Local initiatives help build a healthier community

Participants at the Child and Youth Committee’s Conversation on Chilliwack’s Children heard of several innovative programs in Chilliwack

I had the opportunity to attend a breakout session at the recent Child and Youth Committee’s Conversation on Chilliwack’s Children that was on supported health for the whole family. Participants heard a snapshot of several new and innovative programs in Chilliwack geared towards the health and well being of the individual, family and community as a whole.

Ron Plowright spoke of the Physician Practice Support program, which teaches participating doctors clinical practice or administrative items. Currently, a module is being offered on Child and Youth Mental Health where doctors are trained and supported to screen, assess, and intervene at their level for mild and moderate concerns relating to depression, anxiety, ADHD, and behavioural problems. The program consists of a learning session, action period where they can try out a three-question universal screening tool, another learning session, and a follow up. Community agencies and service providers are also invited to participate to build upon their supportive and collaborative approach to working with medical professionals.

Katrina Bepple, a member of the Chilliwack Health Care Foundation, spoke about two initiatives: the Primary Care Clinic and GP for Me program for Chilliwack, Agassiz, Hope, and Seabird Island. The program is currently in the information gathering phase and works to  improve access to doctors for families, born out of research demonstrating that continuous supported care by a doctor or nurse practitioner predicts better long-term health outcomes; and the 5, 2, 1, 0 program, which promotes health in our children and youth by providing consistent health messages that kids can see every day everywhere they go, and stands for five or more fruits and vegetables daily, two hours or less recreational screen time, one hour or more of physical activity, and zero sugary drinks.

Chelsea, Chair of the Chilliwack Food Matters Committee, and Dan, a board member, spoke of Chilliwack Food Matters, started as a UFV social work program to bring together stakeholders interested in healthy and locally sustainable food. There is a gleaning program with receiving partners, as well as plant a row/grow a row with seed kits on how to learn to grow vegetables – including a donation component – a community garden program and others. They are committed to trying to create a sustainable and fair local food system in Chilliwack for all people, and would be very happy to welcome more volunteers.

Mark Littlefield, a ministry contractor, spoke of the Ulysses agreement, a conversational process for engaging with a person about their being mentally well (not mentally ill), which results in a written plan to organize and manage life should they become unwell. This plan asks individuals key questions, including: Who is part of your community? Who cares for you? Who supports you? How do you feel cared for by them? What does being unwell look like for you? What do you want them to do should you become unwell? Who do you want to look after your child? and Why do they need to be happy and feel safe?

Andrea Gieselman of the YMCA spoke of the MEND program: Mind, Exercise, Nutrition, Do it! MEND is a free 10-week program geared towards families with children aged 7-13 who are above a healthy weight, and focuses on living a healthy lifestyle, healthy eating, how to read labels, how be more active, and setting healthy goals. A combination of information and activity sessions, the program also partners with the City of Chilliwack to provide leisure passes to the families involved. The mission is to help families raise healthy and resilient kids who can take responsibility for their own health.

Eryn Wicker (M.A., RCC) is a mental health clinician with the Child and Youth Mental Health team with the Ministry of Children and family Development in Chilliwack, BC.