Interior Health Community Health Facilitator Betty Brown spoke to regional district directors about IH’s healthy communities initiatives at the December 20 regional district board meeting.
Brown presented some sobering facts to the board regarding the social determinants of health, speaking at length about “health inequities” and the impacts of poverty on attempts to live a healthy lifestyle.
Her presentation described “health equity,” describing how poverty in the region created such situations for low income earners as:
– having access to a swim pass, but no money for the bus, babysitting, or a bathing suit.
– not being able to afford proper shoes to walk 30 minutes a day.
– not having the time or energy for exercise after working two jobs.
Surprisingly, the regional district leads the Interior Health’s 31 health areas, (five of which are in the RDOS) or has high incidence rates of such illnesses as diabetes, depression / anxiety and asthma, Brown said.
Besides low income, isolation was another factor that contributed to poor health. Not having anyone to talk to about important matters increases the risk of nearly every cause of death, a problem that was seen as a structural malfunction of our society rather than an individual one.
Brown was addressing the board in order to garner support for the healthy communities initiative, asking the board for non financial endorsement of the program’s objectives.
While acknowledging the regional district’s current work in promoting healthy living – through its commitment to trails and regional parks, Brown asked the board to consider broadening their mandate to promote healthy communities through a partnership with Interior Health to collaborate and strengthen action to support healthy communities.
“The RDOS has no articulated mandate to address healthy living,” she said, asking the board if they would consider creating a healthy living strategic plan.
The board’s response was mostly positive. West Bench Director Michael Brydon asked what specific projects would local government be expected to be involved in, to which Brown replied that the goal would be to influence policy through actions over time. The commitment would not cost the regional district anything financially.
Area “B” Director Allan Patton questioned the amount of responsibility the initiative was putting on individual responsibility for health, citing broken families and poor individual shopping habits as part of the problem.
“Why aren’t families feeding kids good food? It’s not more expensive if you take advantage of local sources like the fruit co-op,” he suggested.
“Why aren’t these people doing that?”
The board agreed to look at the matter at a meeting early in 2013.