When the Fraser Health Authority started examining statistics from the community in and around the District of Hope about a year ago, they were alarmed by what they found.

Residents have higher rates of chronic disease, are more to likely smoke and their life expectancy is well below the rest of the region.

"Life expectancy is almost seven years less than the City of Burnaby," said Petra Pardy, Fraser Health's executive director for Chilliwack, Agassiz, Hope and the Fraser Canyon.

"The community is experiencing a decreased health status."

Pardy says a lack of access to health services and an aging population both contribute to the problem.

"This is not due to bad behaviour, for instance, from that community," she said.

"We're also looking at a population that has moved from the urban areas to the more rural area of Hope in their retirement age to support a lifestyle they are seeking, in terms of outdoor activities."

Fraser Health put up $500,000 in December for community-led initiatives aimed at addressing the community's health challenges and now some of those programs are starting to take shape.

The difference

The grant money from the health region is being used for everything from a community garden program to initiatives that connect patients with health services.

"The neat part about this whole program is that it's going to be periodically monitored, so that when money is spent, there's going to be a verification process throughout that the money is actually generating results," said Mayor Wilfried Vicktor.

"The community has been pretty vocal in identifying issues.

Pardy says it's too early to see what kind of impact the new programs are having on health statistics, but they appear to be making a difference.

"We didn't have outpatient rehab services in Hope, so what has happened is we engaged with a rehab service in Chilliwack to see if they'd be interested to come a half a day a week to Hope to assist with the community," she said.

"With a micro grant, they were able to do that and what has happened within a short time is they increased their service to two days a week, because they're seeing the demand and [the program] is now paying for itself."