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Second report from the Premier’s Council on Improving Healthcare and Ending Hallway Medicine lays a strong foundation for a digital health strategy but lacks a health equity lens
The Alliance for Healthier Communities welcomes A Healthy Ontario: Building a Sustainable Health Care System, the second report from the Premier’s Council on Improving Healthcare and Ending Hallway Medicine.
A coalition of over 100 Community Health Centres, Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinics, Aboriginal Health Access Centres and Community-Governed Family Health Teams, we are Ontario’s voice for health equity through comprehensive, community-governed primary health care.
“We are pleased to see the report emphasize prevention and wellbeing, putting patients at the centre, strengthening partnerships between health and social services to address determinants of health, and ensuring primary care is the foundation of an integrated health care system,” said Adrianna Tetley, CEO of the Alliance for Healthier Communities. “With the majority of recommended actions and leading practice examples focusing on digital innovations, the report lays a strong foundation for a provincial digital health strategy. This highly-anticipated digital strategy, however, is only part of the solution to building a more sustainable health system that works for everyone, especially those communities currently facing barriers to healthcare and better health.”
In addition to the digital health strategy, there are a number of other recommendations presented in the report that are of particular interest to the Alliance:
Support patients and providers at every step of a health care journey by ensuring effective primary care is the foundation of an integrated health care system. The Alliance for Healthier Communities believes a strong health system needs to leverage people’s lifelong relationships with primary care and agree with the report’s recommendation that people, especially those with complex needs, have to be “well-connected to a comprehensive range of health services in the community.” This work is already underway in more than 40 communities across Ontario where Alliance members connect non-team primary care physicians with interprofessional teams and make comprehensive primary health care supports available to those who need them most. One of these projects – Team Care Centre led by Windsor Family Health Team, City Centre Community Health Centre and Canadian Mental Health Association Windsor – is highlighted in the report as an example of innovation in action.
Modernize the home care sector and provide better alternatives in the community for patients who require a flexible mix of health care and other supports. We agree that changes are required allowing “Ontario Health Teams and their partner organizations to provide all services and perform all home and community care functions, including all aspects of care coordination” and “enabling care coordination and navigation throughout the full continuum of care.” Alliance members are ready to incorporate care coordination and social prescribing into primary care, enabling warm and efficient transitions with appropriate technologies, in order to support people throughout their interactions with the health and social systems.
Ensure Ontarians receive coordinated support by strengthening partnerships between health and social services, which are known to impact determinants of health. Addressing determinants of health through integration of health and social services is embedded in the model of care delivered by Alliance members. Majority of Alliance members offer a wide range of comprehensive primary health care services, including housing supports, food security programs, settlement services for new immigrants, employment and education supports. This allows them to see firsthand how these services help improve health outcomes for the people they serve. We support the Council’s push for stronger health and social services integration both at the point-of-care through Ontario Health Teams and at the system level.
While we welcome the report’s acknowledgment of the important role of wrap-around, community-based primary care, we are concerned about the absence of the health equity lens. The report outlines some of the specific barriers faced by Indigenous, Francophone, racialized and Northern communities, but the need to address these challenges is not reflected in the recommendations.
“The Alliance for Healthier Communities will continue engaging the government as it implements the Council’s recommendations to ensure health equity guides the health system transformation in Ontario. We, in particular, would like to see the requirement to collect socio-demographic and race-based data,” said Tetley. “Only by looking at the segmented data for different populations we can better understand and address the specific needs of various communities across the province. This, in turn, will help achieve better health outcomes for everyone living in Ontario and build a more sustainable health system.”