Healthy Living in the North

It’s over: Baseball is breaking up with smokeless tobacco

I remember as a child looking at the bulging cheeks of a baseball player during the World Series. The player was spitting just before he wound up waiting for the pitch. It seemed strange to me that an adult would be allowed to spit this brown liquid in public.

In the past, the use of smokeless or chewing tobacco had been an acceptable activity during baseball games and influenced baseball fans to also use these products.

Everyone knows that smoking is harmful to your health but chewing tobacco is also very harmful. Now professional baseball is helping to prevent the suffering and death from these products.

New York started the ball rolling two years ago when they banned the use of smokeless tobacco at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees and the Houston Astros took the field April 2016 and were the first players to be prohibited by law from using smokeless tobacco for a regular-season game.

It’s amazing to me how quickly Major League Baseball (MLB) has moved forward; now smokeless tobacco is banned in half of major-league stadiums! The MLB has also banned the use of smokeless tobacco for all new major league players.

Players are partnering with the charitable organization “Stand Up to Cancer” by taking a moment of silence to remember their colleagues who have been lost, holding up placards bearing the name of a person battling cancer. They can use their “star power” to fight back against cancer and Big Tobacco.

I love watching baseball and I’m going to a Blue Jay’s game in Toronto this fall. I hope I don’t see any players or fans chewing and spitting. Roger’s stadium is still one of the MLB venues that has not addressed this issue.

Read about the harms of smokeless tobacco at Leave the Pack Behind. To get help quitting tobacco, visit QuitNow.

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.

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National Non Smoking Week: Plan to make 2016 your smoke free year

QuitNow.ca logo

Want to access online support and counselling as part of your plan to quit smoking this year? QuitNow has free services available to support you!

Today is the start of National Non Smoking Week! Many tobacco users use this opportunity to quit smoking. It often takes a few tries to successfully quit smoking. The more you are prepared, the more likely it is that you will succeed.

There are many reasons why people smoke, but 70% of tobacco users want to quit and many wish that they had never started. If you have tried to quit before, think about that experience and recognize what worked and also what made you relapse.

Nicotine is a very addictive substance and causes uncomfortable withdrawal when you go for a period of time without smoking. Smoking is also a learned behaviour that you may associate with certain feelings or activities. It may also be a social activity for some. The addiction is quite complex and unique to each individual.

Because of this, I recommend that you keep a diary of your smoking prior to quitting to identify your triggers and to help you change your behavior to reduce your smoking. Record what you were doing when you decided to smoke and why you feel you need one. You may even find that you reduce the amount you smoke prior to quitting.

Try to write down your goals and how you will achieve them:

  • Are you going to use nicotine replacement therapy or other medications? If so, check out the BC Smoking Cessation Program for free products.
  • Are you going to tell your friends to gain support or are you going to keep it to yourself?
  • Are you going to access online support and counselling through QuitNow services?
  • What is your measure of success? Have you completely quit or cut back? Are you still craving?

Quitting smoking is the best thing you can do for your health. You will feel better, have more money in your pocket and no longer have to worry about quitting!

The BC Smoking Cessation Program is now easier than ever to access. As of January 1, 2016, you can get 12 weeks of free nicotine replacement therapy products (including gum, patches, lozenges, and inhalers) just by visiting any pharmacy in the province. You may also qualify for assistance for other tobacco cessation medications. For more information, visit QuitNow.ca or call HealthLink (8-1-1).

Every day is a good day to quit smoking. Plan to make 2016 your smoke free year!

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.

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Tales from the Man Cave: World No Tobacco Day

A picture of the sun in the sky with the headline World No Tobacco Day and the subheading the sun will still shine tomorrow

Will this sunrise be the one that sees you quit tobacco?

Last year, when writing about World No Tobacco Day, I challenged you to drop the “World” and make it “Your No Tobacco Day” so that you knew exactly who’s in charge of quitting tobacco products.

I’m happy to report that a friend, and a reader of this blog, took up that challenge and successfully quit. My heart is with my friend’s family, with hopes that they may continue to live smoke free for life.

Quitting tobacco is the most difficult of tasks. There are many theories surrounding addiction. Some are brain based, centered on the mind or psyche. Some suggest that vulnerable individuals are more likely to become addicted than “normal” people. Some say we’re all addicted to something. Maybe it’s work, cleanliness, or food. Perhaps it’s control, the internet, or your own beliefs. Some research suggests there is an empty space deep within each of us that needs filling. An abyss, if you like. Others suggest that we self-medicate to reduce the pain of a stressful world.

Personally, I feel that all of these things ring true to some degree and that if you have to be addicted to something, make that one addiction something positive, like exercise. Am I correct? I don’t think it matters.

At an individual level, there is only you and the struggle you face to be free of that which harms you. There is help out there, like nicotine replacement, and informed evidence suggests that using that help improves your chances of quitting.

But, regardless of the help, the battle is yours.

Sure it’s World No Tobacco Day on May 31, but really its world with a small ”w”, your world. I hope you take up the challenge and good luck to you.

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.

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A focus on our people: Stop Smoking Before Surgery

In the latest CEO video blog, Cathy is excited to share Northern Health’s involvement in Stop Smoking Before Surgery – a joint initiative with the BC Cancer Agency and the Canadian Cancer Society. Cathy speaks with Nancy Viney, Dr. Nadine Caron, Jenn Brookes, and Kristen Morey about this initiative that is funded by the Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute.

Cathy Ulrich

About Cathy Ulrich

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

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Tobacco Battles: the difference of a generation

cigarette, tobacco, smoking

Leave that lonely old broken cigarette behind.

Do you know the significance of Friday, January 17th, or Wednesday, January 22nd? If not, you are not alone. These days were “just another day” for many Canadians.

Friday, January 17th marked the 50th anniversary of the United States surgeon general’s report on smoking and health.

What’s the big deal? Today, everyone knows that smoking is addictive and bad for you. That’s the key, though. Today, everyone knows. It was January 17th, 1964 that the US surgeon general first linked cigarette smoking to fatal diseases. (Though, the British made the connection between smoking tobacco and poor health effects in 1956.)

This landmark report started ongoing controversy between (and among) grassroots anti-smoking groups, researchers, policymakers, and the tobacco industry. This is the time when I grew up and faced those parts of growing up that one must face: playing sports, first loves, and increasing independence. With this, came the exposure to the offers of a first drink and a first smoke (swiped from my mom’s pack and led to 31 years of smoking). All the while, the big battles of tobacco were playing in the not too far distance.

The battle of tobacco was one of the backgrounds to my life. Most of the time I was totally unaware of the issues, but every now and then it caught my attention. For example, it surprised me when someone would ask me not to smoke around them, or when I saw or heard the ads for Weedless Wednesday.

Weedless Wednesday the third Wednesday in January when people are asked to give up tobacco use (in all forms) for the day. The idea is that this is a time to reflect on what tobacco use means to you whether you use or don’t use tobacco.

At some point in my lifetime, Weedless Wednesday became part of National Non-Smoking Week. (This year, National Non-Smoking week was January 19-25.) So, what is the bigger picture here? In my lifetime (and I’m not that old), smoking has gone from something that you did just like everyone else to smoking being something that is questioned. (“So, why would you smoke?!”)

While we have made great gains in getting people to quit smoking and using other forms of tobacco, we still have a ways to go. It is something that we can maybe quit all together one day – could you imagine?! It took me 31 years to say to myself (and others) that I have smoked long enough and can stop.

We may have missed those landmark dates for in the world of tobacco, but it’s never too late for you to quit. It doesn’t need to be Weedless Wednesday to stop and think about this. What does tobacco mean to you?

George Wiens

About George Wiens

Now retired, George was a team lead for the population health team in the northeast with a background in tobacco reduction. A long time resident of Dawson Creek, he has a lifelong curiosity about people and their behaviours. This interest carried him to UBC and through a degree in psychology. George enjoys working with people, gardening with his wife, cycling in the snow-free season, and flying kites in the spring breeze. George retired from Northern Health in May 2014.

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Want to quit smoking? Quitnow services can help!

Man chops novelty size cigarette with axe

Give tobacco the axe!

As a health care provider, I have witnessed, firsthand, the devastating effects of tobacco.  I tried smoking as a teen and I’m aware of how easily people can become addicted. Because of my experience with tobacco, I encourage people to quit as soon as possible. There is evidence that people who quit smoking in January are more likely stay quit! A new year and new plans may be the key the motivation!

People quit for many reasons – primarily because it’s the best thing you can do for your health. Although quitting can be difficult, even the most addicted tobacco users have been able to escape this addiction.

Whether you use tobacco yourself, or you care about someone who smokes or chews tobacco, take some time to visit Quitnow and explore this comprehensive website that features information and support to help you quit. You can also access the most up-to-date information; receive personal counselling online, by phone or by text; and join peers and experts on chats and forums. Quitnow offers one-to-one counselling by a “Quit Coach” who will work with you to develop a personalized quit plan. There’s also a 24/7 help line that you can access whenever you need to talk to someone who understands what it’s like to quit smoking.

The website has tools and resources to help you plan your quit strategy and develop a personal attack on your addiction. You will learn more about your addiction by taking the addiction quiz to help you understand why you smoke or chew and increase your motivation to live tobacco free.  There is also a cost calculator that shows the financial cost of smoking and how much more money you will have in your pocket when you quit.

You may want to learn about the medication that can help you quit. Quitnow has information about using the nicotine patch and other nicotine replacement therapies, as well as cessation medication, such as Champix and Zyban. These medications may help you manage withdrawal while you are quitting.

Quitnow has recently added information to support people who are quitting tobacco to prepare for surgery. This information was added to support Northern Health’s Stop Smoking Before Surgery Initiative. Northern Health is working together with BC Cancer Agency and the Canadian Cancer Society to ensure that patient are aware of the benefits of being tobacco free before surgery, such as decreasing complications and infections, and shortening their hospital stay.

Quitnow is operated by the BC Lung Association and supported through grant funding from the BC Ministry of Health, under the Healthy Families BC initiative. You can depend on Quitnow services to provide accurate tobacco cessation information and support.

If you use tobacco, you likely want to quit – maybe not today, but soon. I urge you to consider setting a quit date!

Contact Quitnow services online or call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 to connect with a counsellor.

Remember, you can help support your healthy habits with a $300 GC by entering our photo caption contest.

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.

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Starting something new to replace old habits

Start something new

Starting something new can be as easy as spending more time outdoors with family.

Welcome January or “Janus” as the Romans called it: the door to the New Year. The Romans considered January a time for celebration and a month to consider our fortunes for the coming year. If those fortunes include ending 2014 healthier than we started it, than we will lead richer lives.

Rather than making some half-hearted resolution this year, let’s begin with a plan for the long-term.  Let’s make records and compare them every month to see our progress. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day… or even in a Janus.

It’s cliché, but it speaks to our common wisdom. And like Rome, some of our problems are “one day at a time” deals that force us to climb a mountain, step by resolute step, sometimes falling backwards, other times making great strides forward. That is real life. As the title of this blog suggests, we can add good habits with the hope that they’ll make the old, bad ones simply fall away.

For instance, you can introduce healthier foods into your diet and add an additional activity to your week. Start low and go slow so you don’t overwhelm yourself, but be aware this strategy is no picnic either- you really have to work hard to make small changes. I recommend keeping a record of progress to motivate change.

The best advice I have heard for weight control is to be the healthiest that you can be at any weight. I am not saying throw the scale through the bathroom window – it’s too cold for that! Instead, give yourself a break from it, add an activity to your life and build on that over the coming year till it’s an ingrained habit. Be fitter this year, not smaller.

Another one of those ”one day at a time deals” is tobacco use. There is no known safe level of exposure to tobacco due to the multiplicity of cancer causing chemicals in the smoke and chew. This is where another cliché comes to mind. As Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland, said, ”If at first you don`t succeed, try, try again.” On average, they say it takes at least five attempts to quit tobacco for good. Luckily, there is help in the form of clean nicotine which can help take the edge of the pain. You can add nicotine in the form of a patch or gum, but you must stop using cigarettes or chew. It will still hurt for a while. Cravings will come in the form of waves. Fortunately, unlike waves on a beach, they finally stop happening. The worst cravings are always during the first few weeks and if you can stay smoke free for a year, you are well on your way to breaking free of it completely.

So, to all a good new year, filled with blessings, and ending, for all of us, in a better version of ourselves.

Enter Northern Health’s photo caption contest for you chance to win a $300 gift card to support your healthy goals in 2014.

 

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.

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Tales from the Man Cave: Reducing the risk of stroke

The journey

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” -Lao Tzu

As summer rolls on, it can be difficult to continue finding events to write about, but one topic that will never cease being important is making small changes to your lifestyle that have a big effect on your health!

Heart disease and stroke prevention

The Mayo Clinic recommends five steps to follow which will reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.

  • Quit smoking
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes a day on most days of the week
  • Eat a diet that’s healthy
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Get regular check-ups

Research is good but how do we turn that information into real change in our lives? If you are overweight, smoke and have a bad diet, the road ahead can seem overwhelming and the best advice I can give is from a picture on the wall in my office:

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” -Lao Tzu

Start with one step and add another

At first, the best step might simply be to go to the doctor and have a check-up. Then you have a starting point that can be a valuable place to dictate your next move.

In addition, add some fruit and vegetables to your diet, as well as some extra activity and exercise to your life. For some people this is best done by doing something that makes sense to them such as walking to work.

Stop smoking

If you smoke, there really is no getting around it. You have to stop.

It might help to try and motivate you by telling yourself that you will stop anyway – if you have a heart attack. So it’s best to reduce the risk of that by just stopping now.

Stopping smoking is the one big thing that you can do to help yourself. Nicotine replacement therapy is now available to help the quit and your doctor also can help if you are having a really hard time.

Some research has shown that there might be an advantage to wearing a nicotine patch and reducing your cigarette intake two weeks prior to quitting for good. In this way you are preparing yourself for the quit while actually reducing the level of harmful chemicals and carbon monoxide in the blood.

It might just work for you and, in any case, it’s a step in the right direction!

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.

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Why northern health matters to us

Quesnel Farmer's Market

Farmer’s Markets and local eating are important pieces of community health.

I would like to welcome everyone to Northern Health Matters, an interactive blog aimed at sharing grassroots stories about people, programs and activities going on in the Northern Health region. In Northern BC, we are blessed with a wealth of natural beauty and geography as diverse as the people who live here. Within our region, there are many stories of people working towards positive health outcomes to improve their health and the health of their community; we hope to find as many as we can to share them with you here.

For the past six months, Northern Health has begun developing strategic position papers on key issues affecting people’s health, which we believe can be actively addressed to help improve overall health. These issues include: healthy eating, tobacco cessation, injury prevention, and healthy community development. Northern Health is hoping to begin the conversation about how we can work together with community partners to make health more accessible for everyone who calls the north home. This means aligning with programs and services to promote health during all stages of life.

My hope is that this blog will provide people in the Northern BC area a window into the exciting activities being undertaken by Northern Health staff and our community partners across the region to improve our overall health. We all have a role to play in ensuring that our communities are vibrant and healthy places to live for our families. Join us in this work – share your story, tell us about your successes, and let us know how you showcase the idea that northern health matters.

Dr. Ronald Chapman

About Dr. Ronald Chapman

Ronald Chapman is a physician with a fellowship in community medicine, and extensive experience in the leadership and management of health services with a focus on community health. Dr. Chapman joined the Northern Health team in 2007 as regional director of the Northern Cancer Control Strategy. Dr. Chapman assumed the role of the chief medical health officer of Northern Health in June 2011, and in February 2013, he transitioned to Vice President, Medicine in Northern Health.

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