Historically, over the last few hundred years, local governments have made a greater impact on health than doctors or hospitals, according to Jenny Turco.
The community health facilitator for the Thompson-Cariboo Region with Interior Health, made the statement during a presentation to District of Clearwater council on Oct. 23.
Although Clearwater only recently was incorporated as a municipality, the community already has taken some important steps to improve the health of residents, Turco said.
Examples include the healthy living program underway now in cooperation with Clearwater Secondary School, the North Thompson Food Action Network, and Clearwater’s junior council.
“Involving youth in decision making can have huge repercussions on health,” she said.
Another examples would be the honorable mention the District received in 2009 from Union of BC Municipalities for its chronic disease program.
The Interior Health official noted that 37 per cent of B.C.’s population suffer from some sort of chronic disease, but they use up 80 per cent of the health care spending.
Interior Health would like to work with its communities to improve people’s health, she said.
She noted that less than 25 per cent of health is dependent on the health care system. About 50 per cent is determined by social and economic factors.
Other factors that are tied in with these include diet, exercise, tobacco use, housing, education and literacy.
The health authority has to offer a dedicated staff person (herself), plus a wide range of expertise from community nutritionists, tobacco reduction specialists and so on.
Their geographic information system (GIS) analyst can obtain data that local governments can find useful. For example, anxiety and depression are apparently lower in the North Thompson than elsewhere in Interior Health.
Mayor John Harwood noted that the District recently received a report on making Clearwater an age-friendly community.
School District 73 regularly produces a five-year projection on school enrollment. He asked if Interior Health could do the same for predicting the population of senior citizens in the area.
Turco said their GIS staff could produce such a projection.
Harwood said such a projection would be useful in applying for grants to provide for a program for seniors between community living and extended care.
The mayor also asked if Interior Health could get involved in Greyhound’s plans to reduce bus service to Clearwater to one per day.
“It’s a huge mental health issue, a seniors’ issue,” said Harwood.
He noted that the municipality helps pay for a weekly bus run to Kamloops and back. However, for those forced to take Greyhound to go to a medical appointment, the schedule changes likely would mean they would have to buy their tickets the day before and then catch the bus in the middle of the night.
The community health facilitator said she would discuss it with her team and see what they could do.