BCAHL – 10 is a Milestone Event!

But what do we want to be when we grow up? That was the question as BCAHL sat down last week to consult with colleagues and partners at our consultation, “On the Path to Better Health”.

It’s great to look back on what we’ve achieved and see some of the gains BC has made in chronic disease incidence and awareness of healthy living. BC is ahead of the Canadian pack in both reduction of smoking and increasing physical activity.  However, there is still a challenging path ahead in order to ensure that all British Columbians can live as long and healthy lives as possible.

Michelle Stilwell, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health for Healthy Living was front and centre at the consultation, and we were so pleased with her passion and engagement with the issues. She certainly practices what we “preach”!

Some themes that came through loud and clear at the consultation were the need for a more holistic vision of health and one that includes other sectors. To start a meaningful conversation with other sectors, such as the business community, we will need to broaden our vision so that business leaders can see a role for themselves in building a healthier BC and that there are positive impacts on their interests.

This broader vision of health is not new, in fact it is shared by countries around the world. The World Health Organization’s definition of health is very expansive, “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

There was wide agreement at the consultation on the need to work together to support this broader view of health and wellness, one that will encompass our emotional and spiritual needs as well as our physical and mental well-being. We know from numerous studies and surveys that our mental wellness affects our physical health and vice versa. This view is well supported by BC’s Guiding Framework for Public Health, with its vision of “Vibrant communities in which all people achieve their best health and well-being where they live, work, learn and play.”

A strong and comprehensive vision of health and wellness is also supported by the work of the new First Nations Health Authority. They have used evidence, experience and the input of many community members and elders to create their vision of wellness, one that will bend and change around the needs of individuals and communities. It includes the physical, spiritual, emotional and mental as essential elements of a healthy individual and then circles out to the other aspects of our lives and communities that support that individual. Linking to their site and taking a more in depth look at their process is time well-spent.

It seems clear that as we can’t separate our heads from the rest of our bodies, neither can the social, mental, spiritual and physical aspects of health be looked at piecemeal.  How we address this holistic vision in our work remains to be seen, but it is clear that there is widespread agreement amongst our colleagues and partners that an integrated approach to wellness is the end goal for all of our efforts.

Samantha Hartley-Folz
Manager, Programs & Policy

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