Ladysmith residents will be surveyed about health and wellness priorities

Ladysmith residents will be asked to take part in a survey that will help determine health and wellness priorities and programming for the region.

Our Cowichan Communities Health Network’s ‘Our Health, Our Community’ survey is in the works and Ladysmith town council is being asked to help with creating and promoting it.

Dr. Shannon Waters, medical health officer for the Cowichan Valley region, and Vanessa Daether, a project manager with Our Cowichan Communities Health Network, spoke to council at a meeting Dec. 20 at the Ladysmith Seniors Centre.

“The intent of this survey is to produce results that will identify the health status, health inequities and the priorities of Cowichan Valley residents, so that we can support local, evidence-based decision-making and health and wellness planning and programs, creating health-promoting environments, developing public policy and implementation as well as resource allocation and funding opportunities,” Daether said.

Ladysmith is being asked to pitch five questions for the survey based on community health priorities or to fill gaps in data. The region has already identified a handful of health and wellness priorities, the first and foremost being mental health and resiliency, said Waters.

She pointed to different survey data that showed that between 2020 and 2021, 50.9 per cent of Cowichan Valley residents reported that their mental health had worsened, compared to 45.2 per cent the year before. Feelings of helplessness, disconnection from friends and a decreased sense of community belonging were also reported.

“These are things that we really need to pay attention to and things that we really need to look at our response on,” the doctor said.

The illicit drug toxicity crisis is another regional priority, as based on the latest available coroners report, 2022 was set to become the deadliest year yet in the overdose crisis for the Cowichan Valley. Waters noted that in addition to the death toll, drug toxicity has also caused brain injuries.

The climate crisis and effects of extreme weather will be another priority that the survey will ask about.

Similar surveys have happened in other health authorities in B.C. and Daether said stakeholders such as B.C. Transit’s HandyDart and and the Vancouver Division of Family Practice, for example, have used the data to inform programs and services.

“There’s lots of diverse ways in which data from this survey can be applied and it really speaks to the social determinants of health,” she said.

Mayor Aaron Stone suggested that Ladysmith council discuss health priorities at a committee of the whole meeting this month to come up with suggested survey questions.

The survey will consist of about 80 questions and officials hope for at least 4,500 responses. Printed copies will be available and Our Cowichan will be engaging student and peer surveyors to help people access and fill out the surveys. The survey will be launched in the spring and results will be reported in the summer.

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