Poverty and housing top concerns for Northern Health

Northern Health wanted to hear about the health and well-being of children in the north during a public meeting in Prince Rupert.

Gary Ockenden

Northern Health wanted to hear about the health and well-being of children in the north during a public meeting in Prince Rupert.

About a dozen Rupertites attended the “Growing up Healthy in Northern B.C.” consultation session on June 22, one of 12 meetings held in communities across the north recently.

“[Northern Health] serves the population … so we really need to understand what the challenges are in communities,” said Dr. Sandra Allison, chief medical health officer for Northern Health.

The event started with a brief presentation on Dr. Allison’s report on child health in the region, released in April. The report highlights the supports currently available in the north to help kids get a healthy start in life, as well as areas needing to be addressed according to research.

Then, those in attendance were asked for input on what growing up healthy means, what is working in Prince Rupert to help children and youth and what needs to be improved on.

“The pressing concerns for communities are quite similar across the north and were repeated here. The issues were around poverty, housing affordability and opportunities for housing. Food security [along with] mental health and substance use issues are also huge issues for families across the north,” Dr. Allison said.

Northern Health also wanted to hear from youth directly, hosting youth group sessions in selected communities, including Prince Rupert. The team met with students at Charles Hays Secondary earlier in the day, with Dr. Allison stating they heard many of the same sentiments from students.

Input collected from the meetings will be documented, which along with Dr. Allison’s report, will help to create an action plan to address or enhance services, and to create new programs and partnerships within the region.

After hearing all of the feedback, Dr. Allison said Northern Health must strengthen its partnerships.

“We have to work harder at breaking down the silos and recognizing that we all have a role to play in supporting families to be healthy,” she said.

The “Growing up Healthy in Northern B.C.” sessions were part of a series of consultation meetings Northern Health has held in the past decade on topics like cancer care, mental health and addictions, primary care, along with men’s and senior’s health.

To complete a survey on child healthcare in the north, go to northernhealth.com.

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