North Island Medical Health Officer Dr. Charmaine Enns recently presented a report to Campbell River city council that provided an enlightening but disturbing picture of the region’s overall health.
The report found that Campbell River’s average life expectancy is two years shorter than the Vancouver Island average, its rate of death due to drugs and suicide is second highest on the Island, and it consumes 13 litres of alcohol per month per person—the third highest rate on the Island.
Possibly most disturbing is the 23 children per 1,000 that need protection in Campbell River compared to the average of 12 per 1,000 in the rest of B.C.
It also found correlation between average income and rate of single-parent households affecting the overall health of the community, due to the added health stresses caused by those financial struggles.
“It was a little surprising, but not overly,” said city councillor Andy Adams of the report, adding that when looking at acute care situations, RCMP reports, addictions services intakes, as well as the increasing demands on various community services for at-risk populations, “it’s no secret that it’s a situation in need of addressing.”
Knowing there is a problem is different from seeing the scope of it, however.
“It’s good when you see those numbers,” he said, “because then it’s real.”
Adams said he immediately set to researching the matter more fully in an attempt to begin setting a framework for how to effectively mitigate the factors that lead to these issues.
“You don’t fix a problem by throwing money at it. That’s been shown many times in the past,” he said. “You need a more strategic plan that is results-oriented, and has thoroughly been examined from all angles.”
Examining the issue from all angles, according to Adams, means “getting everyone to the table,” and getting input from everyone with experience and knowledge on the subjects at hand, “from VIHA to local government, to RCMP to various health providers and educators.”
“We need to create a ‘Community Health Network’ of systems,” he said, where various groups and agencies all support the goal of addressing the source problems, rather than the resulting societal health issues.
Essentially, he said, by the time people end up in the hospital, it’s too late to do anything about what caused them to end up there.
“Acute care isn’t going to solve the problem. It addresses the immediate need, but not the underlying problem that got them to that point.”
Adams, who recently announced his candidacy for Mayor of Campbell River in the upcoming municipal election, said he and others spoke with B.C. Minister of Health Terry Lake about these issues when he was in town for the groundbreaking of the new hospital on Aug. 7, and received a very positive response in terms of the government’s willingness to help with the project.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel, we’re taking the good work that’s being done in other places, using the good work being done here, and utilizing the skills and systems that already work to create a community-based initiative that can address these issues.”
He acknowledged that because these issues weren’t in the current council’s strategic plan, there’s not going to be anything to actually implement anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean they can’t start the process and do the legwork for the next council to take advantage of.
One of the first things the next council will need to do when they take office this fall is to create their own strategic plan, he said, and he’s hopeful that the work being put in now to research and plan for possible initiatives to address these community health issues will be incorporated into that plan.
“We want to gather as much information as we can and set some kind of framework on the wall so the next council doesn’t have to start from scratch.”
The first step, according to Adams, is to get organizations with resources talking about the issues that need tackling, and then find ways for them to work together to tackle them.
Campbell River city council has an initial meeting planned for Aug. 26 with various organizations to do just that and explore the Community Health Network possibility further to get the ball rolling and take action on these issues.
Watch for future updates in the Mirror.