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Oxford County releases report about air quality

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A new report from public health found that one-third of Oxford County residents are unfamiliar with Canada’s Air Quality Health Index.

The Oxford Health Matters: Air Quality, Health and Wood Burning report was released by public health on Wednesday, with data gathered from the Oxford Health Matters survey that was sent to county residents last year, with a response rate of over 40 per cent from residents.

The report is the first of nine, which will be released in the coming months, and covers only one aspect of local health issues.

Manager of public health Ruth Sanderson said that these reports are meant to inform residents on emerging areas of public health concern.

“We found that almost everyone, about 94 per cent of residents felt that the local air quality was either very good or good,” Sanderson said. “That was really affirming for us.”

Nearly a third of residents were unfamiliar with Canada’s Air Quality Health Index, which is a tool that gives people information on how to protect their health during air quality levels associated with low, moderate, high and very high levels of risk.

Sanderson said that not understanding this could lead people to not modify their outdoor behaviours in times of high risk air quality.

“Particularly if there are more vulnerable people, children under 12 or older people who have underlying health conditions, may want to curve some of their activities on those days,” she said. “About two-thirds, even if they were familiar, didn’t change their behaviours based on (Canada’s Air Quality Health Index).”

This tells public health that this is possibly an area where they could put more energy into teaching people about the air quality index, Sanderson said, as well as helping them understand how they could modify their behaviours to improve their own health.

“All of the different topics that we are going to be covering over the next little while are areas like that,” the public health manager said. “We have one that’s coming out on Lyme disease, and again we’ll take a look at what people already know and what areas don’t they know about that we could help them understand to improve their own health.”

CEO of public health Lynn Beath said in a release Wednesday that they appreciate the community taking the time to complete the Oxford Health Matters Survey.

“The strong rate of participation for the survey shows that people who lice here are interested in their own health and in their community’s health,” Beath said. “This information will be used to improve the services we offer to the public now and help us anticipate our community’s needs for the future.”

bchessell@postmedia.com

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