Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit Barrie Office
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Board meeting notes April 18, 2012

Apr 24, 2012
Health unit prepares for West Nile virus; Actions needed to improve access to healthy food choices: health unit; Health unit becomes a regional health info library

Health unit prepares for West Nile virus  

Risk of humans catching West Nile virus in Simcoe and Muskoka is generally low. But last season two communities had a little more activity than the rest of the region.

Both Barrie and Bradford West Gwillimbury have received notices to use treatments to reduce the populations of mosquitoes this summer, the board of health learned this week. In Barrie, a single human case of the virus was confirmed late in 2011, as well as a positive mosquito pool. Bradford West Gwillimbury has had a sustained population of the type of mosquito known to transmit the virus as well as a history of positive mosquitoes and birds.

Mosquito populations are monitored through a summer-long program in the health unit. Where needed, larvicide is dropped into storm water catch basins to kill off mosquito larvae before they hatch. Larvicide is used throughout the summer, to target the type of mosquitoes that can transmit West Nile virus to humans.

Actions needed to improve access to healthy food choices: health unit  

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit wants to see increased access to healthful, affordable food for local residents. It’s collaborating with community groups, municipalities and regional organizations to reduce the risk of diet-related chronic diseases caused by poor food choices.

Healthy living service director Joyce Fox, told the board of health that addressing the issue means focusing less on people’s eating habits and more on “broader social, economic and environmental conditions that affect health and the quality of life.”

Income, easy access to grocery stores and other food sources and preservation and protection of land suitable for growing food all have long-range implications for the public’s health. Jane Shrestha, public health nutritionist with the chronic disease prevention – healthy lifestyle program, added that in the last 30 years, 2 million hectares of Ontario farmland has been lost to agriculture, reducing the possibility of meeting nutrition needs with foods produced “close to home.”

The health unit is involved in many activities with partners, including community gardens, an annual survey of food costs, Food and Agriculture Charters in Simcoe and Muskoka and review of official plans to suggest changes in community design that increase access to healthful foods including locally grown foods.  

Health unit becomes a regional health info library    

The province has chosen the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit to become a central resource in a new program to share research and reference services across all health units in Ontario. It’s one of four health units designated as “hub libraries.” The Simcoe Muskoka health unit will be serving seven neighbouring health units, providing book loans, comprehensive literature searches and electronic document retrieval. Funding has been provided for maintaining a library collection and hiring an additional librarian.

Next Meeting

The next meeting of the board of health takes place May 16 at 9:15 a.m. at the Barrie office, 15 Sperling Drive.

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