Spotlight on FSJ as Northern Health celebrates decade of grant program

Through the community garden and the initiative, the support group provides locally grown food for community members in need, while also raising awareness and reducing the stigma around mental health issues in the community. (Photo/Northern Health)

Northern Health, northern British Columbia’s health care provider that strives to promote healthy living while providing health services for Northern and rural populations, has just achieved a major milestone for their IMAGINE grant program, according to a news release issued by Northern Health.

At the latest regular board meeting of the Northern Health Board of Directors, which took place in Chetwynd, B.C, the Northern Health Population and Preventative Public Health IMAGINE Community Granting program was commemorated, as 2018 marks a decade since the program was introduced.

Per Northern Health, the program has been providing seed funding for community-led projects to promote healthy living.

Projects must support community-based initiatives that focus on chronic disease prevention or health promotion priorities, such as healthy eating and food security, to positive mental health initiatives and prevention of substance abuse, among others.

Over the past decade, more than 800 different projects have been awarded more than $2.3 million in funding.

“Ensuring a healthy community is a goal that requires efforts from all stakeholders, working collaboratively on opportunities for improvement,” said Northern Health board chair Colleen Nyce. “The success of the IMAGINE grant program recognizes the hard work of communities across the region to promote health, and prevent disease and injury.”

At the Spring Board meeting, Population and Preventative Health presented the board its newly-release report — IMAGINE Community Granting 2008-2018: A Decade of Healthy Community Action — to reflect upon the successes of the initiative for communities in northern B.C.

One of the highlights in the newly issued report was Fort St. James’ Healthy Minds Community Garden, that was established in 2015. The construction of the project involved over 50 volunteers and over 1,500 volunteer hours.

The Healthy Minds Peer Support Group, formerly known as the Fort St. James Peer Support Group, identified the need for a community driven garden in the community.

The Healthy Minds Community Garden was established to promote positive mental health, while preventing substance harms. Physical activity, food security, the promotion of healthy eating, as well as enforcing social connectedness were other reasons as to why Northern Health believed that the community garden would be instrumental to Fort St. James.

Through the community garden and the initiative, the support group provides locally grown food for community members in need, while also raising awareness and reducing the stigma around mental health issues in the community.

The community garden initiative also lends support to those individuals who are on the road to recovery and ultimately want to live healthier lifestyles in the process. IMAGINE funding supported the purchase of the start-up construction materials, as well as supplies for the garden itself.

Further information provided in the release states that board members also received a detailed report regarding Northern Health’s response to the 2017 wildfire crisis evacuations.

The report included a range of recommendations as to where Northern Health can improve in future natural disaster events. Many of these recommendations have already been implemented according to Northern Health, while others are in the process of implementation.

This After-Action report process included compiling information from meetings, interviews and surveys of more than 335 Northern Health staff and physicians.

“I am very proud of the commitment and efforts of our staff and physicians during an event that challenged us all,” said Northern Health CEO and President Cathy Ulrich. “What we accomplished was exceptional, and this report captured the things we did well and the things we can improve should we be challenged by a similar experience in the future.”

Other highlights from the spring board meeting include the changes to the Northern Health Bus, as the organization recently announced expanded eligibility to support more northern B.C. residents travel, when it relates to health care needs and issues.

The community of Fort St. James and the Nak’azdli Whut’en First Nation were also both successful recipients for further IMAGINE community grants.

The Chuntoh Education Society will receive $5000 for their Yunk’ut Whe Ts’o Dul’eh – We Learn from Our Land initiative, while the District of Fort St. James will also receive $5000 for their Paddle Boarding for Fun and Fitness project.

Furthermore, the Nak’azdli Whut’en First Nation will receive $5000 for their Alhgoh Nat’soojeh – Growing a Good Life health initiative.

The next regular meeting of the Northern Health Board of Directors will be held in Prince George in October, later this year.

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