“Don’t underestimate the impact the money presented to these organizations here tonight,” said Gary O’Toole, director of Public Health, Northern Zone, for the Nova Scotia Health Authority. “The money handed out tonight will have an impact that is beyond your sight.”
The wellness grant presentation preceded the launching of a three-year community health plan for 2016 to 2019. The plan was launched Tuesday night at the Community Credit Union Business Innovation Centre in Amherst.
O’Toole talked to an audience of about 50 people. He pointed to several statistics showing Cumberland County at, or near, the bottom of many health indicators in Nova Scotia and across Canada.
– Forty-four per cent of people in Cumberland County report their health as very good or excellent, compared to a provincial average of 58 per cent.
– Sixty three per cent report their mental health status as excellent or very good compared to 72 per cent provincially.
– Twenty-five per cent report eating five of more vegetables a day, nine per cent below the provincial average of 34 per cent.
Cumberland County residents also have higher rates of obesity and high blood pressure than other counties in Nova Scotia.
Factors impacting health in Cumberland County include a higher unemployment rate, lower income, and an aging population.
“The resolution to some of these issues don’t lie in the health care system at all,” said O’Toole. “But, instead, are economic, educational, social and environmental factors that we need to start to address as a community as a whole.”
Bill Schurman, board member with the Springhill, Oxford, Amherst and Region Community Health Board (SOAR), and, also, Amherst recreation director, spoke at the launch.
He said personal finances have a huge impact on health, pointing out that 44 per cent of the workforce in Cumberland County earns $22,000 or less, with an average combined household income of less than $40,000.
– Buy local
He said one way to immediately help the local economy is to buy local.
“If you spend a dollar in the county it changes hands seven times, if you spend a dollar outside the county it doesn’t change one hand,” said Schurman.
He also said the community often looks to the same people to do volunteer work over and over again, and having new people step up can help create a healthier community.
“Let’s look at our community like an individual and say it has a broken leg or a broken arm, or it has a heart problem or it has a mental health issue,” said Schurman. “Why don’t we collectively try and fix the problem. We’re going to hopefully do that through some of our health plans and by working with many organizations.”
Other health boards who helped develop the three-year plan are Pugwash and Area Health Board, and the Southampton, Parrsboro, Advocate and Region Health Board (SPAR).
Health board meetings are open from September to June.
The Pugwash and Area health board meets the first Tuesday of each month from 6 to 8 p.m.
SOAR meets the third Thursday of each month from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
SPAR meets the last Wednesday of each month from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
For more information about the Community Health Plan, or how to volunteer for one of the health boards, contact Colleen Dowe, Community Health Board Coordinator for Cumberland County, at 902-661-1429.