BCAHL’s Reflections & Accomplishments: 2023

What a year 2023 has been.

We’ve seen how resilient people across BC can be: from a difficult summer of wildfires to increasing food prices, we’ve seen our friends and families adapt quickly, give generously and support each other.

With activities and events now back in full swing after the pandemic, many have been able to get back to enjoying amenities and recreational facilities once again. Throughout this past year, we’ve been grateful to have these opportunities that support our mental and physical health.

However, this year also saw an incredible increase in the cost of living, as food, rent, mortgage and gas prices skyrocketed, highlighting inequities that were already pushing people to the edge.

Throughout this eventful year, BCAHL promoted policies and programs to ensure people across BC have equitable access to healthy options. We are proud of the work we’ve done and the connections we’ve made, and we’re excited about continuing our healthy living work in 2024.

Investing in Healthy People for a Healthier Province

This year, we celebrated receiving a $4 million investment in healthy living from the province. We are grateful and excited about this funding as it will contribute towards improving health and well-being across BC.

This recent investment will build on the work started by BCAHL and many other provincial leaders to support the BC Physical Activity Strategy. Phase 1 initiatives funded by the Ministry of Health built strong foundations and capacity. The initiatives from that phase helped British Columbians who typically face barriers to being physically active, supporting healthy living, social connections and mental wellness.

The new funding also means we will be able to work with more communities to support and promote healthy living through the Physical Activity for Health Collaborative (PAHC), where we will continue to work with partners to coordinate efforts to make physical activity opportunities inclusive and equitable throughout BC. The investment from the province will also support the Collaborative as we work to address the decline in physical activity among children and youth, which was brought on by the pandemic years.

We will also be launching our new After School Active Kids Club project to increase after-school unstructured free-play opportunities for children, focusing on school districts and communities where there is a gap in active after-school programs.

This funding will also support Indigenous and local governments in creating active communities throughout the province by making physical activity accessible for more people, through the re-launched Active Communities Grant Program, which you can learn more about here.

Extreme Heat and Poor Air Quality

Heat and poor air quality continue to be a concern for many in the province, especially with how it affects our bodies and the way we move outdoors in the summer.

We worked to address safety and physical activity during extremely hot days and poor air quality events through our spring webinar, as well as through our podcast The Balance. Experts spoke to us about the negative effects of air pollution, particularly wildfire smoke, on our bodies and ways we can mitigate the risks of poor air quality through exercise.

Our extreme heat and poor air quality work this year also included a social media campaign this past summer. It included safety messages as well as advice on how to continue being active without putting our health at risk.

Active Transportation

This summer, we launched the Community Active Transportation Engagement (CATE) Project. The goal of the project is to provide funding for the supports people need to be able to use active transportation infrastructure in communities.

The program aims to address individual barriers, such as skills, motivation, confidence, affordability, and awareness of infrastructure. Indigenous and local governments that have completed an active transportation infrastructure project within the last two years were encouraged to apply, along with non-profit organizations partnered with Indigenous or local governments.

Some of the initiatives the grant is funding include promotional events, skill-building workshops, and equipment-share programs. The project includes a robust evaluation and so we are looking forward to learning and sharing what happens when you add programs to infrastructure. 

Healthy Eating and Food Security: Food for All

Food prices this year reached a point where many couldn’t afford necessities, pushing people to decide between what they can afford versus what is nutritious. Food Banks Canada’s HungerCount published this year indicated that 2023 saw a considerable increase in food bank visits, with BC recording a 20% increase from 2022.

Through our social listening campaign, Food for All, we heard from BC residents how difficult it has been to eat nutritious meals when their fixed incomes couldn’t stretch any further; how many of them have to choose between paying rent or buying food.

Now that the first phase of the project is over, we are building on previous advocacy efforts in support of poverty reduction and a Universal Healthy School Food program with a comprehensive food policy agenda that we will be advancing with our members and other partners.

Alcohol Policy

We continued to highlight the chronic disease risks associated with alcohol use on BCAHL’s podcast The Balance. The episode “Alcohol warning labels: How do they help?” featured Dr. Tim Naimi (Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research) and Dr. Heather Bryant (Canadian Partnership Against Cancer), where they spoke about their research on the health implications of alcohol and ways that labelling can help mitigate some of these effects while also educating consumers about the chronic disease and cancer risks.

Our op-ed, “Do you know how risky your drink is?”, discussed the health consequences of alcohol-related risks in BC, and ways we can decrease excessive alcohol use through the use and promotion of the updated Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines was published in The Tyee, The Province, and Castanet.

BCAHL, in partnership with Vancouver Coastal Health, hosted “Alcohol & Safety: A Conversation on Community Policy” this fall.

The dialogue brought Dr. Mark Lysyshyn (Vancouver Coastal Health), Kate Vallance (Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research), and Councillor Tom Stere (District of Tofino) to speak about the effects of relaxed alcohol policies, policy recommendations on a local and provincial level, and ways communities can mitigate some of the health risks associated with alcohol use.

Active Communities Grant Program

This year, we re-launched the Active Communities Grant Program which will provide $1.5 million in funding to communities thanks to the investment from the Province of British Columbia. The program builds on the successes of the first iteration of the Active Communities initiative, which provided resources to Indigenous and local governments to create or expand accessible physical activity opportunities.

This round of funding allows us to continue working with community partners to improve physical activity opportunities across the province.

Applications for the grant program are open until February 5, 2024. For more information on the program and for the application package, click here.

We hope your holiday season is filled with joy, and may the new year bring you good health.

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