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#CHWW2017: Why putting Health Equity at the Centre matters

What makes a community, a community? Our shared spaces, shared values, common histories – those are often mentioned. Support for others, a respect for diverse backgrounds and viewpoints, and shared ownership of and participation in civic institutions – those are no less important. What’s common among communities? Crises will often bring us together to act collectively, knowing that we are more than the sum of our parts when we act as one. Other things – a factory or school closing, or instances of racism – might drive us further apart while also revealing fault lines in our bonds.

                  Events Happening Across Ontario During Community Health and Wellbeing Week 2017

In many ways, AOHC members encapsulate many of the traits we aspire to for the places where we live. They lay the foundation for an important precondition to community: the chance for everyone to live a healthy life. Addressing the points at which our community bonds break down and leave people behind is also a crucial role that AOHC members play in more than 100 communities across the province where they care for people every day.

The World Health Organization’s 1986 Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion says:

“Good health is a major resource for social, economic and personal development and an important dimension of quality of life. Political, economic, social, cultural, environmental, behavioural and biological factors can all favour health or be harmful to it. Health promotion action aims at making these conditions favourable through advocacy for health.”

The WHO Health Promotion Charter adds that the prerequisites for good health are: “peace, shelter, education, food, income, a stable eco-system, sustainable resources, social justice, and equity.”

AOHC members firmly believe that this is what health and wellbeing means, and these are among the guiding principles that inform their work. It’s why they’re committed not only to accessible and culturally appropriate services from doctors and nurses when you’re sick, but also why they place such a large emphasis on health promotion and keeping people well to begin with. Community development workers, health promoters, dietitians, mental health counsellors, peer facilitators, outreach workers, seniors’ program managers, youth workers, and others – these are some of the many people who help create a health system that goes beyond treating illnesses, and aims to support communities where everyone can achieve their best possible physical, mental and social wellbeing.

This year, Community Health and Wellbeing Week is focused on one of the key prerequisites in the WHO’s list: Putting Health Equity at the Centre and the people who make it happen.

Some people cannot attain their best possible health and wellbeing because of an array of factors, including racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia, and economic or social conditions like housing or food insecurity. That’s where AOHC members’ work on health equity begins. To put health equity into action, Health Equity Heroes identify the barriers that keep people from achieving their health and wellbeing goals, and find ways to break down those barriers alongside the people themselves. They also advocate to enable better systems through policy change.

This Community Health and Wellbeing Week, we invite you to join the conversation about what it means to put health equity at the centre where you live. For a list of events happening across the province, click here. We also invite you to celebrate the Health Equity Heroes in your home town, and to learn about some of the others across Ontario (follow the hashtags #CHWW2017 and #HealthEquityattheCentre on social media). By working together to support this vital work, we can all help create communities where everyone has the chance to achieve their best possible health and wellbeing.