Island Health and the Strathcona Regional District are working together to try and improve community health care and in the process, quality of life.
The two organizations are studying the potential of creating a Community Health Network.
Sheila Van Nus, special projects manager for the regional district, said such a project would allow citizens to “come together and speak with a collective voice on health issues and share ideas and resources to build healthier communities.”
A Community Health Network (CHN) would work to help health care providers pin point specific regional issues that are contributing to poor health and quality of life.
“A CHN aims to improve health and well-being by focusing on the social determinants of health, broadly described as the circumstances in which people are born, grow up, live, work and age, as well as the system put in place to deal with illness,” Van Nus wrote in a report to the regional district board. “Among the recognized issues in the regional district were homelessness, affordable housing and transportation, access to services, employment opportunities, social support networks and education.”
A health report presented to Campbell River city council last summer painted a disturbing picture of the region’s overall health.
Dr. Charmaine Enns, Island Health’s North Island medical officer, said Campbell River’s average life expectancy is two years shorter than the Vancouver Island average, its rate of death due to drugs and suicide is second highest on the Island and Campbell River residents consume 13 litres of alcohol per month – which is the third highest rate on the Island.
There are also 23 children per 1,000 that need protection in Campbell River, compared to the average of 12 per 1,000 across the rest of B.C.
Regional District Director and Mayor Andy Adams told the Mirror in August that he would like to see a Community Health Network established in the region, “where various groups and agencies all support the goal of addressing the (root) problems, rather than the resulting societal health issues.”
Island Health already appears to be on board, and has hired a community developer to work on the potential of developing a Community Health Network.
“Sue Pearson joined Island Health on January 12 and will dedicate approximately one day per week to the CHN during the start-up phase of the project,” Van Nus wrote. “Island Health has requested that the regional district provide office space for the community developer while she is working on the CHN.”
The regional district, for its part, is currently in the process of determining how it could support the creation of a Community Health Network and what form it would take, including the development of a service.
The regional district met with 30 different stakeholders in October to explore the potential of creating such a project. Van Nus said it’s now up to the Strathcona Regional District’s board of directors as to whether they want to take the next step.
“To make use of the resources provided by Island Health, staff will continue to work with Island Health and other interested parties leading up to the 2015 Strategic Priority session scheduled for Feb. 13 where the board will be provided with an analysis report and policy options,” Van Nus said. “There is clearly momentum associated with this project. The current challenge is to sequence the actions of the various parties in a cooperative manner.”