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PARTY program marks 20 years in southeastern Alberta

June 11, 2015

Partners, volunteers and donors celebrate two decades of keeping youth safe

MEDICINE HAT – Alberta Health Services’ (AHS) Prevent Alcohol Risk-Related Trauma in Youth (PARTY) program is celebrating 20 years of keeping southeastern Alberta youth safe through injury prevention education.

“Motor vehicle collisions, sports-related injuries and suicide are some of the leading causes of injury, hospitalization and death in youth ages 12 to 24,” says Grant Walker, Senior Operating Officer of Community Programs for AHS South Zone.

“PARTY is one strategy we use to address the issue of risk management for youth. Although the number of collisions varies from year to year, educational programs like PARTY are contributing to fewer deaths and injuries on Alberta roads.”

Since 2007, traffic fatalities in Alberta are down 32 per cent, intersection fatalities down 43 per cent, unbelted fatalities down 40 per cent, and speed-related fatalities are down 22 per cent.

Every year, the PARTY program educates hundreds of Grade 9 students in southeastern Alberta by inviting them to join health professionals, police officers, paramedics and injury survivors at hospital and community events. It’s estimated more than 14,000 students in southeastern Alberta have gone through the program over the past 20 years.

Through interactive, hands-on activities, students learn about the dangers of drugs and alcohol; risky behaviours, such as not wearing a seatbelt, speeding, and driving while impaired or distracted; and the consequences of bad decisions such as choosing not to wear appropriate protective gear, such as helmets, for sporting and leisure activities.

The PARTY program in southern Alberta began in 1996. To date, donors have provided a total of $178,000 in funding. To commemorate the milestone and donors, the Medicine Hat and District Health Foundation is mounting a plaque in Medicine Hat Regional Hospital near the Lecture Theatre (Level 3), where students gather to hear presentations and view videos.

“It’s important that youth have the tools to manage the risks associated with the choices they make,” says Janice Blair, Director of Public Health for AHS South Zone. “The PARTY program teaches youth how their lives and the lives of others can be altered by a bad decision, while also teaching them how to make smarter choices.”

Heather McCaig, an advisor for Students Against Drinking and Driving (SADD), says her group appreciates the work of the PARTY program.

“The work that’s been done with our youth over the last 20 years has been instrumental in keeping them safe,” says McCaig. “I hope it’s around for another 20 years.”

This year, Royal Bank of Canada is providing another $10,000 to the program, for a total of $120,000 over the last 12 years.

“Vital programs like this could not operate without the support of many volunteers and donors,” says Heather Bach, Executive Director, Medicine Hat and District Health Foundation. “We are grateful to all our donors. I’d also like to say a special thank you to the Royal Bank of Canada for their ongoing support of this program for the last 12 years.”

Every week in Canada, about 14 people between the ages of 15 and 24 die as a result of traumatic injury; that’s nearly 800 people per year. Seatbelts can reduce the risk of injury and death by up to 50 per cent, while wearing the appropriate sporting protective gear, such as properly fitting helmets, can reduce head injuries by up to 60 per cent.

The PARTY program began in 1986 at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Centre. It was created by a local registered nurse and mother of four daughters, who was living in Port Perry, Ont., where a number of local teens had been seriously injured or killed because of motor vehicle collisions. She and the local hospital administration began inviting teens to the hospital to visit a number of departments, including the trauma room, critical care and rehabilitation wards.

The program continues to grow and expand. It is available in 24 locations in Alberta and 100 sites throughout Canada, the U.S., Australia, Brazil, Japan and Germany.

Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than four million adults and children living in Alberta. Its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans.

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