Northern Health looks to address poverty

Higher minimum wage and income assistance could be potential solutions

Residents in Kitimat see a higher minimum wage and income assistance as some of the clearest ways to creating healthier environments for the town’s children, according to a report released by Northern Health in January.

During a public meeting held on May 30, 2016, 14 Kitimat participants engaged with Northern Health officials, and discussed what growing up healthy meant to them, as well as learning what services in the community work to support children and youth to grow up healthy. They also discussed what kind of improvements can be made to further support youth and children.

Kitimat participants in the discussion believed that growing up healthy means having a good foundation, being resilient, and having a chance to live life to its fullest potential, according to the report.

“This requires love and acceptance, connectedness to others and a feeling of hope. It also requires good nutrition and having basic needs met, including health and other services from time to time,” it adds.

The Kitimat section also added that being connected to one’s culture, being able to engage with the outdoors, and free play and less management of children’s time as other contributors to growing up healthy in Kitimat.

With regards to what is working in the community to benefit youth and children, programs like Strong Start, an early learning based service for adults and children, breakfast and lunch programs, C’IMO’CA Stay and Play, prenatal parenting education, and mental health programs are all valuable resources, according to respondents.

Some improvements that respondents suggested include parenting education, full-day childcare, trained early childhood educators and healthy role models, to ensure children feel well cared for.

Higher minimum wage and income assistance would help address poverty issues in the community, and drop-in breakfast and lunch programs would help feed young people in need.

“Better transportation options would open up access to activities that don’t involve time on social media,” adds the report.

Kitimat respondents said services are needed for youth on the cusp of adulthood. They also believe the community needs safety initiatives and medical clinics with workable opening hours, and easy access to information.

Sessions like the one held in Kitimat were held in 17 other Northern BC communities, with 275 participants. Other meetings included stakeholder focus groups and meetings exclusively with youth ages 13 to 18.

According to a report released by First Call: B.C. Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition in late 2016, the child poverty rate in BC for 2014 was 19.8 per cent, higher than the national average of 18.5 per cent.

According to First Call, 28 per cent of children ages 0-17 in the Kitimat-Stikine regional district are a part of a low income family. The coalition considers the poverty line as $24,954 for a single parent with one child, $30,301 for a couple with one child or a single parent with two children, and $35,648 for a couple with two children.