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LEARNING A NEW CONCEPT

- Health Unit Working With 32 Area Schools to Create a Healthier Environment for Students to Learn and Grow -

(PORT HOPE) – Your body’s wellness is directly linked to your overall health. And according to a Public Health Nurse, the concept is just as true for the local student body.

Students do better in a “healthy school” setting that encourages four fundamentals: high quality instruction and programs, a healthy physical environment, a supportive social environment, and community partnerships, said Karen Pettinella, a Public Health Nurse with the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge (HKPR) District Health Unit.

“There is a real connection between healthy schools and learning. When students are healthy, they are better learners,” she told members of the Board of Health for the HKPR District Health Unit, at their meeting in September (September 18).

Pettinella was making a presentation to Board of Health members on the Healthy Schools initiative that is being encouraged by the Ontario Ministry of Education and supported by health units across the province. The goal is to make schools healthier places for students to learn and grow, she said.

Currently in this area, HKPR District Health Unit staff members are working to encourage and establish the Healthy Schools initiative in 32 schools across Northumberland County, Haliburton County and the City of Kawartha Lakes. Twelve schools in the Health Unit region are committed to the process, and the remaining 20 schools are showing “potential” interest.

While Health Unit staff will introduce the Healthy Schools concept to school communities and offer encouragement, Pettinella said it is very much the students, teachers, staff and parents who must “buy in” and move the process forward in order for it to succeed. Typically, a school will first establish a Healthy Schools committee that will drive forward the process. The school will next identify its strengths and challenges through a survey or interviews with members of its community. From there, an action plan will be developed on how the school can create a healthier environment for learning and success.

“In some local schools, surveys have shown anxiety, bullying and loneliness are key challenges, so the school community is developing an action plan that will address these points,” Pettinella said.

Efforts to create a healthy school not only benefit students, but will have positives for the entire community. “Improving learning environments strengthens positive teacher-student bonds, and also leads to improved job satisfaction for educators,” Pettinella said. “For families, there are new opportunities to learn how to stay healthy, while also becoming more involved in their school community.”

While receiving the Healthy Schools presentation for information, Board of Health members also encouraged Pettinella and her Health Unit colleagues to continue sharing the concept with local school board officials. In addition, Board members suggested highlighting individual school success stories, with the goal of getting more schools in the area interested – and excited – about the Healthy Schools initiative.

Medical Officer of Health Updates:
Dr. Lynn Noseworthy provided information to Board of Health members on the following:

Ebola Virus Disease

Ebola virus continues to be a major concern in parts of West Africa. With thousands of cases to date, Ebola has killed about half of the people who have contracted it, Dr. Noseworthy said. She detailed to Board members the signs and symptoms of Ebola, as well as how the virus is transmitted. The Health Unit has also provided information and resources about Ebola to local health care partners. While health officials in Canada are closely monitoring the situation in Africa, there have been no Ebola cases reported to date in this country. “The risk to Ontarians remains low,” Dr. Noseworthy said.

Sexual Health Clinic Video

There has been positive feedback to a new video that been airing for clients waiting to access the Health Unit’s sexual health clinic in Lindsay. The Decision is a video that explores how teens are dealing with sex, pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, alcohol and condoms. It is shown in the office waiting area during evening sexual health clinics. “Clients who have viewed the resource have provided very positive feedback to us,” Dr. Noseworthy told Board members.

Municipal Election Campaign Working Group – ‘Rethink Health’ Campaign

A working group of Health Unit staff members have been working to develop a ‘Rethink Health’ campaign aimed at voters and candidates in this fall’s municipal election. The Rethink Health campaign is intended to highlight how the decisions made by municipal governments, as well as the programs they offer, can greatly affect the health of people in the community. The campaign includes a package of information for local election candidates, as well as a video, brochure, web resources, print ads and social media messages directed at voters. Dr. Noseworthy said the work of Health Unit staff in developing the Rethink Health campaign supports the agency’s own strategic plan in focusing on the social determinants of health and health equity. More information about the Rethink Health campaign can be found on the Health Unit’s website.

Strategic Plan Updates

The status of the Health Unit’s new Strategic Plan was provided to the Board. Three key priorities have been identified as part of the Strategic Plan: Mental Health, Communications and the Social Determinants of Health. Work is progressing in each area, and specific activities/action plans for each priority topic will be finalized in the coming months.

No-Smoking Policy in Multi-Unit Dwellings

The Health Unit was recently approached by Campbellford Non-Profit Housing Inc. (CNPH) for assistance in creating a smoke-free policy for Kinlee Terrace in Campbellford. Given the known health hazards that come from tobacco smoke, Dr. Noseworthy noted that smoke-free policies for multi-unit dwellings are becoming more popular. With the help of Health Unit staff, CNPH surveyed tenants this past spring and found that many have been exposed to second-hand smoke in or outside their townhouses. The survey of tenants at Kinlee Terrace also found support for a smoke-free policy, with a designated smoking area on site.
As of September 1, 2014, CNPH has implemented a new smoke-free housing policy that requires all new tenants to sign a housing agreement that includes a no-smoking clause. “It is a pretty exciting step to take for that type of multi-unit dwelling,” Dr. Noseworthy told Board members. Alongside the development and implementation of the policy, Health Unit staff have offered smoking cessation assistance through resources, consultations and smoking cessation support groups to tenants of CPNH who wish to quit smoking. Health Unit staff will also continue to support CNPH as it communicates the policy and support individuals who wish to quit smoking.

Locally-Driven Collaborative Projects
A number of Health Unit staff members are involved in Locally-Driven Collaboration Projects with Public Health Ontario and other Ontario health units, which are designed to help staff enhance and sustain their research and program evaluation skills. Currently, Health Unit staff members are involved with five projects on the following topics: falls prevention, healthy rural built environments, food literacy skills, reducing alcohol consumption, and promoting youth mental health. The results and findings of these collaborative projects will be shared with Board of Health members at a future date.

Enterovirus D68

In response to a question from a Board of Health member, Dr. Noseworthy commented on the evolving situation involving Enterovirus D68. This fall, laboratory-confirmed cases of the Enterovirus D68 have been found in Ontario and other parts of Canada, as well as approximately a dozen states in the United States. As of September 18, no local cases of Enterovirus D68 have been confirmed. According to Public Health Ontario, Enterovirus D68 is a specific enterovirus that causes respiratory illness. Symptoms range from a mild cold-like illness with coughing and wheezing to severe infections that require hospitalization.

“Enterovirus D68 is more likely to affect children, since adults would have likely been exposed to it at some previous point in their lives,” Dr. Noseworthy noted. She urged local residents to take similar precautions against Enterovirus D68, as they would with other respiratory illnesses. “Wash your hands, cough into your sleeve, and stay home if you feel sick,” she added.

The Health Unit is working closely with Public Health Ontario and other health units across the province to monitor the situation with Enterovirus D68. More information will be shared with local health care providers and area residents as the need arises, she added.

Business Arising From Minutes

Smoking Cessation InterventionsReceived, a report from Public Health Nurse Karen Taylor, on the effectiveness of various interventions to help people quit smoking. According to the report, a person who tries to give up smoking on his/her own has an approximate one in 10 chance of quitting. Smoking success rates go up when health care providers assist smokers, the report noted. With a combination of counseling and medication, a smoker’s chance of successfully quitting can jump to 27 per cent.

New Business

Accountability Agreement Performance IndicatorsReceived for information, an update on the Health Unit’s Accountability Agreement Performance Indicators for 2013. Dr. Noseworthy told Board members that these indicators were created by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care in 2011 to measure how well health units were doing in 14 key program areas. The areas being measured include: food premise inspections, pool inspections, meningococcal vaccination rates for school-aged children, and the percentage of tobacco vendors who are selling to minors. “We’re pleased with our progress to the end of 2013, and know that we have more work to do in a few areas. But we are well on our way,” Dr. Noseworthy noted.

Auditor’s ReportApproved, a presentation from the Health Unit’s auditors, Collins Barrow Chartered Accountants. Collins Barrows representatives reviewed with Board of Health members the Health Unit’s consolidated financial statements to the end of 2013, and noted that the results of their audit show everything is in order.

Insurance Renewal Approved, a motion to renew the Health Unit’s insurance coverage for 2014/2015 at a total cost of nearly $99,000. There is no change in coverage, and insurance costs for the coming year are similar to those paid by the Health Unit in 2013/14.

Operating StatementApproved, a motion to accept the draft operating statement for the HKPR District Health Unit. As of August 31, 2014, the Health Unit had expenditures of $11.8 million.

Policies and ProceduresApproved, a revision to a number of Health Unit policies and procedures.

Correspondence

Breast Milk SubstitutesReceived for information, letters from the Prime Minister and the Deputy Chief Public Health Officer of Canada acknowledging receipt of Health Unit correspondence relating to the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes.

Amendment to the Ontario Public Health StandardsReceived for information, a letter from the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care detailing amendments to the Ontario Public Health Standards.

Next Meeting

The next Board of Health meeting will be held at 10:30 am on Thursday, October 16, 2014, at the Health Unit’s office (191 Highland St., Unit 301) in Haliburton Village.

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For media inquiries, contact:
Bill Eekhof, Assistant Communications Officer, HKPR District Health Unit, (905) 885-9100.

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