By Sharlene Harrison-Hinds/Special to The Standard
With a beautiful day on tap in one of Hope’s most beautiful settings, the Hope Healthy Communities Committee met at Camp Kawkawa for Mobilization Day on May 9. It was a unique gathering of non-profit organization representatives who met to define and discuss the many health and wellness challenges of the District of Hope, prioritize them and develop effective strategies of collaboration.
The event opened with an introduction and welcome from Fraser Health regional director Catherine Wiebe, followed by an unforgettable sharing of traditional First Nations lore and a blessing from elder Patricia John, from Chawathil First Nation. Medical health officer from Fraser Health, Dr. Andrew Larder, gave a presentation entitled Chronic Disease Prevention — Moving Down the Health Impact Pyramid featuring statistics about the various factors involved in chronic disease and pointed the way to finding ways to improve health outcomes across the board in our community.
The statistics were eye-opening and became a road map for participants to identify problems and work together to find solutions — including prevention and treatment of the many health issues affecting quality of life for residents young and old.
According to 2014-2015 statistics, life expectancy at birth in Hope (and Mission) are the lowest in Fraser Health areas — a substantial 6.3 per cent lower for men and 5.4 per cent for women than for the rest of B.C. Most significant among the major issues identified as detrimentally affecting life expectancy were smoking, alcohol usage and obesity — considered modifiable risk factors by the medical community. Projected numbers for 2024-2025 are staggering from a health care needs and care point of view. In other words, the hard work must be done now to prevent further decline of health and life expectancy and accompanying medical care costs.
Participants broke into groups with shared areas of focus and brainstormed possible solutions to break risk factor cycles and provide proven preventative strategies for improving daily life and life expectancy. Facilitator Lucie Honey-Rae helped distill priorities by eliminating duplication so the group would have a concise representation of problems and possible solutions on which all could collaborate and develop working partnerships to address the identified needs of Hope.
The overall theme everyone agreed on was inclusion and interaction — the mainstays of a healthy community. Deficits were identified in areas such as housing, employment, activity levels, youth engagement, harm reduction resources, strengthening and support of families and access to health resources. Although some projects addressing these needs are already being explored and established, there is much more development necessary to improve Hope’s health outlook.
The meeting was invigorating, sharing valuable information and inspiration for the various non-profit groups. It confirmed that much work needs to be done to get our community on the path to better health and better lives; most importantly, that it is a far easier task when many hearts, minds and hands work together toward a common goal.