By Heather Fraser
TRURO - Since I began working with the Central Nova Scotia Civic Centre project team, one thing has been clear to me.
When the idea was initiated to provide a new health and wellness centre for our community, the entire team has had one common goal - to build a centre that our region can take great pride in and one that will focus on breaking down barriers that might deter people from walking through the doors.
It will not only be a "fitness" facility - it will be much more. The focus of the centre will be on the total health of our community, which will result in both short term and long term effects that will improve the lives of our citizens for generations.
As a way to ensure the facility is supportive to all community members, a healthy policy advisory committee was formed that is comprised of various members whose expertise represents social, economical and cultural initiatives. Although formed 18 months ago, this committee now acts as an advisory committee to Jim Lambert, the centre's general manager, and the newly formed operating board.
The committee has focused on six main strategies: access to physical fitness, healthy eating, injury prevention, responsible alcohol usage, tobacco free and baby friendly areas.
To have an active daily life seems like an easy choice for some, but to others it's a reality that may not be possible due to economic or social restrictions. The centre's team is committed to reduce barriers that might prohibit children and their families from being physically active and allowing them the opportunity to participate in activities that promote healthy, active lives. The project team will look at such things as program fees, equipment costs and activities that are supportive to broader family use.
A decision was made early in the design phase for the centre not to include deep fryers in the civic centre. This was both a cost and design decision, but also one that demonstrates the commitment of the project team to ensure a healthy environment for those who visit the facility. When healthy food and beverage options are available, it can have a strong impact on the wellness of the entire community. Many schools and hospitals have adopted this thinking, so it stands to reason that our community's health and wellness centre would also follow in this direction.
Preventing sport and recreation injuries requires a shift from focusing on individual behaviour to an environment that promotes safety through their physical design and health promoting policies. As part of the injury prevention initiative, a mandatory helmet policy for all ages could potentially decrease the number of on-ice injuries. With today's concerns surrounding concussions that are leaving permanent or long-lasting affects, this seems like a "no-brainer."
With the direction taken by the province, as well as the Town of Truro and the County of Colchester regarding tobacco-free areas, it should not be of any surprise that the health and wellness centre would also look at adopting those same guidelines.
Smoke-free policies have proven effective in reducing the rates of smoking and tobacco use, and preventing youth from starting to use tobacco.
Ways to promote the responsible use of alcohol is also a concern that many of us have. Statistics show that youth are starting to consume alcohol at an earlier age and are especially vulnerable to the marketing of these products. The responsible alcohol initiative will look at such things as limiting signage in areas that are frequented more often by youth and young adults.
Designated "baby friendly" or "family friendly" areas are another consideration that would provide a welcoming environment for families and would support healthy choices.
The direction the centre will take on each of these initiatives is not yet determined, but I do know that when the doors open to our new health and wellness centre, it will be an environment that is supportive of healthy choices and will have a positive, long lasting impact on the health and well-being of our community.
A healthy community is a safe, sustainable, prosperous place to gather, play and thrive.
Heather Fraser is the fundraising/public relations assistant for the Ignite the Spirit Campaign-Central Nova Scotia Civic Centre project.