News & Events
Five Ways to Wellbeing during the holiday season
The holidays can be a time for family and celebrations – but it can also be a time when many people feel stressed and blue. This year has been a tough one for many, so here are a few tips on how to support your wellbeing this season.
Wishing you a safe and naturally enjoyable holiday season!
Connect (me whakawhanaunga)
- Make some time in your day to connect with nature – stretch your legs outside or bring the outside in.
- Go barefoot and feel the grass or sand between your toes.
- Go for a swim in the sun.
- Find a photo of the natural world and make it your screen saver, or adopt a potted plant.
- Reach out to people you know – Skype them, call or Facebook them, or meet face to face.
- Take some time to read the local newspaper or newsletter to see what’s going on in your area, such as an organised group outing, musical or cultural performance or community Christmas event.
‘Tis the season for giving, but many of us might be a bit strapped for cash at this time. One way to shake off the financial stress is by getting creative with the holiday spirit. Give the gift of time by offering to help with someone’s garden, babysit or make a gift from natural materials. There are also some little ways to give while rushing around:
- Give a smile to a stranger or a compliment to someone, or
- Donate some old toys, books or clothes to someone who might need some kindness.
Take notice (me aro tonu)
Every day seems to get busier and the spirit of the season can get lost in the hassle and bustle of each day. A good antidote is to take some time to learn more about what your body is telling you. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and exhausted – pause, breath in, breath out. You could also:
- Take notice of the pohutukawa flowers changing, or the night sky.
- Go somewhere you’ve always been meaning to visit in your local area.
Keep learning (me ako tonu)
There’s always something new to learn, especially when you’re interacting with nature.
- Read up on what fruit and veggies are in season, or learn about what natural resources you have in your backyard.
- You really can learn something new each day – share stories with your family, go on a bush walk, learn about the natural environment from your tablet or local library, or take a trip to the zoo or botanical gardens.
Be active (me kori tonu)
Getting outside and exercising is good for your overall health and wellbeing!
- Have a lunch break outside.
- Take a walk with a friend in a park.
- Design a treasure hunt for your friends and family.
There are ways to bring activity into all you do – by using the stairs instead of the elevator, getting off the bus one stop earlier, or catching up with a friend for a walk instead of a coffee.
Stay well this season with some helpful information and support
Source: Mental Health Foundation website.
Canterbury wellbeing indicators continue upward trend
Quality of life continues to improve for greater Christchurch residents, according to the latest wellbeing indicators.
The Canterbury Wellbeing Index uses data from many different local and national agencies, as well the Canterbury Wellbeing Survey, to bring together information about wellbeing in Christchurch City, Selwyn District and Waimakariri District.
Chair of the greater Christchurch Psychosocial Governance Group Evon Currie, says wellbeing in greater Christchurch has continued its upward trend post-quake.
“Overall, the wellbeing of our community is in the best shape it has been since the earthquakes. Eight in ten greater Christchurch residents rate their quality of life positively, stress levels continue to fall, and the WHO-5 wellbeing scale is at its highest level since it was first measured in 2013,” says Mrs Currie.
The Canterbury Wellbeing Index is informed by data from 15 agencies, various Statistics New Zealand surveys, and Census data, and also includes data from the Canterbury Wellbeing Survey.
Mrs Currie says that while wellbeing is improving for many, there are several groups within our community who continue to experience lower wellbeing. These groups include Māori, those on low incomes, and those with a disability or chronic health condition.
“Being able to live the type of life you value shouldn’t be the preserve of the wealthy or healthy. We need to do more to ensure that no one is left behind. That should be the ultimate measure of a successful community.”
Evon Currie says that a question on loneliness was included in this year’s Survey for the first time.
“It’s no surprise that people who are lonely also experience lower levels of wellbeing. What was surprising was the degree of loneliness experienced by young Cantabrians. Nearly 15 percent of 18 to 24 year olds feel lonely or isolated always or most of the time, compared with less than 3 percent of those over 65.”
“I’m interested in digging deeper into the issue of loneliness to determine whether government agencies and our communities need to be playing more of a role in encouraging connections and a sense of belonging, especially for our young people.”
The Canterbury Wellbeing Index contains 56 indicators across a diverse range of domains including education, housing, health and jobs, and includes a separate section focusing on 19 Māori wellbeing indicators. The Index enables users to extract the information they are interested in.
Evon Currie is encouraging local decision makers to explore the data and use it to positively influence the wellbeing of the local population.
Source: Canterbury District Health Board media release (28th November 2018).
October is the start of Legionnaires’ season
It’s gardening season so it’s time to reach for the spade, the wheelbarrow, the gloves, and the face mask!
Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Dr Alistair Humphrey is warning gardeners to take care with bagged potting mix and compost to avoid life-threatening Legionnaire’s disease.
“Gardeners are at particularly high risk of catching Legionnaires’ disease as the bacteria thrives in bags of potting mix and compost,” says Dr Humphrey.
Dr Humphrey says 24 Cantabrians were diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease last November – the highest monthly number ever recorded. It’s possible that up to fifteen cases may have occurred during Labour weekend.
62 Cantabrians were hospitalised with the disease last year. Thirteen of these patients spent extended periods of time in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), including one patient who was in ICU for 42 days.
“The number of cases last spring was around three times more than average. We don’t know why the bacteria was particularly virulent then. One theory is that the warmer than usual spring led to potting mix and compost heating up in the bag more than usual – creating a perfectly warm and moist environment for the bacteria to thrive.” says Dr Humphrey.
Canterbury has the country’s highest incidence rates of Legionnaire’s disease, while New Zealand has the highest reported incidence of the disease in the world.
Five simple steps to avoid Legionnaire’s disease from potting mix or compost
It is important that gardeners follow these five simple steps to avoid catching Legionnaires’ disease from potting mix or compost:
- Open bags of compost or potting mix carefully – use scissors instead of ripping the bag
- Wear a well-fitting disposable face mask and gloves. Remember not to touch your mask while gardening.
- Dampen down the potting mix or compost with a sprinkle of water to reduce dust.
- Work with potting mix or compost in a well-ventilated area outside.
- Wash your hands thoroughly after handling potting mix or compost, or doing any gardening.
“Legionnaires’ is a very serious illness and these simple actions can be lifesaving” says Dr Humphrey.
Symptoms of Legionnaire’s disease to look out for
Symptoms of the disease may include:
- dry coughing
- high fever
- shortness of breath
- chest pains
- excessive sweating
- vomiting, and
- abdominal pain.
The illness may be mild but can sometimes be fatal. It is more common in older people, particularly if they smoke, have poor immunity or a chronic illness. The incubation period for the disease is up to two weeks.
Anyone who gets these symptoms should see their general practice team immediately, and let them know they have been handling potting mix or compost recently.
Source: Canterbury DHB media release (4th October 2018).
Time to ditch the old fashioned kiwi bloke mentality
Canterbury men are being asked to ditch the stereotypes and just be themselves, as part of the latest campaign by All Right?
All Right? mental health promoter Ciaran Fox says the campaign is needed because many blokes still believe that to be a man they need to live up to the Kiwi bloke stereotype.
“It’s time to let go of the idea that a good Kiwi bloke should be strong, silent and stoic, and to lose the whole ‘harden up’ or ‘get over it’ mentality,” says Fox.
“Supressing the real you in order to live up to the expectations of your mates or society can be incredibly damaging. We need to move beyond those narrow stereotypes of the past and look to the future of manliness. What this campaign is all about is letting guys know that being yourself is Manly As,” says Fox.
James Milne is one of the men who have been photographed for the campaign. He says often the way the media portray men – through movies or television – is just full of clichés.
“They’re either strong and muscular, or rich and overweight with a beautiful wife. It’s not really reflective of real life. I feel like the expectations for men have moved on,” says Milne.
As for the advice Milne would give to a younger version of himself? “Be true to yourself and comfortable not to follow the crowd. I think that’s becoming more acceptable and we need to encourage that.”
Ciaran Fox says the campaign is not saying that it’s bad to be a strong, silent type – rather it’s saying if that if this isn’t you, then that’s all right. You don’t need to fit into the mould.
“It’s time to say yes to things that we want to do but we’re prevented from doing because we’re worried we’d been seen as weak or different. It’s time to acknowledge that we have feelings and emotions. It’s time to put as much focus on growing mental fitness as we do to our physical fitness. Now that is Manly As.”
Source: All Right? media release (31st July 2018).
Know the signs of stroke: Think FAST
Around 24 New Zealanders have a stroke each day – about six of those are aged under 65.
A stroke will strike suddenly. Damage will move through the brain fast. But you can help if you know the signs to look for, and think and act fast.
- FACE – Is their face drooping on one side? Can they smile?
- ARM – Is one arm weak? Can they raise both arms?
- SPEECH – Is their speech jumbled or slurred? Can they speak at all?
- TAKE ACTION – Time is critical. Call 111 immediately.
A stroke is always a medical emergency so you should call 111 immediately – rather than your doctor, family and friends, or waiting for it to pass.
The FAST campaign is a joint initiative between the Stroke Foundation, Ministry of Health and Health Promotion Agency.
Health risks of nitrates in drinking water
Nitrate (NO3) is a compound that is formed when nitrogen combines with oxygen. Sometimes high amounts of nitrate get into drinking water. Typical sources of nitrate include:
- animal wastes, particularly in areas of intensified farming,
- unreticulated sewage disposal systems, and
- industrial and food processing waste.
Nitrate is highly soluble in water, making it readily transported through the soil to groundwater.
Negative health effects of nitrates in drinking water
High levels of nitrate can pose a risk to babies less than six months who are formula fed and the unborn foetus of pregnant women. Adults with specific rare metabolic disorders may also be at risk.
Nitrate is converted into nitrite by bacteria in the gut. This nitrite combines with foetal haemoglobin in the foetus or infant less than 6 months old, preventing oxygen from binding and being distributed around the body. Symptoms include blueness around the mouth, hands and feet – hence the name ‘blue baby’ syndrome. In severe cases it can affect breathing and be life-threatening.
Fully breastfed infants are not affected as nitrites do not enter the breast-milk. Very few cases of ‘blue baby’ syndrome have been reported in New Zealand, though nitrates in groundwater have been rising in the last twenty years.
Nitrate levels in your drinking water
Council water supplies in Canterbury currently have safe nitrate levels.
Many rural drinking water bores in Canterbury are at risk of elevated nitrate levels. Some private bores exceeding the recommended safe level of nitrates. Environment Canterbury (ECan) has produced maps identifying where nitrate levels in drinking water may be a concern – last updated in 2015.
The maps identify green, yellow and red areas:
- Green areas are where nitrate concentrations in groundwater are always below the Maximum Acceptable Level (MAV) and the water is therefore safe to drink.
- Red areas are where nitrate concentrations in groundwater are above the MAV most or all of the time. Alternative water sources should be used for drinking in these areas.
- Yellow areas are where it is not known if a sample collected from a well will have nitrate concentrations exceeding the MAV. Testing is recommended in these areas.
Get your bore water tested for nitrates
The drinking water consumed by pregnant women, or formula fed babies under 6 months coming from a private bore in a medium to high risk area should be tested for nitrates.
Testing is the only way to detect nitrate as it is tasteless, odourless and colourless. There are several laboratories that are able to test for nitrate.
Drinking Water Standards for New Zealand set a Maximum Acceptable Level (MAV) of 50mg/L for nitrate, which is equivalent to 11.3mg/l nitrate-nitrogen. Some laboratories report nitrate levels whereas other report nitrate-nitrogen. Ensure that you are aware which they are reporting if you are getting your water tested.
What do if your drinking water has high nitrate levels
If tests show that nitrate levels are above or close to the MAV then pregnant women and formula-fed infants less than 6 months should use an alternative water source for drinking or making up formula.
If tests reveal that nitrate levels are above half the MAV then the water is safe to drink. However the water should be tested monthly to ensure that it does not increase over the MAV.
Nitrate levels do vary over the year. Often results are highest in spring (following rain and snow melt). High nitrate levels have been found in late summer in areas where there is extensive irrigation.