Boards release three-year plan
© Darrell Cole – Amherst Daily News
Southampton, Parrsboro, Advocate and Region Community Health Board chairwoman Monica Harvey looks over a copy of the three-year community health plan with Pugwash and Area board chairman Peter Lewis and Springhill, Oxford, Amherst and Region board chairwoman Alex Theroux.
AMHERST – Cumberland County’s three community health boards are continuing to work toward a healthier community.
Responding to statistics showing the area’s population is not very healthy, the health boards have come forward with a series of recommendations it hopes will deal with an aging population that suffers a high rate of chronic disease, is not physically active and has a high number of smokers.
The Southampton, Parrsboro, Advocate and Region board; Springhill, Oxford, Amherst and Region board and the Pugwash and Area board released their three-year community health plan that looks at six priorities including healthy eating and physical activity, mental wellness and addictions, injury prevention, sexual health as well as chronic disease prevention and oral health.
“From working with our respective communities, the goals of our boards have evolved or changed,” SPAR board chairwoman Monica Harvey said. “There is a lot of good work being done. The goal is to engage our communities and try to get organizations and people to begin participating in health and chronic illness prevention.”
The plan is designed to inform the Cumberland Health Authority about the health and well being of local residents and reflects what the community health boards have learned through research and consultation.
To compile the plan, the boards collected information from the CHA’s health status profile, provincial health strategies and the results from a public survey that was circulated throughout the county last summer.
“When we were developing our plan our goal was to keep our priorities quite broad so we can open it up to new programs, events or ideas that come through the community,” SOAR board chairwoman Alex Theroux said. “Our goal with the plan is to promote, educate and prevent when it comes to developing healthier communities.”
From the survey, four priorities were identified by the community while the remaining two were put in place by the health boards themselves from what its members see as needs.
“We are to promote wellness, healthy lifestyles in the community. When we looked at the health profile for Cumberland County chronic illness is there. We thought we would be remiss if we didn’t include it in this health plan,” Pugwash and area chairman Peter Lewis said. “With respect to oral health, we supported an oral health program in the schools and have done surveys on the status of oral health among young children in the area. For that reason we thought we should continue to promote oral health through the plan.”
Under chronic disease prevention, the community health boards will support programs and interventions that increase preventative screening such as the Numbers To Know program, while under healthy eating and physical activity the boards will support breastfeeding and baby-friendly community activities, resources for community-based cooking programs, healthy kitchen parties or cooking classes, increasing opportunities for physical activity (especially for children and youth) and advocacy for healthy food choices in recreation centres and at sporting events.
Under injury prevention, the boards will support falls prevention programs for seniors, respectful schools initiatives and community health and wellness programs for youth.
When it comes to mental health awareness, the boards will support programs and sessions that help educate the public about existing services as well as mental health literacy initiatives to help educate people about the signs and symptoms of mental health problems and illness.
The health boards will support municipal health strategies regarding alcohol abuse as well as advocacy for policy change and work with Addiction Services to help build awareness. Under problem gambling, the boards will also support the social marketing campaign Betting on Health.
To help reduce tobacco use, the boards will support advocacy efforts to increase the number of smoke-fee spaces in Cumberland County.
The board boards plan to continue supporting marketing campaigns like the Just Ask program that explains existing oral health coverage for children under age 10 and will work with Public Health and oral health professionals to overcome barriers.
Of those youth surveyed last summer, 81 per cent identified sexual health as a priority. In response to this, the boards will support programs that build community awareness of sexual health issues, enhance youth health centres and exploe ways to reach out to victims of sexual violence who are not seeking help and find ways to support prevention programs.
“As a whole the priorities are very achievable because we have specific supporting program for each goal,” Harvey said. “We might not totally eliminate chronic diseases or the risk, but supporting the community and its initiatives we are progressing in the right direction.”