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Collaborating for health education — the Community Health Resource Centre grand opening

Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.Helen Keller

Proving the Polish proverb that two heads are better than one, a unique example of teamwork has provided the City of Nelson with a community health education centre.

More than a dozen organizations came together to create the Community Health Resource Centre – a one-stop information hub located in a room in the Community First Health Co-op Wellness Centre.

Home to the ALS Society, Alzheimer Society, Arthritis Society, BC Lung Association, Canadian Cancer Society, Heart & Stroke Foundation, Kidney Foundation, MS Society, and Parkinson Society, the room has kiosks for each organization to display its informational literature and local contact information.

The pamphlets and other material provide guidance for both those suffering a chronic disease as well as people wanting to know how to prevent chronic diseases.  

The room also provides a meeting space for the groups and has a private consultation area with a television to view DVDs and a computer with Internet connection. The West Kootenay Brain Injury Association, Breast Cancer Support Group, Friends of Nelson Elders, Overeaters Anonymous, and the Seniors Co-ordinating Society also share use of the room.

After more than five years in the planning, fundraising, and renovation stages, the resource centre recently had its official opening. The resource centre received $28,586 in funding from the Columbia Basin Trust, the City of Nelson, and Areas E and F of the Regional District of Central Kootenay to finance wall, ceiling, floor and electrical renovations, as well as furniture purchases.

Although the organizations compete with each other for public donations from the community, they realized they would each be more powerful by working together under one roof.

“The opening of the Community Health Resource Centre is a significant milestone for the Co-op,” said Deb Zeeben, chair of the health co-op.  “It marks the first, of what we hope, will be many, healthy solutions, that we will be able to provide to the members and the community.” 

The room, and the building itself (a former BC Forest Service headquarters at 518 Lake Street), exemplifies the word co-operation – a trait the community of Nelson has more than a budding acquaintance with since the area is home to more than 120 registered co-operatives.

If you have some spare time, you can be a part of this exciting initiative as the centre is currently open from 1to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday with the help of volunteers. If you can volunteer, call Lora Whitney at 352-3225 or email her at volunteercoordinatorcoop@gmail.com and the centre will be able to expand its hours.

Community First Health Co-op was incorporated in 2003 in response to health service cutbacks at Nelson’s Kootenay Lake Hospital. The Health Co-op vision is to combine traditional medical services and complementary medicine practices in a single location, with an additional focus on education and prevention for young and old alike. 

Health cooperatives have a proven record both in Canada and internationally for delivery of cost-effective, responsive, patient-centred, multidisciplinary care. In a 2007 article on cooperative health care delivery, researchers found that per patient costs were 17 percent lower than fee-for-service, hospitalization rates were up to 30 percent lower, and 21 percent less money was spent on prescription drugs.

The building has two medical clinics staffed by seven doctors, an acupuncture and natural health clinic, a chiropractic clinic, and a pharmacy. Other partners in the building include the Nelson Community Services Centre, Nelson and District Credit Union, Kootenay Kids Society, the Childcare Resource and Referral Centre, and the Selkirk College Community Nursing Outreach program.

A certified athletic therapist recently opened an office in the building which has over 16,000 square feet of leasable space and is 90 percent occupied. A meeting room capable of seating about 70 people is available for rental.

The Nelson and District Credit Union was instrumental in establishing the health co-op and arranging the building purchase. NDCU chief executive officer Doug Stoddart serves as the health co-op’s communication chair and treasurer.

The Health Co-op and the Resource Centre are proof of Helen Keller’s words that by working together the community can achieve wellness.

Michael Jessen is the Nelson director of the BC Lung Association.