At the Board of Health meeting on Wednesday, May 24, 2023, Dr. Piotr Oglaza, Medical Officer of Health (MOH) of Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health gave his monthly update — starting with a notice to all those at high risk about up to date vaccinations.
Oglaza reminded the assembly of the provincial recommendations for spring COVID-19 boosters. Staying up to date with vaccinations, especially for individuals at high risk, remains an important priority, the MOH explained, noting that email reminders were sent from the province to remind high-risk individuals.
Even for those who didn’t receive a reminder email a spring booster is still recommended for those eligible, Oglaza said, and COVID-19 vaccine clinics still remain active at local participating pharmacies, KFL&A Public Health fixed sites, and mobile clinics. Mobile teams continue to travel to seniors settings, shelters, and rural communities, noted.
Healthy Babies, Healthy Children and Early Years
According to Oglaza’s report, the Healthy Babies, Healthy Children and Early Years team provided service to over 190 families during the month of April 2023. The nurse-family partnership team continues to build community partnerships and provide information and support in accessing this new evidence-based, preventive, and proven program to deliver positive outcomes for maternal and child health and well-being. Public Health nurses continue to conduct postpartum hospital screening in partnership with Kingston Health Sciences Centre, with bedside teaching and assessment, according to the doctor.
As well, KFL&A Public Health is partnering with Great Start for Families and the Maltby Centre to provide a ‘Youth Parenting Together’ program, which offers a weekly client-led drop-in program (no registration needed) for parents or expecting parents 23 years of age and under, with children zero to six years of age. In addition, Maltby workers and Public Health Nurses have collaboratively planned topics and are co-facilitating sessions. The goal is to help build pregnancy or parenting skills including, but not limited to, breastfeeding, child safety, growth, and development.
Oglaza also shared that a weekly in-person parenting program at Lennox & Addington Interval House, provided by a Public Health nurse, has been initiated to support shelter clients through health teaching and skill building, and facilitating connections with other relevant public health services and community services.
In another area of childhood health, Oglaza pointed to the Canadian prenatal nutrition program, which continues to support families through prenatal education and food skill development. In-person sessions of Food for You, Food for Two continue in two locations, he said, in partnership with Kingston Community Health Centre and Lennox & Addington Resources for Children. This program is also offered monthly to the Youth Parenting Together group.
Finally, the MOH touched on KFL&A in-person prenatal classes, which continue to be offered in partnership with Kingston Community Health Centre, and KFL&A Public Health continues to offer a free, online prenatal instruction program, Oglaza detailed.
The school health team continued to collaborate with the vaccine-preventable disease team to administer vaccines for grade 7 school-based immunization clinics. The team also continues to support the Immunization of School Pupils Act suspension process by working with schools and conducting outreach to families experiencing additional challenges, according to Oglaza’s report.
Outside of vaccination strategies, Public Health nurses continue to support schools by responding to questions about communicable diseases and reports related to student illness. According to Oglaza, over the past month, Public Health nurses investigated and provided consultation to schools and school boards regarding reports of salmonella, varicella, strep throat, MPox, and hand foot and mouth. As well, two schools reported increased student absences related to gastrointestinal symptoms. Looking forward, KFL&A Public Health’s communicable disease team and the local school boards have begun to work on measles preparedness planning for schools, Oglaza reported.
Food Guide Friendly Recreation Settings project
Dr. Oglaza explained that Ontario Public Health Standards (OPHS) protocols for Chronic Disease Prevention provide the mandate to reduce the burden of chronic diseases through Public Health interventions. As part of that mandate, a health dietitian on the Healthy Communities Team is engaging with Health Canada to test and evaluate the implementation of Health Canada’s Food Guide Friendly (FGF) Principles in recreation facilities in KFL&A. This will establish an effective process and suite of resources to support healthy eating in recreation settings across Canada — all based on implementation that started right here in the KFL&A region. Local implementation testing is slated to start in September 2023 and invitations to participate will be sent to local recreation facilities in the near future, Oglaza said.
True North Strong (TNS) 2023 Campaign
The True North Strong (TNS) campaign, an East Tobacco Control Area Network (TCAN) initiative, aims to reduce and prevent nicotine dependence among Ontario’s young adults by using an innovative peer crowd audience segmentation approach. Oglaza explained that the unique campaign tactic uses brand ambassadors to change perceived norms about tobacco and vape product use. At the conclusion of the 2022 campaign, there were 150 TNS brand ambassadors across Ontario lending their credible and authentic voices to amplify prevention messages to their peers, Oglaza said — a community with a collective social media reach of well over 100,000.
Looking more locally, Oglaza explained how Ontario’s Public Health Units are responsible for enforcing the Smoke-Free Ontario Act (SFOA), 2017, and completing mandatory inspections that include complaint-based inspections, tobacco and vapour retailer display and promotion inspections, school and controlled smoking area inspections, and youth access inspections. Youth access inspections are conducted to assess compliance with the prohibition against selling or supplying tobacco and vapour products to persons under 19 years of age.
Working closely with KFL&A Public Health Tobacco Enforcement Officers, trained youth, ages 15 to 18 years, attempt to purchase tobacco or vapour products from retailers in the KFL&A area. If a retailer is found to be in noncompliance with the age-based sales restrictions, the Tobacco Enforcement Officers apply a progressive enforcement approach of education, warning or laying a charge. Youth test shopping occurs once a year for vapour product retailers and twice a year for tobacco retailers.
As of May 5, 2023, 86 per cent (121/140 retailers) of the first round of tobacco youth access inspections were completed, with a compliance rate of 99 per cent; one charge was laid for a tobacco sale to a minor — a Shell location on Dundas Street East in Napanee was found to be in violation of the Act in March 2023. According to Oglaza, youth access inspections of vapour product retailers are planned for the late spring/summer months, and the second round of assessments for tobacco retailers will occur in the late summer and fall.
Early in May, KFL&A Public Health launched its updated website, which now features a modern design that streamlines user navigation and enhances search engine functionality, allowing users to quickly access information. The updated website has been designed based on extensive input from residents, partners, and Public Health staff, ensuring users can easily find, access, and share information and resources, according to Public Health.
“We take great pride in introducing our newly updated website to our residents and community partners,” said Dr. Oglaza. “The website will continue to be your trusted source for Public Health information.”
KFL&A Public Health will continue to meet resident and partner needs by updating the website continuously, based on community feedback and new emerging public health data and initiatives, the agency relayed.
“I extend my heartfelt gratitude to all agency staff for their efforts and commitment. I would like to especially mention our communications team, who led the project, and the information technology team, who ensured a seamless launch,” Oglaza said.
Residents can view the new website and share their thoughts through the site feedback link on each page of the site by visiting kflaph.ca.