Some good news of sorts this week - Coasters are getting healthier. A new study released by Vancouver Coastal Health, titled Health Profile 2004, gives detailed health statistics for rural areas including the Sunshine Coast, Powell River, Squamish, Whistler, Bella Bella and the Central Coast.
The stats for the Sunshine Coast show health improved overall, teen pregnancy dropped almost 50 per cent from 1996 to 200 and the unemployment rate on the Coast in 2001 was the lowest of the five communities at 7.2 per cent.But it's not all good news.
The Coast has a relatively high percentage of people collecting welfare. Last March about four per cent of people younger than 65 were collecting B.C. Benefits and an alarming six per cent of those under 19 were on welfare. These numbers are all much higher than provincial averages.
The child poverty rate on the Coast is 18.6, per cent and for children of single parents it is almost 54 per cent.
Those are high numbers no one should be proud of.
Another concern is affordable housing. The Sunshine Coast is the worst of the communities in this category.
This should come as no surprise to many social service groups on the Coast, as they have all been lobbying governments for the past year to take some action.
But hopefully things are changing.
Gibsons council recently passed a motion encouraging the start of a Habitat for Humanity project on the Sunshine Coast. Nothing has been finalized , but at least it's a step in the right direction.
Habitat and the town are hosting an open house on the matter this Tuesday at Harmony Hall.
This is the perfect opportunity for the public to see what Habitat is all about and voice their concerns about the affordable housing issue.
In early January, a community forum about affordable housing on the Coast is also planned for the Seniors Centre in Sechelt.
The Sunshine Coast Community Foundation, Coast Housing Society and Capilano College are spearheading this event. We hope that both meetings will be packed.
The only way to change these statistics is to get involved. By working together we can create positive solutions and changes in our communities.
We might be getting healthier, but there is still more work to be done.