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Report reveals lower life expectancy, higher unemployment rates for Campbell River

Campbell Riverites have a lower life expectancy, are more likely to be considered low-income, have higher unemployment rates and are less likely to graduate from post secondary school than the rest of our B.C. counterparts, according to a sobering report released by Island Health.

While released this year, the Local Health Area Profile is for the year 2015 and reveals, at times, a struggling community and one that is aging. On average, the population of the Campbell River Local Health Area (LHA) is similar in age to the rest of the communities within Island Health and older than B.C., with an average age of 44.6 years. The 65-plus population makes up around 22 per cent of the population, similar to Island Health (23 per cent) but higher than the provincial average (17 per cent).

The Campbell River LHA population is expected to increase by 3.6 per cent over the next 10 years; this is lower than the growth expected for Island Health (10.6 per cent) and B.C. (12.6 per cent). Over the next 10 years, the most growth is expected in the 65 – 74 and 75+ age groups, while the 45 to 64 age group is expected to decline. Over the next 20 years, the 75+ population of Campbell River is expected to more than double.

Dr. Charmaine Enns, medical health officer for Island Health, said the annual Local Health Area Profiles are a valuable tool for communities and the health authority.

“The Local Health Area Profiles have been central to community Medical Health Officer reports in the past few years,” Enns said, explaining that it has been valuable in making presentations to city council and the regional district, particularly during times of crises. “In the past year, I have visited numerous local governments and reported specifically on the substance use issues and overdose crisis.”

This year’s report reveals that Campbell Riverites are more likely to struggle financially than others across the province. While the average household income in the Campbell River LHA is similar to Island Health and B.C., the lone parent household income is significantly lower, and the proportion of low income persons is higher across all age groups.

A total of 24 per cent of Campbell River’s children come from low income families compared to 19.1 per cent across B.C., while 24.3 per cent of Campbell River children and youth are considered low income, compared with 18.5 per cent for B.C. A further 17.5 per cent of Campbell River adults are low income (compared to 16.2 per cent for B.C.) while 13.9 per cent of Campbell River seniors are considered low income, which is the same rate as for the rest of B.C. seniors but higher than Island Health communities as a whole at 11.1.

Compared to Island Health and B.C., Campbell River faces higher unemployment rates and a higher percentage of the population is receiving Income Assistance and Employment Insurance. The report shows that 2.6 per cent of Campbell River’s population is on Income Assistance, compared with 1.9 per cent of the population of B.C. while 2.3 per cent of Campbell River’s population aged 15 and over is on Employment Insurance, compared to 1.5 per cent of British Columbians as a whole.

In Campbell River, the median lone-parent family income is $30,256 as compared to $42,610 for B.C. The median household total income in Campbell River is $56,672 compared with the provincial median of $60,333.

Local children are also considered to be more vulnerable or at risk compared to the rest of the province.

In Campbell River, the rate of children and youth in care per 1,000 children aged zero to 18 is 16.2 compared to eight in B.C. while the rate of children and youth in need of protection (per 1,000 children aged zero to 18) in Campbell River is 37.6 compared with the provincial rate of 20.4.

Campbell Riverites are also less likely to graduate from university or college, however, “high school graduation rates were higher than Island Health over the past decade, but dropped from around 82 per cent to 74 per cent in 2013-15 and are now similar to the Island Health rate of 76 per cent,” according to Island Health’s report.

There’s also some good news when it comes to family finances. In Campbell River, just 17.9 per cent of homeowners spend more than 30 per cent of their income on shelter, compared to 23.8 per cent across B.C. However, among renters, 46.1 per cent of Campbell Riverites spend more than 30 per cent of their income on housing, compared to 45.3 per cent in B.C.

The report also reveals a big positive when it comes to the health of young people. Campbell River had lower hospitalization rates among children and youth (ages zero to 24) compared to Island Health and B.C.; these rates have also been decreasing over the past few years in contrast to provincial rates which show an upward trend.

Alcohol consumption per capita is higher than the Island Health and B.C. average but rates of alcohol, illicit drug and tobacco-related hospitalizations are all similar to Island Health and B.C.

Chronic disease prevalence rates, however, for many conditions are “higher in the Campbell River LHA as compared to Island Health and B.C. rates, including heart failure, chronic kidney disease, ischemic heart disease, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, osteoarthritis, and asthma,” according to the report.

Despite that, Campbell Riverites are starting to live longer. Over the past 30 years, life expectancy in the Campbell River LHA has continued to rise, although the gap between Campbell River and Island Health has increased. In 2011-2015, Campbell River had a life expectancy of 79.8 years – around 2.4 years lower than Island Health overall. Campbell River men have a life expectancy of 77.7 years (compared to the provincial average of 80.6) while Campbell River women have an average life expectancy of 82 years (compared with a provincial average of 84.6).

At 9.1 per 100,000, the birth rate for the Campbell River LHA is similar to Island Health (8.4) and B.C. (9.6); however, there are proportionally more births to younger mothers (under 20 years old) at 48.5 per 1,000 births in Campbell River, compared to 22.2 in B.C. and less births to older mothers (35 years and over) at 157.1 in Campbell River, compared with 241.1 in B.C. The rate of low birth weight babies and pre-term births (born at less than 37 weeks) are both similar to Island Health and B.C., however, the infant mortality rate is higher at 4.7 per 1,000 live births.

While the report overall shows that improvements can be made when it comes to our health, social and financial situations, Campbell River is doing a good job in making the city a safe place to live.

Serious violent crime rates are lower in Campbell River, with a rate of 2.4 per 1,000 people compared to 3.1 for B.C. as is the rate of serious crime (7.7 in Campbell River per 1,000 people, compared to 10.1 for B.C.).

Campbell River’s Local Health Area Profile was compiled using data from the 2011 census, BC Statistics, the B.C. Ministry of Health, Ministry of Children and Family Development, the Ministry of Education, Vital Statistics and the 2011 National Household Survey among other sources.

Kristen Douglas

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