Vancouver Island North needs to focus on improving preventable death rates.
This was medical health officer (MHO) for North Vancouver Island, Charmaine Enns’ main point after reading through a 2010 health status report for Vancouver Island written by chief MHO for Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) Dr. Richard Stanwick.
Stanwick noted that in the VIHA area premature deaths are higher than in the rest of B.C., but Enns explained that they’re even higher here.
“That’s probably even more true for the Central and North Island,” said Enns. “The whole North Island, we have higher rates of death that are due to injuries that are preventable.”
Enns cited examples of preventable deaths such as driving conditions with many winding and often gravel roads, and drug and alcohol use before getting behind the wheel, as well as higher than normal rates of tobacco use.
“We also have a higher rate of tobacco related malignancies,” said Enns. “We do have some ground to make up in terms of tobacco use rates in the North Island.”
Substance abuse, mental health issues, chronic disease, and domestic violence are often coping mechanisms for underlying problems with quality of life, which can be associated with a lack of economic stability, according to Enns.
“If there’s no jobs, people have to eat somehow, so they either leave or cope,” said Enns. “There has to be a pressure valve somewhere in our lives, and that can often be in our physical health.”
Over the last five years, Campbell River’s population has grown by 1.2 per cent compared to the provincial growth rate of 1.4 per cent, according to the report. And the North Island’s growth rate has been -1.1 per cent.
A component of the report that is reflected on south Vancouver Island, but not in Campbell River and the North Island is that of seniors; Stanwick notes a higher than average senior population will create pressure on the health care system in coming years. However, Enns said that’s not the case in the North Island.
“The senior population in Campbell River is really consistent with the rest of the province,” explained Enns.
In fact, 14.7 per cent of Campbell River’s population is over 65 years of age, while the majority of the South Island ranges from 17.3 per cent up to 29.9 per cent, according to the report.
But, “that certainly doesn’t mean that the city shouldn’t be prepared,” she added.
Enns points to a lack of close by cancer care as well as other care associated with old age as a factor for less seniors living in the north.
Overall, Enns suggested a more holistic approach in keeping people in this region healthy.
“We have to work collaboratively with other health areas,” said Enns.
“No one organization or no one program has the solution,” she said adding that even city officials need to get involved to ensure programs to keep people healthy are in place.