By Tanis Dagert
Coordinator, Alberni-Clayoquot Health Network
On Friday May 9th, the Alberni-Clayoquot Health Network (ACHN) hosted the PlanH Health is Everyone’s Business Workshop in Port Alberni. A group of 45 came together from various communities in the region, including: Ahousaht, Tofino, Ucluelet, Hesquiaht, Toquaht, Huu-ay-aht, Bamfield, Uchucklesaht, and Port Alberni; as well as, sectors: local government, health, social services, First Nations, community networks, councils, coalitions, and non-profits.
The day began with an opening from the ACHN Chair, Penny Cote, who spoke about the need for all sectors to connect, collaborate and create a “healthy vision for the future” in order improve lives and health outcomes in the region. We were welcomed to the territories by Eunice Joe from Tesaht and Sharon Van Volson from Hupacasath First Nations. Dr. Paul Hassleback, Medical Health Officer from Island Health, followed with an overview of the local area health profile. Of particular concern, health status measures have been below the provincial average for over 25 years, including: life expectancy, teen pregnancy, infant mortality, motor vehicle and alcohol related deaths, and preventable/treatable disease. Next, Eunice Joe, Island Liaison for the new First Nations Health Authority, informed us about their plans and approaches to improve wellness.
PlanH facilitators Stacy Barter and Deirdre Goudriaan led the group through a conversation about how we can improve health and well-being. Concerns of “off-loading” responsibility for health to local governments were raised; however, it was also recognized that local governments can impact health through planning, programs, policy and partnerships. After lunch, we heard from a panel of speakers including Sally Mole (Ucluelet Councillor), Jack McLeman (Port Alberni Councillor), and Jeff Cook (Chief of Huu-ay-aht First Nations). Each speaker gave examples as to how their local governments are working on healthy community initiatives, like the amazing Community Hub in Ucluelet; parks, trails and a newly established waterfront beach in Port Alberni; and how the Treaty has impacted the ability of the Huu-a-y-aht to invest in public works infrastructure and economic development.
The Integrated Map of Healthy Communities was presented by the facilitators. There was discussion about the need to recognize the importance of building social capital in the region and to make our communities great places to live beyond infrastructure improvements. The ACRD was recognized as having no shortage of talented, passionate and committed people, paired with an amazing environment in which to live, work and play.
The overall goal of the Alberni-Clayoquot Health Network is to bring people together to create a voice and to affect change in health outcomes by tackling the social determinants of health and creating healthier communities for us all, especially the most vulnerable. At the Health is Everyone’s Business Workshop, we heard about community priorities: the impacts of trauma, food security, transportation, healthy aging, affordable housing, and improving the economic vitality of the region. Reaching these comprehensive goals will require collaboration of everyone in the region – from agencies to authorities, local businesses to citizens, and young to old.
Thanks so much to PlanH for bringing us all together to learn, connect and collaborate.