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Health Equity Heroes: ‘We provide compassionate person-centred collaborative care’

What is health equity? What is the work that enables and promotes it? Why is this work so vital? During Community Health and Wellbeing Week 2017, AOHC members are demonstrating the ways that they put Health Equity at the Centre. As part of those efforts, we're going to bring you a stellar lineup of Health Equity Heroes all of this week (and beyond). Get to know the heroes among you, and the ones in neighbouring communities, and let's all celebrate and support this important work that helps everyone achieve their best possible health and wellbeing. Follow this space to read about more heroes, and check out the hashtags #CHWW2017 and #HealthEquityHeroes on social media to learn about even more.

What’s your name, how long have you worked at the centre, and what role(s) do you fill there?

We are Sarah Flowers, Lise Callahan and Mickey Gurbin. We’ve worked at Grand Bend Area Community Health Centre for, respectively, 4 years, 10 years, and 14 years. Together we are Social Work team.

What does health equity mean to you, and how do make a health equity approach part of your work?

Health Equity means removing economic and social obstacles to health such as poverty and discrimination.

Why is taking a health equity approach so important to your work?

Our team works together to carefully triage and serve people of all ages facing diverse social determinant of health circumstances that require compassion and innovation to address. Care means working evenings to ensure that our services are available to people after their work day is done, when child care is available for them to attend appointments and when families can come together for family sessions. Care involves careful listening and resourcefulness to ensure that arrangements can be made for supports such as: transportation to get to needed services, securing food for an isolated house bound senior, psychiatric consultations using OTN for a person facing challenging undiagnosed mental health issues or funds to secure food or medication. We also partner with a cross-section of mental health and addiction services within two LHINs’ jurisdictions where our clients reside. We act as the patient-centred hub for a vast array of supports who work together to support an individual’s health including Canadian Mental Health Team, Addiction Treatment Services, Situation Tables, Memory Clinic, Child and Youth services, Children’s Aid, Geriatric and Psychogeriatric Outreach Services, and Children and Youth Mental Health Services. While the journey may be complicated, we provide compassionate person-centred collaborative care to ensure that people eventually get what they need to ensure their health and wellbeing.

In what ways is your centre able to support your health equity approach?

Our team organized a mental health and addiction workshop with partner agencies to consider how to strengthen partnerships and service delivery with other agencies, which resulted in concrete changes that strengthen the access to services, such as referring children and youth directly to St. Clair Child and Youth services for an assessment and brief counselling, and then providing the follow-up services or utilizing our OTN to ensure children and families can attend “Talk-In” services offered if transportation is a barrier to attending in person.

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What’s your name, how long have you worked at the centre, and what role(s) do you fill there?

My name is Cristian Medina. I have been working at Kingston Community Health Centres Immigrant Services Program as a Youth Settlement Worker for the last four years and as a Project Coordinator for the Kingston Immigration Partnership for the last six months.

What does health equity mean to you, and how do make a health equity approach part of your work?

In my work, health equity means empowering newcomer youth to have every opportunity to succeed in our community and beyond. We promote healthy lifestyles in our Youth Program. We provide lots of opportunities for physical activity. We also teach our immigrant youth about healthy eating during our weekly program by giving them the opportunity to learn how to cook healthy food on a budget. Due to the economic barriers some of their families experience, some youth do not pay attention to the food they are eating, and they think eating well is expensive. They come, cook along their peers while engaging in healthy conversations.

Why is taking a health equity approach so important to your work?

Some of our youth, especially the newly arrived, have been smoking. They are aware of the negative impact smoking has on their lives, but haven’t been able to quit due to peer pressure, culture, lack of resources and not having the proper information. Some of them have been referred to and joined the smoking cessation programs at KCHC, which has educated them on this issue and provided them with the information and support they need. I see happiness in their faces when they share with me their progress, when they told me that they haven’t smoked in weeks or months.

In what ways is your centre able to support your health equity approach?

Our community health centre offers a great variety of programs that have been very beneficial for our youth, since all the programs work in close collaboration. For example: KCHC’s dietitian comes regularly to our youth program to talk about healthy eating; and we have referred some of our youth to the smoking cessation program so that they learn about the negative impacts smoking have in their lives and to get support and access to services so that they feel motivated to quit.

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