The health and well-being of youth and children in northern B.C. is the focus of a Northern Health board report released today. Feeling loved, safe, valued, worthy, having the necessities of life, access to nature and free play, participation in organized activities, and becoming independent were all important characteristics noted during the 2016 consultation series focused on growing up healthy.
“Throughout the consultation we heard about the importance of both free and organized play, health and wellness supports, and most importantly, access to the basic necessities of life,” said Dr. Charles Jago, Northern Health board chair, in a press release. “We know that supporting children and youth to grow up healthy requires collaborative relationships across a multitude of agencies.”
Mental health and wellness, improving health services like access to dental care, and addressing child and youth poverty were highlighted across the region as areas that required a more targeted focus. However, access to nature and the outdoors, a good breadth of community and health programs, creative community based recreational opportunities and caring communities were all highlighted consistently as strengths in many small communities.
“We heard from nearly 1,000 people in northern B.C. The conversations with community members about the health of children and youth in the North provided valuable insights and advice,” said Cathy Ulrich, Northern Health President & Chief Executive Officer. “The findings outlined in this report will inform Northern Health’s planning and work with other organizations that serve children and youth.”
The report, entitled “Growing Up Healthy in Northern BC” contains ideas, comments, feedback and suggestions from people throughout the north. Consultations were held in over a dozen communities. In addition, focus groups were held in some communities including focus groups specifically with youth and First Nations communities. Northern Health received comments through a variety of other channels, and we also utilized a unique engagement process through ThoughtExchange. ThoughtExchange is an innovative electronic platform that allows people to participate online and then prioritize and sort ideas to develop themes anonymously. The process included 600 participants who made almost 2000 comments– leading to some very compelling themes. The consultation was attended by people of all ages, and all participants’ ideas were captured and recorded to form this report.
The report provides a summary of the consultation process, including themes and outcomes. The report also includes a breakdown of the consultation feedback by community.
“This consultation provides community context for the Provincial Health Officers report on youth health and the Health Status Report on Child Health that I developed; both of which provides a snapshot of the current state of youth and child health in northern B.C.,” said Dr. Sandra Allison, Northern Health Chief Medical Health Officer. “Communities can learn from each other and the consultation report provides direction and information, and some strengths and weaknesses of communities that can support the work we need to do.”
The next steps include sharing the report throughout the region and the province with the public and agencies who have a role in child and youth health. That sharing will be accompanied by discussions which will be developed into an action plan that will provide direction and actions in addressing some of the issues that have been identified in all of the reports that have been completed.