Communities across British Columbia have their own unique opportunities and challenges when working towards healthy solutions. However, every community benefits from an integrated approach that makes health everyone’s business. The Northern Rockies Regional Municipality (NRRM) recognized this and decided to bring community partners together in Fort Nelson to participate in a workshop.
The workshop was held in late June and was facilitated by BC Healthy Communities Society (BCHC) on behalf of PlanH. It took place at the spacious Community Hall in the city’s Recreation Centre. The workshop was co-led by BCCH facilitators: Deirdre Goudriaan and Erica Crawford. They ensured that tables were set up comfortably for round-table discussions and equipped with markers, sticky notes and mapping exercises – to record ideas generated by the group.
The event began with an introduction to healthy communities and how local policy, planning, and leadership can impact health outcomes. Facilitators described the big picture of health giving participants an opportunity to understand the broad scope of health – and how it affects the physical and mental wellbeing of their community.
Participants engaged in dialogue – actively contributing ideas. Their input was recorded as part of a process for moving closer to healthier community outcomes.
The Local Context
Following the introduction were speakers from Northern Health, Sabrina Dosangh-Gantner (Health Promotion) and Christene Morey (Health Services). Northern Health was a key partner in the event providing local area health profile data for the community to inform the dialogue. The speakers helped participants gain a deeper understanding of the local context.
Fort Nelson has one of the best early childhood indicators across the province. Income levels from recent data reports appear high. However, local community members talked about an economic downturn that has had a large influence on housing and food bank access. Northern Health mentioned that smoking rates were high and contributed to higher chronic disease rates. The necessity of travel creates a higher incidence of motor vehicle accidents. These factors, though, can be mitigated.
The dialogue progressed into discussion about mitigating local health risks by getting people working closely on tough, complex problems. As participants discussed the local conditions, they focused on getting to the source of the problem rather than addressing symptoms supports us to work more proactively. Through the workshop it became clear that all of the health issues discussed had the potential for upstream intervention to reduce negative health outcomes.
BCHC provided a balance of facilitated exercises to explore a greater understanding of some of the local health and well-being indicators and how working “upstream” to address health and well-being more effectively. The group was also guided through an exercise that describes the implications of the social determinants of health on individual and collective well-being.
The event gave people a chance to talk to others from different professional backgrounds as workshop participants were from different sectors. Conversations between sectors began to address the conditions that create greater health and well-being.
“My belief that I live in a community with potential was reinforced.” — Jaylene Arnold, NRRM
The participants worked collectively to explore four separate topics that would enhance community well-being and began to think about how collaboration could help them resolve complex issues. The group was encouraged to bring multiple perspectives on the topics into the room and worked together to map a healthy community and build in time for self-reflection.
Partnerships were not only formed, but also strengthened – building on a collaborative foundation set by the NRRM and Northern Health. The Health authority and the Municipality work together throughout the year building relationships between their organisations and with local decision-makers to ensure there is common understanding of the shared challenges and opportunities. Jaylene Arnold, the Economic Development and Tourism Officer at the NRRM felt the day was valuable saying, “my belief that I live in a community with potential was reinforced.”
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