By Tracey Vavrek
The 2011 VitalSigns® report produced by the Community Foundation of Greater Grande Prairie reported that “obesity has overtaken tobacco as the leading cause of premature, preventable death.”
In the former Peace Country Health Region, obesity rates for people aged 18 and older were reported as being just over 48% above the provincial average. As well, our 2010 obesity rates ranked highest of all 22 VitalSigns® communities.
In response, a Workplace Wellness Program pilot project was launched by Alberta Health Services (AHS) with six Grande Prairie businesses on May 15, 2012.
Garett Richardson of AHS indicated that the most exciting feature of this pilot program was that it reached hard-to-access Albertans who are identified as 50% to 60% of the province’s working population.
Working with six companies and utilizing staff from the Public Health area of AHS, they work closely with workplace champions to determine the company’s needs and then develop programs to address them.
It is wonderful to see AHS take this next step for VitalSigns®. The response of the six companies who wish to make a difference in their place of business is very encouraging and highlights the importance of the VitalSigns® project.
Meanwhile, another 2011 VitalSigns® finding has prompted action in the Grande Prairie census area.
We found that the child-poverty rate, which is based on the Low Income Measure, was 17.3%. And, the majority of these children live in single-parent families where recreational activities may take a back seat in favour of basics such as food, utilities and housing – items many of us take for granted.
The knowledge and understanding of life faced by Grande Prairie’s low-income population combined with the Peace Country’s high obesity rate solidified the importance of implementing the Low Income Recreation Access program.
Grande Prairie’s Community Social Development department, which is responsible for overseeing the program, takes action on issues such as poverty reduction and homelessness.
Manager, Donelda Laing reported that the program, which was launched on January 1st, 2012 has been very well-received. To date her office has approved approximately 300 applications.
The program provides a $100 credit per person per family for access to any city-operated recreational facility and is available to any City of Grande Prairie resident who meets the low-income criteria. As an example, a family with six children and two adults would qualify to receive a credit worth $800 explained Donelda.
The credit can take the form of a punch card and provides families with opportunities to use city facilities and programs.
We commend the City of Grande Prairie for understanding the importance of sustaining citizens in addressing the social needs of the community
Tracey Vavrek is Executive Director of the Community Foundation of Greater Grande Prairie.