Growing Up Healthy in Northern BC – Northern Health Releases Report on Needs
(New report details some of the needs in the North to help children on a healthy path Click on image to access full report)
Prince George, B.C. – Poverty remains a significant barrier for children in the north to grow up healthy.
That message was heard loud and clear during the community consultations held in communities across the Northern Health region following the release of Northern Health’s Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Sandra Allison’s report on Child Health last spring.
That report indicated that across most of the region, one in five children lives in low income families, that Northern BC has higher rates of infant mortality, about 33% of Northern children are not emotionally or physically ready to start school, have higher rates of poor oral health and the highest rates of dental surgeries.
(at right, Dr. Allison and Dr. Charles Jago release report – photos 250News)
While participants from each community detailed what is working in their particular communities to give children a healthy start, addressing issues around poverty to meet the basic needs of a child topped the list.
- Adequate housing
- healthy food
- access to recreation and cultural activities
- quality childcare
- full participation in school
- dental care
“If you look at some our centres, Prince Rupert for example, up to 38% of children there are living in poverty” says Dr. Allison ” We need to raise the issue with our partners, and we need to help them understand that without flourishing economies, diverse economies education, all of those other pieces, we’re going to be struggling with poverty for a long time. On an operational level, within Northern Health, we can understand how people are accessing our programs or not and trying to ensure people have equity of access so whether that’s through transportation considerations, or times of day, or access to providers in non traditional ways, we need to make those adjustments so people are accessing health in the way that they can.”
Another over arching theme was improving supports for youth for mental health and substance abuse issues.
“We’ll be working hard to gather all the information we’ve collected through data and quantitative work that I’ve done and the qualitative information that we’ve gathered from the communities on a community by community level” says Dr. Allison. She says the next step will see Northern Health ” Build a maternal, infant, child program that will make a difference in the North”. No easy task , as efforts will have to coordinate with provincial programs and programs that are being offered or planned in each community “It’s a bit of an exercise, but I know we can do it” says Dr. Allison.
Dr. Charles Jago , Chair of the Northern Health’s Board, says it’s hard to predict what kind of reaction the release of this report will generate ” I will give you an example, the report on Men’s Health, it just took off. There were testing centres at conventions and hockey games and so on and so forth. It heightened awareness and a lot of people utilized services that they wouldn’t have otherwise utilized, so part of the process of these reports is to enhance the understanding of the challenges we face, and then frankly, encourage others to rise to the challenge. It’s not just Northern Health , it’s the communities, it’s social service agencies. A better understanding of the issues, will help us find ways of addressing them.” He says the report presents an opportunity for communities to see what is working, and what needs improvement in each of their respective communities.