Jo-Anne Burleigh (l), Active Living Coordinator on the North Shore Population Health team, with Ann Broomfield, runner, urban poling instructor and volunteer extraordinaire.

Population Health: Active Living Coordinator gets people walking, running, cycling & more

This is the second installment in our five-part series that spotlights the North Shore Population Health programs.

A few months after joining the North Shore Population Health team as Active Living Coordinator 10 years ago, Jo-Anne Burleigh met Ann Broomfield. Little did either of them know they would forge a strong bond that continues to this day.

Ann was a new mother and participant in Mother Bear, a weekly parent/caregiver child drop-in program grounded in native culture on the Squamish Nation. As part of Mother Bear, Jo-Anne initiated a weekly walking program for participants.

In Ann, she quickly found an advocate who shared a common interest in the health of aboriginal communities.

Advocating for access

As Active Living Coordinator, Jo-Anne’s role is to facilitate and advocate for physical activity access and active living choices for vulnerable populations. She works with a number of groups and organizations across the North Shore including (to name a few): Squamish and Tsleil Waututh First Nations, North Shore Multicultural Society, North Shore Connexions, Salvation Army, Alliance Church, North Vancouver Recreation & Culture, West Van Rec Services, school districts, municipalities, North Shore Community Services, North Shore Safety Council.

Sun Run participants from the Squamish Nation.

“Connecting with Jo-Anne has been a great opportunity for myself and my community,” says Ann. “She’s been an inspiration and motivator and has always been there encourage me.”

Since their initial encounter at Mother Bear, Ann has completed eight Vancouver Sun Runs, been certified as an urban poling instructor and become train the trainer master. She also volunteers as a walking group leader in the Squamish Nation community as well travelling to other First Nations communities across the Lower Mainland to teach urban poling.

Ann is now gearing up for her ninth Sun Run. Her interest in running was sparked by Jo-Anne and Honour Your Health, a SportMed BC community-based initiative to mobilize aboriginal individuals and communities to live active healthy lives free from tobacco misuse.

“I feel honoured to be part of Ann’s world,” says Jo-Anne. “She has inspired many in her community to take part in a 13-week walk/run training program designed to help them complete a 10-kilometre distance. I’m proud to say that over the last 10 years, we have had more than 300 people from the Squamish and Tsleil Waututh First Nations participate in the Sun Run. This year, we are hoping to have about 30 participating in the run. ”

Immigrant Women’s Active Learning Network

Another group that has been going strong under Jo-Anne’s guidance includes a number of women originally from Korea who longed to experience the active North Vancouver lifestyle.

The 2017 Immigrant Women’s Group.

Jo-Anne met this group of women through the North Shore Multicultural Society where she started the North Shore Immigrant Women’s Active Living Network. Along with a weekly walking group, these women kayaked in Deep Cove, learned how to ride a bike, snowshoed on Mount Seymour, as well as learned how to pitch a tent and build a campfire.

For the last seven years, the Korean Women’s group has found a love for the outdoors and taken to the trails of the North Shore mountains. Ranging in age from 30 to 60, they meet weekly and hike for a couple of hours on a local trail. They have a core group of 10 who have lived in Canada for many years and often have newcomers  join them. They cherish the opportunity to see each other and enjoy nature at the same time.

“Through all of these activities, these women are increasing their skills and motivation to overcome any kind of barrier they encounter, in order to lead healthy, active lifestyles,” says Jo-Anne.  “I am so proud of this group of women for their leadership, resiliency and genuine interest in each other. They are an inspiration!”

Building community through street soccer

Jo-Anne was instrumental in launching North Shore street soccer, which has grown exponentially over the last eight years. The first tournament was held in January 2009  at John Braithwaite Community Centre and hosted four teams from around the Lower Mainland. Now, tournaments are held on a regular basis and athletes from the North Shore represent Canada at the International Street Soccer World Cup events.

“Street Soccer provides an opportunity to raise awareness of the issue of homelessness in our community and to promote solutions,” explains Jo-Anne. “It’s also a recreational opportunity for vulnerable populations and a starting point in building community relationships. With over 80 people participating in each tournament the opportunity to engage in physical activity, to have access to nutritious food, and to have fun, promotes the individual’s health, a sense of belonging with a connection to their community.”

Active body, healthy mind

It’s impossible to pinpoint how many lives Jo-Anne has touched over the last decade and guided to more active living choices, but it’s not just about being active. “It’s also about creating social connections with people who can help you achieve your goals,” she says. “Not only that, we all now know that being active also contributes to a strong mind, body, and spirit. It is good for the soul.”

For more information about Active Living, email




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