health profile 

Hey Whistler, open wide and say 'Ahhh' Health profile takes the pulse of the Corridor By Chris Woodall Whistler and area are tops when it comes to two dubious distinctions: highest teen pregnancy rate and 2.5 times more booze consumption per capita than the rest of the province. The Sea to Sky Community Health Council's profile of the corridor lists these and many other findings in an illuminating booklet released earlier this month. The report is intended to give an overview of health in the Sea to Sky Corridor, based on the communities as a whole, on straight-up health stats such as mortality and rates of disease, and on the public's satisfaction with the health care system. Here then, is a look at our medical chart: o Water Quality: Drink up folks, Whistler's water rates "low" on the hazard rating, but other areas of the corridor don't fare as well. Pemberton Village Water Works gets a "moderate" hazard rating, as does Whispering Falls Resort. Squamish Waterworks gets a "low" rating, but it has had a "boil water advisory" in effect since Oct. 4, 1996. Britannia Beach Water Works, D'Arcy Water System and Heather Jean Properties all got "high" hazard ratings. Pinecrest Estates Water System is closed. o School Drop Outs: Maybe it's the lure of morning powder on the mountains, but the Sea to Sky area has the highest percentage of withdrawals — students who leave school without graduating — in the Coast Garibaldi Health Unit region. The region rate of 5.4 per cent is higher than the provincial average of 4.7 per cent. o Alcohol Consumption: When it comes to having a good ol' time, you can't touch us. Whistler partiers each swallow 258 litres of beer, wine and other booze on average every year, compared to the pikers in the rest of B.C. who can only handle 100 litres of alcoholic beverages. Even the people in the rest of the regional area are mere greenhorns, at about 175 litres per person per year. There is a big caveat here, though. "This rate is highly inflated due to large transient youth population and the high numbers of visiting tourists," says the report. There is a price to pay. Twenty per cent of driving injuries involved alcohol, compared to half that rate for the rest of B.C. Of 15 deaths on the Sea to Sky roads in 1996, eight were "deaths with alcohol." o Breast Cancer: Early detection of breast cancer by mammography can reduce mortality by at least 20 per cent in women aged 50-70. Whistler women are on top of that, with about 41 per cent of them having had one, compared to about 35 per cent of that age group in the rest of the province. o Doctors and Nurses: Statistics offered by the report seem to indicate we are a little light in specialists and dentists, but doing all right for general practice and doctors specializing in children care. The numbers use 1993 and ’94 populations, however, which may throw things off because Whistler has grown tremendously since then. As for nurses, the figures point to Whistler being well short of registered nurses (36.2 per 10,000 people here, versus 82.3 per 10,000 across B.C.); registered psychiatric nurses (1.2 vs. 7.1) and licensed practical nurses (7.5 vs. 15.1). It shouldn't come as a surprise that Whistler does okay for physiotherapists (7.5 vs. 5.5), what with all the sports that go on to challenge a body. o Babies: There's a lot of birthing going on, but there is good news and bad news attached to that life-affirming occasion. The good news (or bad, depending on the circumstances) is that corridor women have a 16 per cent birth rate, compared to a 12.5 per cent rate for the rest of B.C., described as "well above the average" in the report. The bad news is that a lot of Sea to Sky babies are underweight and early (55 per cent and 73 per cent), compared to the provincial average (47 per cent underweight and 62 per cent early). The good news is that corridor babies are healthy, with a 2.5 per cent mortality rate versus a 5.5 per cent rate for the rest of the province. One reason for the underweight and early births may be the high number of teen pregnancies. "The Sea to Sky (area) has the greatest teen pregnancy rate" at 70.9 pregnancies per 1,000 women, which is "well above" the provincial average of 48.2 per 1,000, the report says. It shouldn't be a surprise, therefore, that this area has a higher rate of therapeutic abortions (20.3 per cent) than the provincial average (17.1 per cent). o Injuries: You can't expect to ride the slopes on planks in winter or on bicycle wheels in green months without getting banged around. So it is no surprise that unintentional injuries among those aged 0-24 is at 17.3 per 100,000 hospital cases, compared to the B.C. average of 8.5. Of the kinds of things that'll put you in hospital, Whistlerites and visitors are tops (compared to B.C.) in banging up the body generally, in nervous system injuries, cuts, and breathing problems. Death rates from unintentional injury also rank much higher here (six per 10,000 population) than the provincial average (3.3), prompting the report to observe: "This may be in part due to the fact that Whistler is a resort area, and the elevated number of high risk activities in the region such as rock climbing and skiing." o Life Expectancy: Work hard, play hard and leave a good-looking corpse. Women do very well in long living, having a life expectancy to 80.5 years, compared to 75 years for men. According to the report's statistics, however, both men and women will live slightly longer if they live somewhere other than Whistler. It must be all that dangerous skiing and rock climbing: no guts, no glory. Copies of the health council’s report are available from the Sea to Sky Community Health Council by calling 892-6014. The report is also available for viewing at the Whistler and Pemberton Public Libraries.

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