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Health extends beyond the doctor’s office

Bill Schurman, the northern zone council of community health board chairs, speaks during the launch of the region’s 2019-2022 Community Health Plan during an event Sept. 12 at the Community Credit Union Business Innovation Centre in Amherst.
Bill Schurman, the northern zone council of community health board chairs, speaks during the launch of the region’s 2019-2022 Community Health Plan during an event Sept. 12 at the Community Credit Union Business Innovation Centre in Amherst. - Contributed

Northern N.S. community health boards launch 2019-2022 plan

AMHERST, N.S. —

Health is many things, but it’s much more than what takes place within a doctor’s office.

Speaking during the launch of community health plan for the northern zone, the organization’s chairman Bill Schurman said there are many ingredients to a healthy mind and body.

“The places where we live, work and play, the choices we make and the opportunities we have all matter to our physical and social well-being,” Schurman said during the Sept. 12 meeting at the Community Credit Union Business Innovation Centre. “Community health boards have the mandate to be the voice of the community to the Nova Scotia Health Authority to continue the work of promotion and prevention to improve population health. The 2019-2022 community health plan provides the framework to do just that.”

Schurman, who recently resigned as Amherst’s recreation director to return to Prince Edward Island, said the 2016-19 plans are still relevant and will be extended to 2022. Elements of the new plan compliment existing plans developed independently in Cumberland, Colchester-East Hants and Pictou.

“By renewing our collective commitment to those plans, we maintain our focus on enhancing and operationalizing our current priorities, all of which are strikingly similar in the individual plans,” Schurman said.

The four health promotion priorities in the northern zone will continue to be mental wellness and sense of belonging; health active lifestyle and supportive environment; thriving communities, prosperity and affordability and community engagement, connection and inclusion.

“CHBs have the ability to advocate for the need to move away from a system primarily focused on diagnosing and treating illness toward one that is based on promoting well-being and preventing ill health,” Schurman said.

During planning for the 2019-22 plan, the Nova Scotia Health Authority asked for recommendations on actions they could undertake to support the work of the community health boards at the community level – something that was met with excitement by the boards.

To prepare the plan, the health boards engaged community stakeholders for input and feedback and reviewed community profiles and population health data.

The working group also applied a social determinants of health lends to their work, updated the northern zone boards through the council of chairs and presented the final report to that council for review and approval.

“We kept the same four priorities and what we did this time, because the NSHA came to us and asked for recommendations for them, was we brought 50 stakeholders together in Truro last November and gathered the recommendations that came from the communities,” Cumberland County’s community health boards co-ordinator Colleen Dowe said. “Almost all of them recommended the NSHA to work more closely with the partners. There’s also a bit push to get more people into the room, so when we have engagement we need to get more people involved so we have more input from our communities and partners.”

Dowe said after a year, there will be additional work done with the stakeholders to measure how implementation is going.

Looking back at the previous plan, she said the goals were ambitious and she thinks gains were made.

“We did OK. Because the priorities were so ambitious, we did a lot of work on them and each CHB did several projects like Poverty Lives here and SPAR has always done something with mental wellness while Pugwash did a lot of advocacy work,” she said.

As well the health board provided $130,000 in wellness grants over three years that supported more than 90 community projects.

“Of all the work we do the wellness grants probably give us the most legs,” Dowe said. “The community health boards are involved in several projects across Cumberland County and do a lot of advocacy work.”

The Pugwash area board advocated for the inclusion of AEDs in area schools, working with Cumberland North MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin to make this a reality, while it’s now advocating for the construction of a sidewalk to the Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre.

It’s also advocating for the replacement of the aboiteau in Parrsboro.

“There are a lot of things we’re doing that have made a difference,” she said. “There was a lot of moving forward, but poverty didn’t get better and that’s something that will continue to be a focus.”

The health boards are also working with other stakeholders to host an all-candidates question and answer session on food security at the Amherst Lions Club on Oct. 7 from 4 to 6 p.m.

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