Northern Health has published the results of its community consultation that took place across northern BC last year. Growing Up Healthy in Northern BC focuses on the experiences of parents and children in communities across the Northern Health region.
In-person sessions were held in 16 communities in May and June, 2016 – a total of 275 people attended. ThoughtExchange also offered an option for people to provide feedback and rank priorities online. Nearly 600 people participated.
Participants want to see more supports for mental health and substance abuse available in their communities, along with health services in general. The report says there is an “acute need” for timely access to mental health services, addictions services and social workers in northern communities.
Concerns about poverty stood out as a big issue across the region, impacting everything from housing to nutrition to access to transportation. It means parents are sometimes unable to afford to enroll their kids in sports and culture activities and restricts their involvement in their child’s education.
Dr. Sandra Allison is Northern Health’s Chief Medical Officer. She says it can be easy to get bogged down in the shortfalls but looking at the bright spots is a more proactive approach.
“We can actually look at the deficit and say and we have all these strengths. So how do we take these strength, whether it’s culture, whether it’s community connectivity, the whole idea about all that access to great outdoors that we have – how do we take those strengths and use them to translate into different mitigating strategies.”
One of Northern Health’s stated goals in this report is to increase collaboration between communities so that those who are struggling get access to strategies that other, similar communities are deploying successfully.
A specific area identified as needing improvement is health supports and services for young families.
“Stresses in the north related to either functional single parents families where the father is working away at a camp or even just moms struggling to make ends meet, we see that right across the map. So, [we’re] really trying to understand, at our community level, what resources are needed and what resources exist.”
Dr. Allison says communication between residents and health care providers are key to providing better service.
“I just think it’s really important that we have these conversations about children, about families and health in our communities. Often we think about health as going to the doctor but I think of health as starting way before then. Having healthy children and healthy families leads to having healthy adults in the future.”