People in the Fraser Valley Regional District are more likely than other B.C. residents to have health problems such as cancer, heart disease, asthma and diabetes.
That was the finding of a report from Fraser Health and the Fraser Valley Regional District which was released on Thursday, titled the Health and Active Living Snapshot of the Fraser Valley.
“While the difference is not overly large, the FVRD does compare somewhat unfavourably to B.C. overall on a number of healthy living indicators,” said the report. “Estimates indicate that the FVRD has a slightly higher level of obesity, along with lower rates of physical activity.”
It notes that less than half of FVRD residents consume the recommended daily minimum of five servings of fruits and vegetables.
And, although the smoking rate is slightly lower than the B.C. average, the FVRD (which includes Abbotsford, Mission, Chilliwack, Harrison, Hope and Boston Bar) does have the highest smoking rate in the health authority, “resulting in the highest rate of death and hospitalization due to smoking in Fraser Health.”
Patricia Ross, Abbotsford councillor and chair of the FVRD, was surprised to see residents here lagging behind in healthy habits.
“It definitely is a concern, and that’s one of the reasons we’re promoting a healthier lifestyle,” she said. “We’ve got to see what we can do to be healthier.”
The snapshot shows FVRD resident slightly, but consistently behind the B.C. average. For example, the age-standardized prevalence of high blood pressure was 16 per cent in the FVRD, compared with 15 per cent for B.C. overall. The age-standardized mortality rate cancer in the FVRD was 17 per 10,000 population, compared with approximately 15 for B.C. overall.
Approximately 50 per cent of people in the FVRD can be considered overweight or obese, compared with about 45 per cent of B.C. overall.
The health snapshot involved collaboration between community health specialists, Fraser Health data services staff and the FVRD Strategic Planning and Initiatives Department. They used statistics from the B.C. Ministry of Health Services, looking at patient registry information and cause of death figures; and stats taken from the Canadian Community Health Survey by Statistics Canada.
Ross said municipalities have a role to play in promoting good health, with programs and facilities.
“Abbotsford has been aggressive on that,” she said. “The In Motion campaign has been very successful.”
In Motion is a health promotion strategy sponsored by the city, Fraser Health, the Abbotsford Board of Education, UFV and community sponsors. Abbotsford is also one of two B.C. communities participating in SCOPE (Sustainable Childhood Obesity Prevention through Community Engagement).
Ross said this report is a “snapshot,” and its results suggest the need for more research.
“I can’t help but wonder what other factors are at play, like pollution and air quality,” said Ross. “It’s good to look at the statistics, now we have to figure our why.”
In addition to unhealthy habits, the report also discusses other risk factors:
- Low income as a related factor to health status, noting “when incomes go down, poor health outcomes and the incidence of chronic disease go up.”
- An aging population is addressed, noting that in 2010, one in seven people in the FVRD was 65 or older, and by 2030 that will increase to about one in five, resulting in increased demand for health care services, as well as rising costs.
- The Fraser Valley airshed has unique geography that traps pollutants as they move east, resulting in “significant episodes of poor air quality.” Levels of ozone which stabilized in the 1990s are once again on the rise.
“While poor air quality is not the sole cause of high rates of asthma, it can be a contributing factor for those already at risk,” says the report.
Ross said communities need to support the wellbeing of residents, through walkable neighbourhoods, bike routes, trails, recreation centres, local transit and affordable housing.
Fraser Health has a team of community health specialists who work with communities in the region, and want to bring the issue of planning healthy communities to the fore.
To view the entire report, click HERE.