ties for schools and community organizations to work
together to develop strategies that support healthy
eating, active living and positive social environments.
Our government also created the Safe Communities Initiative and has provided more than $50
million over three years to create mental health and
addictions programs to provide earlier intervention
and treatment for individuals who struggle with
these health issues.
Another important strategy is our Primary Care
Initiative which helps physicians (and primary care
team members) to build their practices to manage
chronic diseases more proactively by using a team-based approach.
In order to reverse the trend of poor health and
make a lasting impact, we need a more collective
and collaborative approach that involves everyone.
We must reach beyond what government alone
can do and seek meaningful partnerships to work
together on wellness strategies and actions.
While we are asking our province’s health profes-
sionals, business and community leaders to step up,
there are also opportunities for each of us as indi-
viduals to make our own commitments to wellness.
We can each make a commitment by asking
ourselves, what we can do differently that will
improve the way we, and our families, live, eat,
work and play.
For tips and information on the wellness programs mentioned above, as well as others, please
visit our website at health.alberta.ca and click on the
tab Health Information. Thank you for helping in
whatever way you are able!
Alberta Health & Wellness Minister GENE ZWOZDESKy
Serving the Community
The first line of defence for health in Gift Lake
In the absence of a hospital, ambulance or local doctor or nurse, the 1,200 people of the Gift Lake Metis Settlement in northeast Alberta turn to Connie and Jennifer Anderson for health advice.
As community health representatives with
Alberta Health Services, Connie and Jennifer (who
are not related) are both the first line of offence
and defence for health in their community. Their
main role is to promote health services and help
local residents understand how they can prevent
injury and illness. As the only health professionals
within 85 kilometres, and two of only a handful of
community health representatives in the province,
they help their neighbours deal with almost any
“It’s like we’re on call 24 hours a day,” Connie
says. “People assume we’re doctors, nurses and
paramedics … so anything related to health falls to
Jennifer and me.”
In the 16-plus years Connie and Jennifer have
worked as community health reps, only a few
serious emergencies have occurred, leaving them
plenty of time to organize special clinics, program
and information sessions for everything from post-
natal advice for new moms to telling families about
the benefits of immunization to letting kids know
the merits of wearing a helmet while riding a bike.
Connie and Jennifer, who were both born and
raised in Gift Lake, also bridge the gap between
the community and health care. For example, they
translate for elders who only speak Cree when a
community health nurse visits the settlement. And
they talk to people in confidence about addictions,
depression or pregnancy. Earlier this year, they
organized the community’s first pap smear clinic.
“I really love my job, especially working with the
elders and the babies,” Connie says. “We’re making
a difference and doing some good.”
Connie and Jennifer Anderson bridge the gap
between the community and health care.
reported by TErry BULLICK, AHS