I was very pleased to speak at the North Hamilton Community Health Centre’s AGM. There is enormous international evidence that enhancing access to comprehensive primary care is one of the most important directions to improve health care for disadvantaged populations. Ontario CHCs have long been incredibly innovative in delivering primary care and health promotion that meets community needs and working with diverse partners to build healthier communities. Toronto CHCs have developed a sector-wide equity plan. The potential of local innovation was particularly clear in the programs, partners and volunteers recognized with awards at the North Hamilton AGM.
In my talk I set out a roadmap – of strategies, tools and ideas — to drive equity into action through policy change and community mobilization. Some of the specific action ideas included:
- building equity indicators and objectives into Quality Improvement Plans;
- developing community health profiles to guide planning;
- giving community advisory committees real teeth by allocating some discretionary funding to their control;
- considering coordinated centralized interpretation services to improve access and efficiency; and
- developing local cross-sectoral health equity planning forums, and considering a city-wide equity action plan.
My overarching theme was that CHCs demonstrate every day that something can be done about systemic inequities – by delivering the best possible health care to disadvantaged communities and working in partnerships and collaborations well beyond health care to address the underlying determinants of health. I see CHCs as a both a beacon and inspiration – showing that important change can be made in tough times while also showing how to move towards a more equitable health future.
This was my second adventure in Hamilton this year. My first was to be a talk to a Heath Equity Forum in February that was unfortunately snowed out. I was going to develop a health equity action plan that could work in a medium-sized city like Hamilton.