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Albanese back as health unit chair

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Fort Frances Coun. John Albanese was re-elected chair of the Northwestern Health Unit’s board of health for the 10th-consecutive year at a meeting Jan. 20 in Dryden.

Coun. Albanese said he’s looking forward to working with the board and management in 2012, noting that for an eighth year, the levy to area municipalities will remain frozen at $54.43 per capita.

“We’re looking forward to the super managers that we’ve got working for the Northwestern Health Unit to make their mandates for the programs,” Coun. Albanese remarked.

“And we’ll be working closely with the minister of health,” he added. “We’re looking forward to a good year.”

Coun. Albanese admitted it might be a tough year as the province is looking at de-listing certain health services and making cutbacks, but he doubted public health will be on the chpping block “because public health is one of the most important things.”

But no matter what, the health unit will stick to its mandate to “promote, prevent, and protect,” which entails promoting healthy lifestyles, preventing substance abuse, and protecting the community from communicable diseases, among many other things.

For example, at last week’s meeting, Medical Officer of Health Dr. James Arthurs and CEO Mark Perreault announced the health unit will start promoting to schools and municipalities that everyone should commit themselves to walk for 20 minutes a day, every day.

“If you’re watching television, get out there,” urged Coun. Albanese. “Spend 20 minutes, get some fresh air, or go to the arena.

“In the summertime and springtime, go to the park or along the waterfront.

“Twenty minutes of your day will make a big, big difference in your health care,” he stressed.

“Motivation is the most important thing—that motivation to get up and do it.”

Coun. Albanese said he was particularly pleased to see the health unit’s “Smile Mobile” van on the road this year—its first full year of service—to help those people, especially children, who can’t afford to see a dentist.

Essentially a dental office on wheels which helps carry out the Healthy Smiles Ontario program, the van is fully-equipped and staffed with a dentist and assistant, who can provide a full array of services like cleanings, digital X-rays, extractions, and repair work such as fillings and root canals.

The health unit board holds an election each January. Fort Frances Coun. Paul Ryan remains on the board as a council appointee.

The Northwestern Health Unit board of health represents 19 communities, governing 13 health units encompassing an area from Pickle Lake to Rainy River to Atikokan.

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