As part of its health equity strategy, Toronto Central LHIN required hospitals to submit health equity plans in February 2009. The framework for the report template was developed by the Hospitals’ Collaborative on Marginalized Populations and the Wellesley Institute. A common challenge faced by all the hospitals in developing their plans was the lack of comprehensive and reliable equity-relevant data and information. Common concerns raised were:
- how to find data on service use, access barriers and needs by socio-economic status, ethno-cultural background, gender, etc.;
- what data should be collected;
- who should define what is collected and how it is organized;
- how to collect data from patients;
- how to develop equity-relevant indicators;
- how to incorporate them and equity data into performance management and planning.
In response to these challenges, a working group developed a half-day workshop on health equity data for hospitals, held on April 6th at Mt. Sinai Hospital. It was open to hospitals and other health service providers. Over 100 representatives from all 18 hospitals in the TC LHIN, Community Health Centres, other providers in Toronto Central, Central and other LHINs, MOHLTC, and Toronto Public Health participated.
The workshop was sponsored by the Hospitals’ Collaborative on Marginalized Populations, Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network, Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services, the Health Equity Council, the Wellesley Institute, Toronto Community Health Profiles Partnership, and Mount Sinai Hospital. It was designed to demonstrate how hospitals can use existing data sources to understand their communities’ service needs, gaps and challenges, and ensure those with the greatest health needs and access barriers are being equitably served. A second goal was to gather feedback that will lead to effective strategies for new data collection and health equity indicators.
This workshop is a critical next step towards defining common indicators and coordinated strategies to address data and knowledge gaps to support action to reduce health disparities. Participants agreed that there is a need for clearly defined roles for LHINs, MOHLTC, and research institutes in further supporting health equity information strategies.