Poverty con­tin­ues to make us sick

The Amherst News - - COMMUNITY - Colleen Dowe is the co-or­di­na­tor of the Com­mu­nity Health Boards for Cum­ber­land County.

For years we’ve known that in­come and re­sources have a di­rect im­pact on our health. Low in­come Cana­di­ans are more likely to die ear­lier and to suf­fer from chronic ill­nesses than Cana­di­ans with higher in­comes re­gard­less of age, sex or race.

So when Cum­ber­land County’s Com­mu­nity Health Boards be­gan gath­er­ing in­for­ma­tion for the most re­cent com­mu­nity health plan, it was no sur­prise that fi­nan­cial need was a con­sis­tent theme through­out the sur­vey re­sults and com­mu­nity con­ver­sa­tions.

Words like “af­ford­able, in­ex­pen­sive and free” were used to de­scribe al­most ev­ery un­met need. Shop lo­cal was a pri­or­ity at a ma­jor­ity of the com­mu­nity con­ver­sa­tions and when asked what sup­ports do you need to live a health­ier life­style at least two of the com­mu­nity con­ver­sa­tions specif­i­cally stated they re­quired more money.

Ev­ery three years, CHBs pro­duce a com­mu­nity health plan.

The pur­pose of the plan is to iden­tify lo­cal needs and pro­vide rec­om­men­da­tions and strate­gies to im­prove the over­all health of our com­mu­ni­ties.

Sev­eral ap­proaches were used to de­velop the health plan us­ing a pop­u­la­tion health lens, the de­ter­mi­nants of health, and an anal­y­sis of Cum­ber­land County statis­tics. The CHBs con­ducted sev­eral fo­cus groups and sur­veyed Cum­ber­land res­i­dents to gather their views on health.

Us­ing the re­sults through com­mu­nity en­gage­ment in­volv­ing more than 600 in­di­vid­u­als re­sulted in a fo­cus of four clear pri­or­i­ties:

•In­crease Eco­nomic Well Be­ing •In­crease Men­tal Well­ness and Sense of Be­long­ing

•In­crease Healthy Life­styles and Sup­port­ive En­vi­ron­ments

•In­crease Com­mu­nity En­gage­ment and Pos­i­tive Re­la­tion­ships

In or­der to In­crease Eco­nomic Well Be­ing, the CHBs rec­om­mend ad­vo­cacy for healthy poli­cies that sup­port pros­per­ity across our com­mu­ni­ties with an em­pha­sis on our vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions. Each of the three Com­mu­nity Health Boards has de­vel­oped an ac­tion plan to work to­ward achiev­ing this goal.

Oct. 17 has been des­ig­nated as the in­ter­na­tional Day for the Erad­i­ca­tion of Poverty, and SOAR (Springhill, Ox­ford, Amherst and Re­gion) CHB is part­ner­ing with Dig­nity for All, Em­pow­er­ing Be­yond Bar­ri­ers and the Cum­ber­land YMCA to raise aware­ness about poverty and en­cour­age sup­port for a na­tional poverty re­duc­tion strat­egy.

Board mem­bers shard “Chew on This” bags at Dayles’ Grand Mar­ket and at the Cum­ber­land YMCA.

SOAR and SPAR (Southamp­ton, Parrs­boro, Ad­vo­cate and Re­gion) CHBs are in the early stages of as­sist­ing with the plan­ning of poverty aware­ness fo­rums, the first of which is ex­pected to hap­pen in the com­ing months in Amherst. They are also sup­port­ing Ba­sic In­come Guar­an­tee Nova Sco­tia (BIGNS) in its work to en­cour­age the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment to do a fea­si­bil­ity study on the Ba­sic In­come Guar­an­tee.

SOAR CHB is also in the process of de­vel­op­ing a sur­vey for non­prof­its and com­mu­nity groups with the in­ten­tion of gath­er­ing in­for­ma­tion to cre­ate a com­mu­nity re­port and de­ter­mine if there is a role they can play to make the sit­u­a­tion bet­ter.

All three Cum­ber­land County CHBs are sup­port­ing the Coats for Cum­ber­land Cam­paign, a pro­gram that col­lects coats and win­ter outer wear and of­fers them to any­one in need. Thou­sands of coats have been given out since the pro­gram started ten years ago. Each year Em­pow­er­ing Be­yond Bar­ri­ers heads the project and other com­mu­nity groups in­clud­ing the CHBs sup­port­ing the work. This year coats stores will be held in Amherst, Ox­ford, Parrs­boro, Port Gre­ville, Pug­wash, Springhill and Went­worth.

Along with these CHB ac­tiv­i­ties, pro­vid­ing di­rect fi­nan­cial re­sources to com­mu­nity projects through Well­ness Grants plays a big role in help­ing them achieve their pri­or­ity goals.

For more in­for­ma­tion on be­com­ing in­volved in the CHBs please con­tact Colleen Dowecolleen.dowe@nsha.ca , 902-3970376.

Sub­mit­ted

Ali­son Lair, Veron­ica Richards, Hal Davidson and Colleen Dowe look over Chew On This! ma­te­rial in ad­vance of the anti-poverty event on Oct. 17.

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