IF 2020 HAS TAUGHT us anything, it is that health drives everything else. Without it, everything else grinds to a halt, individually, and collectively.
It’s no surprise that in 2019/20, the British Columbia government spent $21 billion on health care. It’s forecast to be up to $21.5 billion in 2020/21 and more for than $22.1 billion in 2021/22 fiscal year. No other item in the budget even comes close. The next highest, in 2020/21, was Education (K-12) at $6.7 billion.
While COVID-19 is consuming a lot of our attention, there are a lot of other health issues that we can’t lose sight of. And here in the Interior, there’s a few we specifically need to look at.
First, health risks from alcohol. In Canada, approximately 15,000 deaths, and 90,000 hospital admissions are linked to alcohol consumption. Liver, heart, kidneys, mental health are some of the risk areas with excessive alcohol consumption.
Bad news for everyone. But even more so in the Interior of B.C.
On average, in B.C., adults consumed 9.16L pure alcohol per adult, or 537 drinks per year. But in the Interior, alcohol consumption is the very highest in the province. In Interior Health’s region, on average, each adult consumes at between 11.6 to 13L pure alcohol per adult. That equates to 680 to 762 drinks per year.
Alcohol consumption is 27 per cent higher in Interior Health’s region than the provincial average.
Excessive alcohol consumption leads to more health risks. Even so, I can’t recall a campaign by Interior Health to encourage less alcohol consumption. Out of the entire province, our region has the highest alcohol consumption per capita, but Interior Health is silent.
Water is another thing we drink, which is an important part of health. Interior Health is responsible for monitoring water quality in the region. The website Watertoday.ca identifies 210 Boil Water and Do Not Consume water advisories across B.C.
A large portion of the Boil Water and Do Not Consume water advisories are in the Interior. In the Interior Health’s region, there are 309 water systems. Of these, 58 (15.1 per cent) have Boil Water advisories, two systems have Do Not Consume advisories, and another 15 (3.9 per cent) have Water Quality Advisories.
That means, one in five water systems that Interior Health oversees has some type of issues.
While many of the sites are campgrounds or other seasonal sites, many others are systems used by full time dwellings, churches, a mosque and a school. Here in Kamloops, Heffley Creek water system has had problems for years, and currently has a water quality advisory.
Iron Mask Trailer Park, though they don’t have an advisory at present, has had perennial problems with their system. So much so that the residents have a spray-painted sign warning about the water at the entrance to their park.
Some water advisories are short term, but there are 16 water advisories in Interior Health’s region dating back to between 2000 and 2009, while another seven go back more than 20 years, with the earliest dated 1989.
Finally, as we start the new year, it is sobering to consider that while Interior Health’s region makes up 15 per cent of the B.C. population, 89 out of 252 traffic fatalities, or 35 per cent of all traffic related deaths in B.C. occurred in Interior Health region. One in three people who die in traffic accidents in B.C. die in our region.
Maybe Interior Health would argue that traffic safety isn’t their responsibility. But they still have a role in letting people know the gruesome consequences of excessive speeding, distracted driving, and impairment.
Health is on everyone’s minds. It’s something that we all value. We deserve equivalent health outcomes to other parts of the province. Here in Interior Health’s region, we deserve that Interior Health addresses basic health issues like excessive alcohol consumption, clean water, and vehicular deaths head on.
Happy New Year, and keep well.
Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.