Health equity at the Community Health Centre

by Health Equity Action Team (HEAT), Centretown Community Health Centre

Monday, October 16 to Sunday, October 22 will mark the Association of Ontario Health Centres’ annual Community Health and Wellbeing Week. This year’s theme is “Health Equity at the Centre.”

The leadup to this event provided Centretown Community Health Centre’s Health Equity Action Team (HEAT) members, made up of management, board members and frontline staff from across the centre, a chance to reflect on the meaning of health equity and what it looks like in our roles working with the community.

Health equity is a broad term, defined as an approach to health that aims to increase access to the resources people need to achieve and maintain their best possible health and wellbeing.

It is different from health equality, where everyone is offered the same health resources and where specific needs or differences are not necessarily considered, assuming that all will benefit equally from the services provided.

At Centretown CHC, we know that many people are disadvantaged because of poor living conditions, geographic or social isolation, and racism and other forms of social exclusion.

We take the approach that health is a fundamental human right and recognize that reducing disparities in access to nutritious food, safe and secure housing, clean water, affordable transportation, adequate and appropriate clothing, and dignified and justly compensated employment will lead to healthier individuals, families, and communities.

For Centretown CHC’s HEAT members, health equity is about leveling the accessibility field, like supporting community members to advocate for accessible seating at City Hall and the centre.

Health should never be compromised or disadvantaged because of an individual or population group’s race, ethnicity, gender, income, sexual orientation, neighbourhood or other social condition.

From a multicultural outreach perspective, this involves raising issues that community members identify and experience, although they might not have the language, cultural context, or resource awareness to advocate for themselves. This can look like facilitating a conversation between a newcomer and a government agency to ensure forms are correctly completed and submitted to permit access to eligible funding.

From an outreach nurse’s perspective, health equity involves inclusion of all community members.

Everyone has a story and we, as a community, need to be more accepting of those that have fallen on hard times.

Considering health equity also provides HEAT an opportunity to reduce or remove the systemic barriers people face in regards to maintaining good physical and mental health.

The Centretown Community Health Centre HEAT Committee is one place where staff can come together to apply personal and professional experiences to remove/prevent barriers to access health care.

In addition to exploring how we, as a centre and a community, can improve care and services, we also try to increase our understanding of systemic oppression and advocate for change.

What is health equity for you? Tell us on Twitter & Facebook (@CentretownCHC) or by email at HealthEquityCommittee@centretownchc.org.

To learn more about our programs, please contact CCHC @ 613-233-4443 or SWCHC @ 613-238-8210.

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This column is a collaboration between the Centretown Community Health Centre and Somerset West Community Health Centre. We are local non-profit, community-government organizations that provide health and social services to the residents of Centretown and the Somerset Ward. We believe every one matters and every one contributes to a healthy community.