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Board meeting notes April 16, 2014

Apr 24, 2014
New regulations allowing the sale of Ontario VQA wines at farmers’ markets in Ontario are in place for a two-year trial period. But the Simcoe Muskoka District Board of Health is advising municipalities to use an escape clause allowing them to opt out of the wine sales.

Take a pass on selling wine at farm markets, health unit tells towns, cities

New regulations allowing the sale of Ontario VQA wines at farmers’ markets in Ontario are in place for a two-year trial period. But the Simcoe Muskoka District Board of Health is advising municipalities to use an escape clause allowing them to opt out of the wine sales. Janice Greco, the health unit’s manager of injury and substance misuse, said the new regulation is a further erosion of existing controls of liquor sale that increases the normalization of alcohol consumption. The province’s accountability agreement with public health units calls for a reduction in excessive alcohol consumption. Currently, 36% of residents in Simcoe and Muskoka over the age of 19 admit to drinking above the national low-risk drinking guidelines. Local alcohol consumption has been above the provincial average since 2003, Greco said. With 26 eligible farmers’ markets in the region, allowing wine sales would increase access and availability, encouraging increased consumption of alcoholic beverages. This is turn leads to higher risks of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer, and takes a toll on society through violence, lost work hours and harm to families.

Health unit offers policy tool for municipal planners

There is now a revised edition of a popular policy guide to help municipalities build healthy communities, designed by the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit. Healthy Community Design Policy Statements for Official Plans was first created in 2010 after extensive research into the impact of land use planning and community design on the health of the population. The guide has five sections that are based on key health issues impacted by the built environment: environment; injury and safety; physical activity and sun safety; food access; and social cohesion and well-being. Chronic disease prevention manager Christine Bushey explained that the revision adds new language related to easing the impact of climate change; managing the location of alcohol outlets to create a safer social environment; providing green spaces and universally available recreational facilities; ensuring health equity for vulnerable populations; and protecting land and water resources needed for agriculture. The document provides policy language that can be easily copied into official plans, with supporting research and suggestions on how the policies can be implemented.

Road safety legislation welcome: health unit

The board of health is writing to the province expressing support for amendments to the Highway Traffic Act that toughen penalties for distracted driving. Bill 173, the Keeping Ontario’s Roads Safe Act, will add three demerit points on conviction of using handheld devices and doubles the maximum fine to $1,000. As well, the regulation changes will expand education, treatment, monitoring and ignition interlock programs for drivers convicted of impaired driving. Other changes further protect the rights and safety of cyclists and pedestrians.

Praise for quick response to measles, flooding

Simcoe Muskoka District Medical Officer of Health Dr. Charles Gardner offered a brief summary of the investigation into a case of measles in the region to the board of health this week. It meant tracing over 200 people who might have had contact with the initial case to ensure they were protected, redeploying staff to deal with high phone call volumes, and working with hospital staff to reduce the risks in those settings. He praised the efforts of health unit staff for their quick response, while also managing health risks related to localized flooding. 

Provincial appointees named to board of health

The provincial Public Appointments Secretariat this month announced the reappointment of Margaretta Papp-Belayneh, Ben Rattelade and Fred Hamelink to the local board of health. They will serve until April, 2017. Provincial appointees are named to boards of health to reflect the split of funding between municipal and provincial levels of government. The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit’s structure permits up to five provincial appointees on the board of health; Gail Mullen and Doug Skeaff are the other two appointees currently serving. The remaining nine board positions are held by municipal councillors. More information about serving in provincially appointed roles can be found at

Next Meeting

The next meeting of the board of health takes place May 21
at 9:15 a.m. at 15 Sperling Drive, Barrie, ON.

News releases are stored here dating back to spring 2005. Earlier news releases are maintained in an archive and can be retrieved by calling the health unit during business hours.

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