Our Director of Policy, Bob Gardner spoke on health equity to Solutions: East Toronto’s Health Collaborative, a long-standing coordinating network of health care and related service providers. He set out a toolkit of ideas, directions and techniques to build equity into health care planning and delivery:
- starting from solid foundations of organizational commitment to equity and to taking equity into account in all planning and delivery;
- putting this into practice through equity-focussed planning—e.g. consistently using the health Equity Impact Assessment tool;
- collecting social determinants and equity-relevant data—as in so many elements of equity work, there is no need to reinvent the wheel here. Providers can adapt and use the model developed and being implemented by Toronto Central LHIN hospitals;
- use epidemiological data, community-based research, community health profiles and other diverse research methods to build knowledge to act on;
- embed equity into the targets, deliverables and performance management systems that drive the system—and monitor progress;
- use proven tools such as equity standards to operationalize equity;
- align equity with organizational drivers and system priorities such as quality improvement, chronic disease prevention and management and Health Links;
- target access and quality barriers and health disadvantaged populations;
- focus partnerships on addressing these barriers and improving care and support for under-served populations;
- work to shift public and policy framing of health to be less about health care and more about creating the foundations for more equitable and healthier communities;
- pull all of this together into an equity roadmap for the Solutions area.
The great potential of networks like Solutions is to identify community-level challenges and opportunities, and to pull initiatives and elements together into a coherent overall equity strategy.
He highlighted three ways in which an equity toolkit could be useful for Solutions:
- some parts of the toolkit could be adapted in organizations and sectors—with Solutions members as champions;
- some can help plan collaborative actions—again, the potential of connected local initiatives. Because so many Solutions members were involved in Health Links initiatives within their areas, he tried to give some examples and opportunities where equity could be built into Health Links moving forward;
- some parts of the equity toolkit are about identifying broader systemic and policy issues—adding local network’s collective voice to efforts to shift policy or framing of equity at a system level.