2017)

The communities of Prince George and Smithers are hosting an exciting opportunity to broaden the exposure of birthing and infant feeding on a global level. I encourage the public to take advantage of the free screenings of MILK: Born into this World. Following the screening, there will be a panel discussion with key community stakeholders to highlight the challenges and opportunities that exist within our communities.

Prince George Screening
Location: Prince George Public Library (Bob Harkins Branch)
Address: 888 Canada Games Way, Prince George, BC V2L 5T6
Date: Thursday, September 21st, 2017
Time: 10:00 am to 1:00 pm
Registration: Drop-in. Limited seating (maximum 100 people)
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/836744646495537

Smithers Screening
Location: Smithers Public Library
Address: 3817 Alfred Avenue, Smithers, BC V0J 2N0
Date: Thursday, September 21st, 2017
Time: 9:00 am to 12:00 pm
Registration: Drop-in. Limited seating (maximum 50 people)
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1401529189924722

This documentary has caught the eye of leaders around the world; our own Mm. Sophie Gregoire Trudeau shares her passion for the MILK documentary and the education it provides. This documentary is not focused solely on the personal stories of mothers; rather it highlights the important roles within the community to support each birthing and feeding journey.

Reflect on your personal experiences of birthing and infant feeding. What challenges come to mind, and how can we come together as a community to provide support to families? With the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations on breastfeeding, as a community, we need to continue to promote the normalcy and importance of breastfeeding.

It’s time to get involved! Attend a screening of MILK and follow MILK on social media!

Facebook: facebook.com/MilkTheFilm
Twitter: @MilkTheFilm
Instagram: @MilkTheFilm

Brittney McCullough

About Brittney McCullough

Brittney, born and raised in Prince George, graduated as a registered nurse in 2012 from UNBC. She completed her Perinatal Specialty Certificate in 2013, and IBCLC in 2017, and maternal and child health has always been her passion. She has recently taken a new role as a Lactation Consultant for Northern Health. She enjoys the northern outdoors and all that it offers, especially spending weekends at the cabin. With her first child born in 2016, her daily life is all about making memories with family and friends.

Share

It takes a community: September 9th is FASD awareness day

This blog was co-authored by Amy Da Costa (Regional Nursing Lead, Injury Prevention) and Stacie Weich (Regional Program Lead, Mental Wellness and Prevention of Substance Harms)


Communities have the opportunity and power to contribute to FASD prevention.

Fall is a time of transition and reflection. September and October in particular offer opportunities to reflect on healthy beginnings, with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) awareness day taking place today on September 9th and Breastfeeding Week coming up in early October. In a recent blog post, I encouraged readers to think about what they could do to grow breastfeeding-friendly communities. Similarly, we all have a role to play in supporting healthy pregnancies.

Years ago, I worked with a group to organize a “community baby shower” for FASD awareness day. The group decided on the slogan, “Support our ladies, protect our babies: alcohol-free pregnancy”. Their words emphasize that individuals, families, and communities all have the opportunity and power to contribute to FASD prevention and to support healthy pregnancies more generally.

Health occurs in communities, in the contexts in which people find themselves. How can these contexts become even more supportive of health? What can communities do to help to prevent FASD? I asked a few of my colleagues in Population Health to share their thoughts on this matter:

  • Let’s build understanding, address myths, and provide clear information:

“FASD crosses all cultural, ethnic, socio-economic, and educational boundaries.”

“50% of pregnancies are unplanned. Women may use alcohol before they know they are pregnant.”

“In any community where there is pregnancy and where there is alcohol consumption, there is a risk of FASD.”

  • Let’s create safe spaces and strong support networks:

“How can our neighbourhood host welcoming spaces and social events where alcohol and other substances are not present?”

“How can our community foster social groups for expectant mothers?

“How can we remove barriers for community members to access food, shelter, and supports for mental and emotional health?”

  • Let’s talk … and listen:

“Let’s assume that all women are doing the best they can today to care for themselves and their growing babies. By setting the stage for open, honest, and judgement-free conversations, we can truly understand what women need from us as partners, friends, communities, and health workers.”

“How can we choose language that supports wellness and decreases stigma around FASD? For examples, see Language Guide: Promoting dignity for those impacted by FASD.”

“How do we open the door to important conversations?”

There’s certainly a lot to think about here! Even a small change can have a big impact. What is one step that our community could take to help prevent FASD?

Learn more about FASD:

More from Northern Health:

Lise Luppens

About Lise Luppens

Lise started her career as a dietitian with Northern Health in 2004 when she moved to Terrace "for a year." More than 10 years later, she is now part of the regional population health registered dietitian team and she continues to love living, working and playing in B.C.'s northwest. Lise enjoys playing outside with her husband and friends and you might find her skiing, biking or kiting. She’s passionate about local food, keeps a garden, enjoys local community-supported agriculture (CSA) and farmers market goodies, and carries out food preservation projects.

Share

Are you a SmartMom?

Becoming a “mama” was the best thing to ever happen to me! As a nurse working in public health, I thought I had all of the knowledge, tools, and skills I needed to be a “smart” mom. I honestly thought it was going to be easy! During my pregnancy, I chose not to attend traditional prenatal classes due to transportation issues. Instead, I sought pregnancy, breastfeeding, labour, and delivery information from a variety of other credible sources including books, videos, websites, and our birth doula. Although I felt prepared, I was lacking a stronger support system that I did not even realize I needed.

pregnant women holding cell phone

SmartMom is a free text-based service that guides soon-to-be mothers through every week of pregnancy. Texts are tailored to their due dates and information is from trusted health sources.

When I returned to work after my maternity leave, I learned about a new prenatal education program that was coming to the north: SmartMom. SmartMom is a prenatal education program that texts evidence-based pregnancy information to women via phone or computer. It is the first program of its kind in Canada! As soon as I learned about SmartMom, I realized that this program would have been so helpful for me and my spouse during my pregnancy!

As my own experience suggests, nowadays, women are choosing to get their prenatal information in a variety of unique ways above and beyond traditional prenatal classes. The texts from SmartMom are meant to complement the prenatal education women are already accessing in their communities through group prenatal classes, one-on-one sessions with a health care provider, or their own research of credible sources. The beautiful thing about SmartMom is that it delivers text messages tailored to a woman’s stage in pregnancy.

How it works

sample of text messages

SmartMom will text you information tailored to your due date via cell phone or computer. To enroll, text “SmartMom” to 12323 or visit www.smartmomcanada.ca

Women sign up to receive text messages with information that can be helpful when discussing concerns with their health care providers, as well as supporting them in making choices about their health. In addition to receiving supportive prenatal information, women also have the option of subscribing to supplemental messages, including topics of specific interest to them: alcohol use in pregnancy, nutrition and exercise, substance and tobacco use, exposure to violence, being an older mom, and information about labouring after a caesarean section. These supplemental streams of messaging can assist women in making choices specific to their health and their pregnancy. The ultimate goal of SmartMom is to have healthier mommies, babies, and families!

SmartMom is available now! There are three ways to sign up:
• Contact a health care provider for information
• Text “SmartMom” to 12323
• Visit www.smartmomcanada.ca

As I came to realize, becoming a”smart” mom is a learning process; it takes time to learn how to be the healthiest version of yourself for your children and your family. A program like SmartMom can really help a new mom increase her knowledge and prepare for the wonderful journey that lies ahead!

Share

The challenge of quitting smoking during pregnancy and staying quit after delivery

Woman smoking beside a field.

Avoiding tobacco use will improve the health of your whole family before, during and after pregnancy.

Want to improve your own health and protect your developing baby from the harmful effects of tobacco and tobacco smoke? Women and their partners who use tobacco during pregnancy are encouraged to quit!

Why quit?

Maternal smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke during pregnancy may increase the risk of miscarriage, preterm birth and early detachment of the placenta. Smoking is also linked to growth restriction during pregnancy and low birth weight. Although a smaller baby may mean an easier labour and delivery, low birth weight is a predictor of decreased newborn health and survival.

After a child is born, infants of women who smoke are three times more likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome. Children who are exposed to second-hand smoke have an increased risk of respiratory problems and increased severity of asthma.

When to quit?

Ideally, women and their partners should quit using tobacco prior to pregnancy but if not, then it is important to quit anytime during pregnancy. Every day is a good day to quit smoking!

Support to help you quit smoking and protect your family

Although tobacco dependence is a complex addiction with many factors that make it difficult to quit, many women have been able to quit during their pregnancy.

Women are aware that smoking is not good for their health or the health of their babies and so many are very motivated to quit. It’s sometimes difficult to quit during pregnancy because:

  • Pregnancy speeds up a woman’s metabolism and she may find that she is smoking even more to relieve her cravings.
  • Pregnancy is sometimes a stressful time.
  • A woman’s social network may use tobacco and she may feel left out.

Understanding these factors may help in the development of plan to quit smoking.

Many women wonder if they can use nicotine replacement therapy such as the nicotine patch, gum, lozenge or inhalers when they are pregnant. Opinions vary on the use of these products in pregnancy so women should discuss the use of these products with their physician or pharmacist. Intermittent dosing of nicotine replacement therapies such as lozenges, gum or inhaler are preferred over continuous dosing of the patch.

It is likely that nicotine replacement therapy is safer than cigarette smoking as the mother and baby are only exposed to nicotine and none of the other 8,000+ chemicals in cigarette smoke. If you use nicotine replacement therapy instead of smoking cigarettes, the mother and baby are not exposed to the carbon monoxide that reduces oxygen uptake and flow to the developing baby.

Many women are able to quit during their pregnancy and enjoy the positive health effects that come with quitting. It’s important to plan how to stay quit once the baby is delivered as relapse is common after the baby is born.

For information and free support to help you quit, visit QuitNow, call 1-877-455-2233, or ask your pharmacist about the BC Smoking Cessation Program. Do you or a loved one have a quit story? Share it for your chance to win a Fitbit!

Let’s raise children in tobacco free families!


This article was first published in the Summer 2016 issue of Healthier You magazine. Check out the full issue below!

 

Nancy Viney

About Nancy Viney

Nancy is a registered nurse working in Northern Health’s population health team. She often imagines a day when no one in northern British Columbia suffers from the harmful effects of tobacco. In her time off, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, especially her two little grandchildren! Nancy also enjoys quilting, knitting, crocheting and many other home spun crafts.

Share

Screening & follow-up care to prevent cardiovascular disease in women in Prince Rupert

This article was co-authored by Justine Derksen and Janice Paterson


Doctor in scrubs

Evidence has shown that pregnancy is a great place to evaluate cardiac risk. In Prince Rupert, Dr. Marius Pienaar has developed a screening program and software to identify and support women with cardiovascular risks.

Scientific evidence has shown that pregnancy is a great place to evaluate cardiac risk. In Prince Rupert, Dr. Marius Pienaar, a gynecologist, has developed a screening program and software which uses the data collected during a woman’s pregnancy to assess for cardiovascular risks and to coordinate referral and follow-up to prevent cardiovascular disease.

During the pregnancy, some basic measurements such as blood pressure and weight are recorded and a panel of blood tests are performed, including blood lipids and glucose. This data is then entered into the program to calculate a risk score for future cardiovascular disease. Women with elevated risk are then offered interventions, and their primary care provider is informed of this risk.

We have a golden opportunity to evaluate pregnant women with cardiovascular risk and this should not be missed. -Dr. Marius Pienaar

Dr. Pienaar explains that if a woman has diabetes in pregnancy, she is at a higher risk of having diabetes later in life and should be tested 6 weeks to 6 months after pregnancy. Currently, only about 20% of women are tested after pregnancy. Dr. Pienaar’s new software actively follows his patients and has created a referral and reminder system where every patient can be contacted and given opportunities to attend the North Coast Maternal Health Clinic for evaluation.

Walking in snow with mountain background.

Dr. Pienaar is hoping to make this unique program and software available across the province.

Currently, Dr. Pienaar’s clinic seeks to intervene by providing clinical care to at-risk women as well as offering smoking cessation resources, on-site dietitians and diabetes nurses, and more. 100% of postpartum patients who are screened and are identified as having increased risk are offered the postpartum health clinic visit. The program is expected to increase patient awareness of their own risk of cardiovascular disease and support women to access additional health care services to help reduce their risk.

I am very appreciative of the care and information I received in the North Coast Maternal Health Clinic. This program provided me with valuable information/assessment regarding future health risks. Such insight allows me to intervene early in order to improve my modifiable risk factors and ensure my future health and well-being. -Cherie Harvey-Malthus

The clinic has been a success so far and is very efficient and cost effective. Dr. Pienaar has seen success with this quality improvement project and hopes to make the program and software available across the province. There has already been interest from Fraser Health and the Lower Mainland to emulate the clinic model at other hospitals. This is the first such clinic in B.C. and the first rural clinic in Canada specifically geared to evaluate cardiovascular risk in postpartum patients.

Check out the full version of this article: An Innovative Program in Prince Rupert is Screening and Providing Follow-up Care for Women with Risk for CVD

Justine Derksen

About Justine Derksen

Justine works for Northern Health in Medical Affairs as the Coordinator, Physician Engagement Initiatives in Prince George. Justine loves the north and enjoys the seasonal activities with her husband and adorable Bernese Mountain dog any chance she gets. Justine is currently pursuing her masters of Public Health degree, which she was inspired to pursue through her work with Northern Health. When not at work, Justine enjoys cooking, outdoor recreational activities and crafting.

Share

World Breastfeeding Week: One mom’s story

Child at breast.

With the support of a daycare, one Prince George mom has been able to keep up breastfeeding while balancing work demands. How can you support breastfeeding in your community?

October 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week in Canada. The theme for the week this year is Breastfeeding and Work: Let’s make it work. We all have a role to play in supporting mothers to balance work and family demands. For me, this story of a working mom in Prince George is a great example of how we can support breastfeeding and strike this balance. Many thanks to the mom who shared this story and photo with me:

When I returned to work after my maternity leave, I was committed to finding ways to spend as much time with my son as possible, and to keeping up breastfeeding. So, as I interviewed and visited daycares, one of the most important questions I asked was whether the care provider was open to me visiting on my lunch hour to nurse my son. Both my previous and current daycares were very accommodating by providing us with a quiet and comfortable place to nurse. I’m proud to say that I’ve been spending lunch hours with my son for a full year now! Not only is it best for his healthy physical development, it’s also best to foster our attachment. And it’s a lovely midday break from the stresses and worries of work!

How can you support breastfeeding at home, at work, and in your community?

Stacy Hake

About Stacy Hake

Stacy is the Administrative Assistant for the Perinatal Program. She started with Northern Health at Mental Health & Addiction Services before moving over to the Northeast Medical Health Officer’s office and then onto the Perinatal Program. She lives and works in Fort St. John with her husband, two children and mother-in-law. When not working, she volunteers with her children’s dance/theatre productions and cheers during swimming lessons. (Stacey no longer works with Northern Health, we wish her all the best.)

Share

World Breastfeeding Week: We all have a role to play!

Quote from article.

How can you support breastfeeding in your family, workplace, and community?

Canada celebrates World Breastfeeding Week every year from October 1-7 (check out the Government of B.C.’s proclamation of the week for 2015!). This gives Canadians the chance to acknowledge and promote breastfeeding as an important milestone on the road to lifelong health for both mothers and babies.

The World Health Organization recommends that babies are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life, with continued breastfeeding in addition to complementary foods into and beyond the second year. The longer a baby is breastfed, the greater the health benefits. Unfortunately, many mothers wean their children early and the main reason for this is a lack of support.

We all have a role to play! The journey to successful breastfeeding requires the support of families, health care providers, and other community members. Families can show support by helping with day-to-day tasks so that the new mother can focus her time and attention on feeding her baby. Health care providers can encourage women to breastfeed and assist them to find skilled help if they have concerns. Community gathering places can show that they are welcoming to breastfeeding mothers. Northern Health’s Growing for Gold campaign provides window decals for businesses and facilities to show their support for breastfeeding mothers.

This year’s theme for World Breastfeeding Week is “Breastfeeding and Work: Let’s make it work”. The theme highlights the importance of supporting mothers to balance work and family demands. Workplace support not only helps the mother and family, but benefits employers through higher productivity, greater employee satisfaction and less employee absenteeism as breastfed babies get sick less often. Check out Breastfeeding and Returning to Work and the web-based Breastfeeding Buddy app from HealthyFamiliesBC with tips, tools, and videos to support breastfeeding.

Communities throughout northern B.C. are celebrating World Breastfeeding Week in a variety of ways. Whether you are a breastfeeding mother, a family member, or simply interested in creating a community that is supportive of breastfeeding, I encourage you to acknowledge or join in with the celebrations in your community.

I’ve listed some of these activities below. What’s happening in your community?

  • Prince George: Mayor’s proclamation & Quintessence Breastfeeding Challenge. October 3, 11:00 a.m. at the Northern Interior Health Unit (doors open at 9:30 a.m. for registration).
  • Quesnel: Quintessence Breastfeeding Challenge. October 3, 11:00 a.m. at the Quesnel Child Development Centre (come early to register).
  • Hazelton: Quintessence Breastfeeding Challenge. October 3, 11:00 a.m. at Starting Smart at the Grace Lynn Family Centre (behind Wrinch Memorial Hospital). Door prizes and a light brunch served after the challenge. Arrive at 10:30 a.m. or call ahead to register: 250-842-4608. You can also register and latch on at home, if transportation is difficult.
  • Fort St. John: Quintessence Breastfeeding Challenge. October 3, 11:00 a.m. at Community Bridge (10142 101 Ave). Arrive by 10:45 a.m. to register.
  • Smithers: Breastfeeding Challenge. October 3, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. at Smithers Public Library (3817 Alfred Ave).
Karen Warner

About Karen Warner

Karen is currently working as a Lactation Consultant at UHNBC after a long career with Preventive Public Health. Karen's strong commitment to providing support to breastfeeding families is a result of what she has learned through her work over the years: that a healthy start in life is the first step in the journey to long term well-being. Promoting, supporting and protecting breastfeeding is key to influencing that healthy start. In her leisure time, depending on the season, you will find Karen crafting, gardening, hiking, cross-country skiing or just hanging out enjoying time with her family.

Share