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Community health plan for western Nova Scotia is about ‘thinking more upstream’

Eileen Stevens (left) and Emily Fiander were among those who took part in stakeholder sessions last year as part of the consultation process for the preparation of a community health plan for western Nova Scotia. This session was held in Yarmouth.
Eileen Stevens (left) and Emily Fiander were among those who took part in stakeholder sessions last year as part of the consultation process for the preparation of a community health plan for western Nova Scotia. This session was held in Yarmouth. - Contributed

Food security and housing are two of the priority items in a community health plan for western Nova Scotia.

The plan was a collaborative effort involving the 11 community health boards in the province’s western zone. It will form the basis of the work the CHBs in this zone will do over the next three years.

“Our community health plan represents years of work with our communities,” said Tony Dorrian, a member of the western zone’s community health planning team. “It was very important to the CHBs that the plan reflects the priorities and recommendations we heard from the citizens of our communities to improve the health of our population.”

The plan’s four priorities are:

--Working together to improve food security

--Availability and access to healthy living, recreation and wellness programs

--Working together on issues of safe, affordable and appropriate housing

--Opportunities for connection and inclusion in supportive community environments.

“It’s all about health and wellness and the concept of this plan is thinking more upstream,” said Dorrian, co-chair of the Yarmouth County Community Health Board, noting how various issues can impact someone’s health.

“If you look at things like safe, affordable housing,” he said, “if the average Nova Scotian has a roof over their head and they feel safe and secure in it and it meets their needs, that starts to help in other areas ... so that’s kind of where we’re heading.”

The planning team used two phases of public engagement, the first of which included surveys – available in English and French – to find out what people had to say regarding issues and concerns. The second phase consisted of nine stakeholder meetings throughout the western zone.

“They (stakeholders) sort of took the Phase 1 information and they started to mould it and frame it up,” Dorrian said.

Several years ago – prior to this broader, collaborative process involving the 11 boards in the western zone –  the four community health boards in the tri-counties teamed up to develop a plan. They were the first community health boards in the province to get together in this way, Dorrian said, and the process worked well. It was a similar experience, he said, with this bigger, regional effort.

“It was a rewarding experience to be a part of the Western Zone Community Planning Team,” Dorrian said in the plan’s preamble. “Our NSHA (Nova Scotia Health Authority) facilitators guided our work, and allowed us to perform at a high level. Our new health plan really captured the voices we heard, and it will guide our work towards a healthier future for the communities we serve.”

There are 37 community health boards in Nova Scotia. Board members like Dorrian serve on CHBs as volunteers.

To view the community health plan for the western zone, click here

What people said:

Examples of what people had to say regarding priorities for a community health plan for western Nova Scotia:

--“If we had school healthy eating policies in all schools ... and collaboration between local growers, school programs, parents, teachers and staff ... we could have free breakfast and affordable salad bar buffet that supports local farmers and school gardens.”

--“We need more recreational facilities which are affordable, or funded programs which allow those on low income to be active without breaking their pocket book.”

--“We have a lot of folks who do not feel included in our community and more needs to be done to welcome them and inform them of what services and groups are available and how they can access them.”

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