Health Equity - What Are We Doing?
Middlesex-London Health Unit has a long record and tradition of working within the community to reduce health inequities. Health equity is an important value of the Health Unit, and is emphasized in the current strategic plan. Whether working with individual clients, neighbourhood groups or community partners, there is a focus on reducing barriers to full participation in life in London and Middlesex County. Because health is determined by many factors (the social determinants of health) beyond health care and access to health services, Health Unit activities can involve working outside the traditional health sector to collaborate with other sectors such as housing, education and employment. Specific programs and services at the Health Unit are intended to help individual clients receive the best possible support for their situation. Some examples of these programs are:
(1) Healthy Babies, Healthy Children
Healthy Babies, Healthy Children is a provincial program for expectant and new parents. Home visits by public health nurses and family home visitors provide support for those who are experiencing extra challenges before and after the birth of their baby. These home visits help with learning about having a healthy pregnancy and birth, how babies and children grow and develop, being a parent, and accessing other community services.1 Such a home vising program helps to support “early child development”, an important social determinant of health.
(2) Oral Health Program
Access to dental care is not possible for many people due to cost. The Oral Health program provides some services for those with low incomes so that they can obtain some basic dental care. One example is the Healthy Smiles Ontario program which provides no-cost dental care to eligible children and youth 17 years of age and younger. Each of these services has specific criteria, so it is important to check out all the details in advance. Both “income” and “health services” are determinants of health that these programs are addressing.
(3) The cost of healthy eating
“Income”, as a social determinant of health, also affects a person’s ability to buy nutritious, safe and personally acceptable food. In May 2017, the monthly cost of feeding a family of four (a man and woman, each aged 31-50 years; a boy, 14-18 years of age; and a girl, 4-8 years old) was $843.01. The Health Unit monitors the cost of healthy eating in London and Middlesex for a variety of purposes including work with community partners to advocate for better access to healthy foods.
The Health Unit also works with many partners on issues that affect the community as a whole. When work is done to remove barriers and “level the playing field”, more individuals in the community can achieve better health. As more individuals achieve better health, the health of the entire community continues to improve. Working with partners brings together skills and expertise to achieve change that improves health at a community or systems level. Some of the partnerships are:
(1) Child and Youth Network of London
The Child and Youth Network of London (CYN) has multiple member agencies and individuals with a common goal of supporting child development, building strong families and breaking down barriers that put children, youth and families at risk. Priority areas of the network clearly relate to the social determinants of health such as “income”, “education”, “health services” and “healthy child development” among others, and so the Health Unit has membership on the workgroups of “Ending Poverty”, “Making Literacy a Way of Life”, “Healthy Eating & Healthy Physical Activity” and “Creating a Family-Centred Service System”. All the work of the Child and Youth Network can be found at www.londoncyn.ca.
(2) London and Middlesex Local Immigration Partnership
The London and Middlesex Local Immigration Partnership focuses on the integration of newcomers into all aspects of the community. Strategic directions relate to education, employment, health and well-being, inclusion and civic engagement, settlement, and justice and protective services. Social determinants of health such as “health services”, “income”, “social exclusion”, and “housing” are some of the determinants that can be impacted positively by the Health Unit’s involvement with this partnership. Further details can be found at www.immigration.london.ca.
(3) The Street Level Women At Risk Collaborative
The Street Level Women At Risk (SLWAR) Collaborative “assists women who are experiencing homelessness and involved in street level sex work to secure permanent housing with supports”.2 Factors of “housing”, “social exclusion”, and “health services” are some of the social determinants of health that are being influenced by this collaborative. View the Summary Evaluation Report (PDF).
(4) The Mayor’s Advisory Panel on Poverty
The Mayor’s Advisory Panel on Poverty released its report, London for All: A Roadmap to End Poverty (PDF), in 2016. Based on research, community consultations and existing work within London, 112 recommendations were brought forward to the community. In London, 17% of individuals are living in poverty, 24% of children are living in poverty and 41% of Indigenous peoples are living in poverty.3 However, poverty is more than an individual problem and has impacts across the entire community. Multiple social determinants of health are reflected in this work such as “housing”, “income”, “employment”, “housing”, “early child development” and more.
(5) Middlesex London Food Policy Council
Partners who reflect diverse interests across the entire food system from London, Middlesex, and partnering First Nations have joined together to form the Middlesex London Food Policy Council. Their goal is to “facilitate and support a safe, healthy and accessible local food system that is socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable”.4 The work of the Council includes addressing “food insecurity”, one of the social determinants of health. Learn more at www.mlfpc.ca.
Last modified on: March 6, 2018