Northerners need to work on healthier living

A report by the B.C. Healthy Living Alliance (BCHLA) which looks at trends in chronic disease in the province and finds northerners lacking.

  • Mar. 17, 2014 2:00 p.m.

Not enough vegetables or exercise and too much smoking is impacting health among those in northern B.C.

At least according to a report by the B.C. Healthy Living Alliance (BCHLA) which looks at trends in chronic disease in the province.

Preventable conditions such as type two diabetes, hypertension, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease have all risen in northern populations in the past 10 years, according to the report.

Risk factors for a number of chronic illnesses were looked at and included diet, activity levels, obesity and poverty.

In the North the study found: 64 per cent of us are not eating enough vegetables and fruit, 59 per cent are overweight or obese, 41 per cent are inactive, and 23 per cent continue to smoke.

But there have been improvements as well, and some successes with programs aimed at addressing these issues.

“Although there continues to be health challenges in the North, it’s important to focus on moving forward,” said Scott McDonald, chair of BCHLA. “One of the positive stories comes from the Northeast, which went from having the lowest rate of physical activity in 2003, but is now above the provincial average.”

The report also flags the disproportionate burden of disease among low income British Columbians.  People who live in our poorest communities are more likely to die early from cancer (24 per cent), respiratory diseases (53 per cent), circulatory diseases (65 per cent) and diabetes (91 per cent).

“In addition to the human cost, chronic diseases are costly to our provincial healthcare system. Excess weight costs $612 million, smoking costs $670 million and inactivity costs $335 million in direct healthcare costs.” says Mary Collins, director of the BCHLA Secretariat.  “There is the potential to save $2 billion in annual healthcare costs, if we really ramp up our efforts in prevention.”

She said the work being done through Healthy Family’s BC by the provincial government is a step in the right direction, but more is needed.

BCHLA highlights opportunities for government and others to build on successes, such as those made in tobacco control, but warns that the status-quo won’t be enough.

The BCHLA said projections show that if nothing changes there could be over 768,000 British Columbians with Type 2 Diabetes by 2032 and in the next ten years the number of new cancer cases is expected to rise by 75 per cent.


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