Bowen’s Health Service Needs

colleen working

Colleen O’Neil at her desk in the Caring Circle Resource Centre

By Susanne Martin – Bowen Island Undercurrent
Published: May 24, 2013 10:00 AM

Bowen Island had the highest ranking for the percentage of residents who feel a strong sense of community belonging, according to a recent North Shore Community Wellness Survey. The survey was conducted from November 23 to December 21 last year with the aim to support the North Shore Congress Child and Family Friendly Community Charter but Colleen O’Neil, coordinator of the Bowen Island’s Caring Circle Health Resource Centre, says that it doesn’t tell the whole story.

O’Neil believes that a need assessment for Bowen Island has to include more community specific information. A new survey titled My Health My Community (MHMC) will be conducted by Vancouver Coastal Health in partnership with Fraser Health and the UBC Faculty of Medicine eHealth Strategy Office. O’Neil hopes that the survey can be a useful tool for the Caring Circle.

“When the Caring Circle had its first meeting on Bowen, we determined that one of the first steps we needed to take was to do health needs assessment,” O’Neil said at the Monday, May 13, council meeting, adding that the health needs assessments that had been done in 2007 and 2009 were inadequate.

O’Neil had planned on working on an update but has recently heard about the Vancouver Coastal Health initiative that plans to launch a web-based survey in late June of 2013. “In the pilot project, we got the highest marks for community belonging,” O’Neil said. “But there are other aspects [to health services]. Vancouver Coastal Health will rely on the information gathered from the survey for planning purposes. If they don’t get a response, they believe that we are fine.” O’Neil explained that Bowen Island is grouped with West Vancouver, a community with that is “well served” and that, in order to get a clear picture of the local condition, certain questions would need to be added to the survey. “We need to ask, ‘Can you get doctor? And if not, why can’t you get a doctor?’” she said, adding that she is prepared to lend a hand in order to get the required input.

Vancouver Coastal Health has submitted a letter to council on April 30 to “welcome municipal partners to be part of the launch.” The letter also states, “This initiative will allow the collection of data on residents on an ongoing basis and this data will provide valuable information about the health of our community and allow for planners and others to assess and respond to community needs.”

Council was asked to lend assistance by promoting community awareness and participation, offering localized incentives as prizes for participating residents and by providing local community specific questions for inclusion in the MHMC questionnaire. O’Neil believes that people need to get motivated to fill out the survey and she wants to be part of the process. “[Vancouver Coastal Health] will likely send over a team to Bowen Island to help people who don’t have access to a computer,” she said. “I want to convince them to hire me and my team as we know the organizations to go to.” Councillor Alison Morse encouraged the involvement of the Caring Circle but added, “I would suggest that you take someone from North Shore Health with you [when you visit residents and organizations].”

Mayor Jack Adelaar believes Bowen Island’s participation in the survey is crucial as he has seen evidence that little information about the need and availability of local health services situation is available for health authorities. Chief Administrative Officer Kathy Lalonde suggested for O’Neil to work with staff to come up with a plan to make the most of the new survey for Bowen Island.