Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Northern Health Check Up features results of Reports on Child Health in Northern BC

The goal of healthier communities across Northern British Columbia is the focus of a pair of reports from Northern Health that examines how we approach the issue from Haida Gwaii to the Northeast corner of the province.

The main document the Chief Medical Officer's Health Status Report on Child Health considered a number of key influences that impact on children's health in Northern BC.

It was compiled through consultation with residents across the region, with the findings from the report destined to help shape the planning and work with other organizations that serve children and youth across the Northern Health service region.

Dr. Sandra Allison the Chief Medical Health Officer for Northern Health outlined the four key areas that the report was designed to review as they look to improve the health of children across the North.

They include:

Provide an overview of the current state of knowledge on healthy child development in Northern British Columbia.

Make recommendations on how to improve the health of Northern BC children

Foster conversations and stimulate further ideas around how to improve the health of children

Strengthen partnerships with key stakeholders playing a role in the health and well being of Northern BC children and families

The main mission of the report is expressed through the definition of what the authors mean by Child health, an introduction to the theme makes for the opening category of the six elements that are featured through the body of the document.

"For the purposes of this report, we define child health as a state of physical, mental, intellectual, social, and emotional well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, focusing on both the immediate and future lives of children. 

Healthy children live in families, environments, and communities that provide them with the opportunity to reach their fullest developmental potential, satisfy their needs and successfully interact with their biological, social, cultural, and physical environments."

The  44 page report covers a range of material that examines the factors that make a difference to child health in Northern British Columbia, something that Northern Health hopes will set in motion further discussion about the characteristics of Northern Communities in British Columbia that support children and families to be as healthy as they can be.

Included in the review of data is the latest findings of the Child Health Index for Northern British Columbia which places Kitimat and Smithers near the top of the rankings of those communities that are doing better at the delivery of programs that help families.

The results of that index would seem to indicate that there is still a bit of work to be done on the North Coast to bring Prince Rupert and Haida Gwaii closer to those communities at the top of the listings.

Towards delivering that goal of health improvement in the North, the Child Health Report outlines twelve recommendations.

Within Northern Health, develop a program focused on children, youth and families within Northern B.C.

Encourage, promote and highlight collaboration in communities

Strive to achieve high levels of collaboration across sectors

Strengthen the partnership between Northern Health and the First Nations Health Authority

Support communities and families to provide the foundations for early childhood development

Commit to ongoing monitoring of child health and indicators

Within Northern Health, develop a program focused on children, youth and families 

Encourage, promote and highlight collaboration in communities

Strive to achieve high levels of collaboration across sectors

Strengthen the partnership between Northern Health and the First Nations Health Authority

Support communities and families to provide the foundations for early childhood development through education

Commit to ongoing monitoring of child health data and indicators

You can review the full Child Health Report here.

In addition to the Main report, Northern Health is also calling attention to  some of the findings from a companion report called Growing Up Healthy in Northern British Columbia.

That 74 page document features the findings of a number of community engagement sessions across Northern British Columbia, including sessions that were held in Prince Rupert.

The Chief Medical Officer for Northern Health outlined how the findings from the report could be used to spur discussion across the northern region.

 “Communities can learn from each other and the consultation report provides direction and information, and some strengths and weaknesses of communities that can support the work we need to do.”

The North Coast contribution reviews the background from a Public Meeting and a Youth meeting held in Prince Rupert in June of last year.

The Public Community meeting results note that recreation and cultural programs are helpful when it comes to helping youth connect and are important to local goals.

It's in the area of health services where a number of concerns are revealed however, with more support for mental health and addictions considered important.

As well, those that participated made note as to how long wait times for specialists is a concern, as well as the need for more specialized attention towards the need for psychologist services and more autism support to name a few of the notes listed.

Issues related to poverty also received a review, touching on a number of common themes that have made for discussion around the community in the last year.

Poverty could be ameliorated by addressing barriers to parents enlisting their children in activities, offering free bus passes to students in need, funding recreation equipment, providing free preschool with nourishing food, and offering food programs in all schools. 

Healthy food should be less expensive than junk food. Safe, affordable housing is needed, as are subsidies for recreational activities where the cost of equipment is prohibitive for low-income families. Empathy needs to be encouraged about the fact that poverty is not chosen. Children in remote communities need funds for education, and impoverished youth need help getting ID and other important documents.

It was through the the Youth meeting findings however where some fascinating observations take place. With the participants making note of what is working well in the community, but also pointing to a number of areas as to where the adults would appear to be failing the youth of the community.

The list of issues that are raised not only puts the focus on Northern Health, but indicates where some work is required by Prince Rupert City Council, as well as from those institutions that deliver education on the North Coast.

What could be improved in your community to support children and youth to grow up healthy?

Drugs and alcohol are far too easily had, even for young students in the lower grades. Some parks are unsafe because of drugs and dangerous older people. Violence and bullying are a problem in middle school. Poverty makes fees and costumes for some activities too costly. Funds are needed to fix damaged bus shelters and roads. Children could use help with career planning, choosing courses they’ll need for university and finding bursaries for higher education

What are some ways to move forward to build on existing supports, or develop new initiatives to support children and youth?

Poverty, safety and health care are priorities. Jobs are needed, and education to prepare for better paying jobs. Daycare costs need to go down. Streets and trails need to be made safe by dealing with drugs and with wolves coming into town. Hospital wait times must be reduced, more beds are needed, organization could be better, and doctors should be more thorough; people with serious conditions are not willing to be treated locally.

The North Coast overview is found on pages 38 to 41 of the report which you can examine here.

More items related to Health issues across Northwest British Columbia can be found on our archive page.

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