The new Hope Community Garden in Hope will benefit local families and was created with the support of a micro health grant awarded by the Hope Health and Well-Being Initiative. (Esther Brysch photo)

The new Hope Community Garden in Hope will benefit local families and was created with the support of a micro health grant awarded by the Hope Health and Well-Being Initiative. (Esther Brysch photo)

Hope health and wellness programs growing stronger

A community garden, door-to-door transportation for people with mobility issues and, coming soon, a playground for kids – those are just some of the impressive results just seven months after injecting $500,000 into the communities of Hope and the Fraser Canyon to make it a healthier place to live. Fraser Health provided the money last December as part of the Hope Health and Well-Being Initiative, which aims to improve health indicators such as life expectancy and chronic disease in the community.

“We are thrilled with the early successes of our inaugural Hope Health and Well-Being Initiative,” said Fraser Health president and CEO Michael Marchbank. “We are targeting the most pressing preventative and chronic health concerns facing people living in Hope. Our data told us that Hope could benefit from additional support in addressing these concerns, and we look forward to seeing our results continue to grow with our ongoing $500,000 investment.”

In 2016, a My Health My Community survey indicated that while Hope ranks strongly in some areas, the community could improve in a number of health indicators. In addition to challenges related to life expectancy and chronic disease, Hope lagged behind other Fraser Health communities in the areas of mental health, smoking, and physical activity.

Following extensive stakeholder consultation, the community developed 10 strategies to improve access to transportation, healthy food/food security, recreation, programs and services for children and youth, seniors, and health (including mental health and substance use) and social services. After a detailed expression of interest process, Fraser Health awarded funding to organizations that successfully applied for grants connected to each strategy.

Since funds were awarded in early December, grant recipients have generated a number of notable results to date. Youth councils have been established, as part of a collaborative mobile youth health and wellness outreach program. Fifteen mental health and substance use workshops have taken place. There has been a launch of volunteer information website, volunteer database, and Volunteer Week workshops

Healthcare has been made easier closer to home, too. More than 400 visits to the Hope Medical Centre have been coordinated, to address health concerns that previously required patients to travel to Chilliwack. Now, specialists are brought into the centre on specific days of the week to provide obstetrics, gynecology, surgery, prenatal care, respiratory services and physiotherapy.

There has also been an expansion of the volunteer door-to-door transportation program, designed to serve people with mobility or transportation barriers living in Hope and the communities of the Fraser Canyon. The program better connects people to health and community services, and the initiative has already logged 10,780 kilometres and more than 218 hours on the road.

The Hope Food Collective Society and Smoking Bylaw Committee have been formed.

Finally, there has been a leveraging of a one-time $25,000 grant into $500,000 in funding by AdvantageHOPE, who used the grant to complete their active transportation plan and apply for a BC Rural Dividend grant. The funds will be used to build accessible trails throughout the Hope community.

“The early successes we have seen are truly a testament to the power of many partners coming together to achieve a common goal of a healthier, more engaged community,” said Petra Pardy, executive director for the Health Services of Chilliwack, Hope, Agassiz and the Fraser Canyon. “This work would not be possible without strong partnerships at all levels, and the organizations and individuals involved in this work should be proud.”

“While it takes time to address and improve indicators such as access to healthy food and recreation, it is inspiring to see the results our grant recipients have generated in just six months,” said Dr. Josh Greggain, site medical director at Fraser Canyon Hospital. “It takes a united community to improve the health and well-being of its residents, and I am looking forward to seeing continued achievements in the weeks and months ahead.”

In addition, Fraser Health awarded $50,000 in smaller micro health grants last year to several organizations in support of community-based projects that benefit the overall health of Hope and the surrounding communities of the Fraser Canyon. Early results include the creation of a family community garden in Hope and the pending construction of a new playground in the Silver Creek community. Four organizations were awarded new micro health grants earlier this month to support local initiatives, including helping children in low income families to participate in the arts and building a track at a local school.

“Hope is already a strong, engaged community, and I am inspired and extremely proud of the progress we have made in just six months to improve access to important health and social services,” said District of Hope Mayor Wilfried Vicktor. “The partnerships we are developing at all levels will serve us well as we continue towards our goal of improved health and wellness in our community.”