N Okanagan's vital stats

There is good and bad news in a report on life in the North Okanagan, with room for improvement in a number of areas, including air quality, mental health, wages and housing.

The Community Foundation of the North Okanagan has issued its 2017 Vital Signs report, capturing trends on quality of life and the health of communities in the region.

“By providing a snapshot of the North Okanagan in 10 issue areas, Vital Signs offers a unique and accessible way for community members, businesses, and organizations to learn more about the place we call home,” Leanne Hammond, executive director, and Janice Mori, president of the board, said a joint statement. “This report shines a light on our successes as well as identifies the areas in which we have far to go. Our hope is that you find the report both a source of information as well as a call to action.”

Air quality in the region's largest city, Vernon, has been rated as poor.

The report stated: “In 2014, there was an average concenration of 7.2 particulate matter (PM) micrograms per cubic meter in Vernon, one of the highest concentrations of PM in any city in British Columbia.”

However, water quality appears to be improving.

The report said there were 38 water quality alerts issued throughout the region in 2016; 30 boil water notices and eight water quality advisories.

“This is an improvement over 2006 and 2011, which saw 46 water quality alerts, respectively.”

Safety and crime figures were different in each area of the region, with the most populous area (Vernon) experiencing the most crime.

“The good news is that the overall crime rate has steadily declined in the last two decades, though crime severity rates have risen since 2015.”

In terms of health, the North Okanagan is generally on par with the rest of the Valley and with the province, “though there are exceptions, including higher than average prevalence of depression and mood and anxiety disorders.”

Figures show 33 per cent of North Okanagan and Interior Health clients suffer from mood and anxiety disorders, higher than the provincial average of 30 per cent.

The median home price in the North Okanagan remained lower than the Okanagan, but there is a housing shortage, suggested the report.

“There are gaps in the local housing market. Renters spend a greater proportion of their income on housing compared to homeowners. More units are needed to meet the demand for core housing, missing middle and market rentals.”

While poverty rates in the region are similar to the provincial averages, “there are still far too many children, families and individuals living in poverty.”

As well, wages and employment rates are lower than the provincial averages, while unemployment is higher. “But the region is resilient, with many business permits issued and significant investments in industrial, commercial, and institutional construction.”

The report has issued 10 ways people can take action and has called for more leadership and volunteerism. 

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