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Houston asked to cover recreation pass costs

Change B.C. program seeks partnership with the District of Houston
Dr. Onuora Odoh says embracing exercise as a key element of primary care can make a significant difference for patients, especially for those who are at risk for metabolic syndrome. (Houston Today file photo)

The District of Houston is being asked to subsidize a portion of the cost of passes to the Houston Leisure Facility for participants of the Change B.C. program.

Houston is one of the first communities in the province to introduce this innovative program, which combines the expertise of dietitians and kinesiologists with a patient’s own family physician.

The Pacific Northwest Division of Family Practice, which has been chosen to implement the program in northwest B.C., made the request to Houston council last month.

Although a partnership with the District of Houston is not a requirement for the program, Dr. Onuora Odoh, who has been leading this work in Houston, sees this as an opportunity to improve the health of Houston residents.

“The provision of access to the recreation centre for members of the community participating in the program will help to maximize their involvement and commitment to the level of exercise required in this program,” he explained.

Although the Pacific Northwest Division of Family Practice has enough funding to purchase recreation passes for participating Charge B.C. patients for six months, if the District of Houston agrees to offer a reduced rate (50 per cent off) for participating patients, grant funds could be stretched to provide a full-year pass for patients.

“This way, participating patients can access the facility to exercise on their own during the year, in addition to regular prescribed exercise sessions that are offered through the Change B.C. program,” explained Colleen Enns, executive director of the Pacific Northwest Division of Family Practice.

“Full access to the facility by the participants will also help the community to fully engage and maximize the skills and services of two post-graduate kinesiology co-op students that UBC has approved to reside and provide services in Houston for the one-year period of this program,” she added.

Houston Mayor Shane Brienen told the Houston Today that district staff will need to investigate the costs associated with this request and bring forward a report to council before any decision is made.

“I believe any program that promotes or enhances community health is great; we do, however, always have to consider we have a lot of recreational infrastructure to maintain for a community our size,” said Brienen.

According to Dr. Odoh, embracing exercise as a key element of primary care can make a significant difference for patients, especially for those who are at risk for metabolic syndrome - a health disorder that, if left untreated, greatly increases the risk of many chronic illnesses - and may not have access to exercise facilities.

“This approach is an important step not only to fight against diabetes, but also other diseases of metabolic syndrome, including high-blood pressure [hypertension], high bad cholesterol [dyslipidemia], obesity and associated complications such as heart disease, heart attack and stroke.”

Dr. Odoh adds that building a strong partnership relationship with the District of Houston would encourage the development and implementation of other community health improvement initiatives.

Created by health professionals at Metabolic Syndrome Canada, the Change B.C. program provides family medicine clinics with the tools they need to offer effective lifestyle intervention to patients with metabolic syndrome. The District of Houston will be supporting 20 patients for this demonstration project.