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21 Community Groups Win Wellness Funds

By Richard Bell 

 It was standing room only at the Eastern Shore Musquodoboit Community Health Board’s “Community Celebration” on February 11 at the Oyster Pond Fire Station. 

Dr. Adele Vukic, Assistant Professor on the Faculty of Health Professions at Dalhousie’s School of Nursing, gave a short talk about the critical importance of community support in keeping Nova Scotians healthy. “We’re shifting the way we think about our health,” Vukic said, referring to recognizing the importance of such things as arts and music, friends and family, volunteerism, and an active lifestyle in maintaining health.   

She noted that even something as simple as literacy matters: studies from around the world show that communities with higher illiteracy rates tend to have higher infant mortality rates as well. 

Vukic emphasized the importance of “upstream thinking” to reduce disease rates. “If I’m at the hospital, and all these sick people are coming in, it’s like trying to rescue people in the rapids of a river,” Vukic explained. “If I go upstream, I can see why they’re getting sick.”  

She recommended looking at the website of an organization called Upstream, which describes its mission as reframing “public discourse around addressing the social determinants of health in order to build a healthier society.” (http://www.thinkupstream.net). 

Libby Dean, a researcher on health and environmental projects, particularly in indigenous communities, illustrated some of Vukic’s ideas in describing her involvement in a project to improve housing in some communities in Nunavut, where high rates of TB infection were linked to mold and overcrowding. Importing housing designs from warmer places would not work; in Inuit housing, there needs to be a substantially larger area of cold space in order to provide room for storing game or clothing that would deteriorate in a warmer space.  

After a lunch of homemade soup, biscuits, and dessert, ESMCHB co-chairs Maureen Kirk and Crystal Tobin distributed the 2016/2017 Wellness Funds cheques to representatives from 21 community groups, ranging from some of the region’s more visible service providers, like MusGo Rider and the Old School Community Gathering Place, to programs encouraging snowshoeing, chair yoga, and table tennis. The deadline for applying for the next round of Wellness Funds is November 1, 2017. You can contact the ESMCHB at 902-889-4118.  

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