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Poverty continues to make us sick

Alison Lair, Veronica Richards, Hal Davidson and Colleen Dowe look over Chew On This! material in advance of the anti-poverty event on Oct. 17.
Alison Lair, Veronica Richards, Hal Davidson and Colleen Dowe look over Chew On This! material in advance of the anti-poverty event on Oct. 17.

Community health with Colleen Dowe

For years we’ve known that income and resources have a direct impact on our health. Low income Canadians are more likely to die earlier and to suffer from chronic illnesses than Canadians with higher incomes regardless of age, sex or race.

  1. when Cumberland County’s Community Health Boards began gathering information for the most recent community health plan, it was no surprise that financial need was a consistent theme throughout the survey results and community conversations.

Words like “affordable, inexpensive and free” were used to describe almost every unmet need. Shop local was a priority at a majority of the community conversations and when asked what supports do you need to live a healthier lifestyle at least two of the community conversations specifically stated they required more money.

Every three years, CHBs produce a community health plan.

The purpose of the plan is to identify local needs and provide recommendations and strategies to improve the overall health of our communities.

Several approaches were used to develop the health plan using a population health lens, the determinants of health, and an analysis of Cumberland County statistics. The CHBs conducted several focus groups and surveyed Cumberland residents to gather their views on health.

Using the results through community engagement involving more than 600 individuals resulted in a focus of four clear priorities:

  • Increase Economic Well Being
  • Increase Mental Wellness and Sense of Belonging
  • Increase Healthy Lifestyles and Supportive Environments
  • Increase Community Engagement and Positive Relationships

In order to Increase Economic Well Being, the CHBs recommend advocacy for healthy policies that support prosperity across our communities with an emphasis on our vulnerable populations. Each of the three Community Health Boards has developed an action plan to work toward achieving this goal.

Oct. 17 has been designated as the international Day for the Eradication of Poverty, and SOAR (Springhill, Oxford, Amherst and Region) CHB is partnering with Dignity for All, Empowering Beyond Barriers and the Cumberland YMCA to raise awareness about poverty and encourage support for a national poverty reduction strategy.

Board members shard “Chew on This” bags at Dayles’ Grand Market and at the Cumberland YMCA.

SOAR and SPAR (Southampton, Parrsboro, Advocate and Region) CHBs are in the early stages of assisting with the planning of poverty awareness forums, the first of which is expected to happen in the coming months in Amherst. They are also supporting Basic Income Guarantee Nova Scotia (BIGNS) in its work to encourage the provincial government to do a feasibility study on the Basic Income Guarantee.

SOAR CHB is also in the process of developing a survey for non-profits and community groups with the intention of gathering information to create a community report and determine if there is a role they can play to make the situation better.

All three Cumberland County CHBs are supporting the Coats for Cumberland Campaign, a program that collects coats and winter outer wear and offers them to anyone in need. Thousands of coats have been given out since the program started ten years ago. Each year Empowering Beyond Barriers heads the project and other community groups including the CHBs supporting the work. This year coats stores will be held in Amherst, Oxford, Parrsboro, Port Greville, Pugwash, Springhill and Wentworth.

Along with these CHB activities, providing direct financial resources to community projects through Wellness Grants plays a big role in helping them achieve their priority goals.

For more information on becoming involved in the CHBs please contact Colleen Dowe , 902-397-0376.


Colleen Dowe is the co-ordinator of the Community Health Boards for Cumberland County.

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