A Nanaimo pediatrician is being acknowledged for helping create the John Barsby Wellness Centre, considered the first of its kind in a Nanaimo school.
Arruda, Island Health’s medical director of pediatric services, is being recognized with a special achievement award by the American Academy of Pediatrics for her foundational work in starting the wellness centre.
Arruda initiated the centre and brought together a wide range of community partners to support it, an Island Health press release says.
The centre celebrated its grand opening in 2016, and allows students to see doctors for antibiotics, get sexual health support or talk about mental health without having to leave the school.
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“[The recognition] sort of tells me that other people see this as important,” said Arruda, adding when people do something different from tradition, they ask “what if other people don’t agree, what if it’s not in their eyes, the right thing?”
“Everyone in the community and even when we presented to the school district board and the Island Health board, everyone gives positive responses, but you still feel a little bit like an outlier, so having a recognition I think helps firm it up and make it feel more generally agreed upon and generally committed to.”
Arruda has found that youths don’t always access health services, perhaps because they don’t always recognize they need to. She said her hope is teens can get their health-care needs met earlier and sooner with the centre and that it helps them realize it’s OK to access health services if they need to and there are trusting people who can help.
There have been 1,226 visits between January 2016 and December 2017, according to the wellness centre.
“We thought it might take longer to kind of build and for the momentum, but they are very very busy – the staff and the centre,” said Arruda, who finds the program has been more successful than anyone would have expected.
NDSS now offers in-house health care and there are now talks about moving services to Nanaimo Aquatic Centre. There’s a desire to expand to other high schools in time, according to the pediatrician.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, an organization of more than 60,000 pediatricians, also recognizes Island Health’s chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick for outstanding contributions to healthy public policy and injury prevention.