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Why connecting everyone matters

Human beings are social creatures – we need and seek out connections throughout our lives. These connections are essential for us to not only survive, but to thrive.

When we’re navigating unknown territory or facing adversity, good connections are what can get us through. That’s why a connected health system – comprised of connected teams of health and social care providers who encourage close bonds and cooperation in their communities – is the bedrock of a healthy society.

This week, Alliance members across Ontario and their partners are celebrating Community Health and Wellbeing Week by highlighting the work they do to help keep communities connected and to build new pathways where they are needed most. All well, we’ll be spotlighting their efforts to create spaces of belonging, provide empathy and trauma-informed care, combat oppression in all its forms, and better connect people on individual and organizational levels. You can follow along on social media: #CHWW2019.

As Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health put it in his 2017 report, Connected Communities: Healthier Together: “Helping people and communities (re)connect is everyone’s business. To (re)build a sense of belonging — create connected communities — individuals, organizations, businesses, communities and governments must work together to foster a society that values social connection.”

We couldn’t agree more. In fact, as Centretown Community Health Centre in Ottawa marks 50 years since opening its doors, this fall we’re also celebrating a half-century of community-led health and social care in Ontario. Along the way, Alliance members have learned a lot from the people they serve in every corner of the province.

Alliance members know from years of experience that when people have real opportunities to connect with each other and to their community and its resources, good things happen. Trust forms. Relationships flourish. People feel a sense of ownership over their health and wellbeing. Building and maintaining strong connections with the people they serve enables the trust necessary to deliver health and social services tailored to a community’s needs. Building connections with local partners, such as the Canadian Mental Health Association, Public Health units, and other organizations in the health and social services system, ensures that people can count on seamless services that leverage the collective strengths of their community’s resources.

To make sure people can get and stay connected to the services they need, when they need them, Alliance members have embarked on a number of initiatives to build a better connected primary health care system. TeamCare and the Social Prescribing project, for example, are each building new pathways to connect providers, community resources, and the people that need them. Each is designed and built within their own communities, responding to local needs and partners.

As Ontario’s health system embarks on a period of change, we want to ensure that the voice of Community Health – your voice – is heard and is reflected in those changes. The voices and ears of large health system players such as hospitals are tuning themselves to community concerns. That’s why it matters a lot that each and every Alliance member is governed by community members like you. During this period, the Alliance for Healthier Communities is reinforcing our commitment to equitable services and programs for those who face barriers to good health, such as racism, homophobia, sexism, poverty, isolation, and homelessness. We believe that everyone has a right to a life of wellbeing, not just health care services when they get sick. That means we will continue to focus on issues such as systemic racism, food security, affordable housing, the overdose crisis, low income supports, pharmacare, affordable oral health care, and a host of other issues that we know impact people’s ability to be well.

We will be relentless in pursuing a healthier and more connected Ontario, and we will need your support to ensure that no one in our community falls through the cracks of big, systems-level change. This week, we encourage you to visit your local Community Health Centre, Community Family Health Team, Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic or Aboriginal Health Access Centre. We know that while you’re there, you’ll learn more about how we can all work together to make sure everyone is connected.

To learn more about Community Health and Wellbeing Week and find events near you, visit https://www.allianceon.org/CHWW2019