News

Making a difference

A letter from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority

BY MILTON SUSSMAN
Winnipeg Regional Health Authority President and CEO
Wave, January / February, 2017

Milton Sussman
Milton Sussman

One of the great things about working in a health-care system like ours is that you never run out of opportunities to make a difference in people’s lives.

That’s true whether you are working in a hospital setting or for one of the community-based programs or agencies that provide services to people in need.

This issue’s cover story on the Manitoba Healthy Baby Program helps illustrate the point.

As the article beginning on page 12 explains, this program is designed to help give newborns a better start in life. It does this in two ways. First, it provides a financial supplement to pregnant women to help ensure they are able to buy the food they need to stay healthy. Second, it offers the Healthy Baby Community Support Program at various locations throughout the city where moms and moms-to-be can connect with other women and health-care professionals to learn about a wide range of health issues, including prenatal and postnatal nutrition, breastfeeding, parenting tips and lifestyle choices.

The Manitoba Healthy Baby Program is one of those initiatives that does a lot of good, but rarely, if ever, gets any attention. So, how beneficial has this program been over the years?

Well, if you are looking for a scientific analysis, you can check out the 2010 report prepared by the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy. It notes that women participating in the program since 2001 tend to have  fewer low-birth-weight babies and pre-term births and are more likely to breastfeed their babies, which can help protect infants from infection and disease.

But if you want to understand the true value of this program, you need to talk to Chrissey Schuler. She credits the people working at the program located at the Indian & Métis Friendship Centre on Robinson Street with helping to change her life.

As noted in our story on page 18, Schuler’s experience with the Healthy Baby Program started back in 2004 when, at the age of 19, she found herself pregnant, alone, and unsure of where she could turn for support.

Eventually, she would connect with the community support program on Robinson Street and strike up a relationship with many of the people there, including public health nurse Ellen Christie and home economist Susan Wehrle, who both happen to be employees of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

It is worth noting here that both Christie and Wehrle have a lot of experience working in the Healthy Baby Community Support Program. Wehrle works at three  program sites and has been coming to the one at the Indian & Métis Friendship Centre for 13 years.

Christie, too, has been involved with the program for more than 14 years. Both women are invested in their work and committed to helping those they come into contact with. 

In Chrissey Schuler’s case, both women helped the young woman through her first pregnancy and the first few months of being a mom. But they also did something else: they helped her realize that she was capable of doing anything she wanted in life.

As Schuler says in our story, “The Healthy Baby Program was a stepping stone for me, and after my first baby, I realized it was time to think about what to do next.”

As it turned out, her next step was to enroll at the University of Manitoba to study nursing.

“I told Ellen that was what I wanted to do, and she told me that I could do it. She brought me a course calendar from the University of Manitoba and she showed me what kind of courses I would have to take, and she told me, ‘If you do this, I’ll come to your graduation.’”

Chrissey achieved her goal last spring, graduating from the University of Manitoba as a registered nurse, with Christie and Wehrle in attendance.

Now a mother of six children, Chrissey Schuler deserves all the credit in the world for what she has been able to achieve over the years. There is no question that her success is due in large measure to her hard work and determination.

Yet her story is also a reminder to us all that caring and compassionate individuals – individuals like Ellen Christie and Susan Wehrle – can make a difference in people’s lives. And they’ll be the first to tell you that getting a chance to make that difference is one of the great things about working in a health-care system like ours.

Wave: January / February, 2017

About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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