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. Whether working with individual clients, neighbourhood groups or community partners, there is a focus to help reduce 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.
Healthy Babies, Healthy Children
Specific programs and services at the Health Unit are intended to help individual clients receive the best possible support for their situation. For example, 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.
Oral Health Program
Access to dental care is not possible for many people due to cost. The Oral Health Program provides several services for those with low incomes so that they can obtain some basic dental care. Each of these services has specific criteria, so it is important to check out all the details in advance. Both “income” and “access to health services” are determinants of health that these programs are addressing.
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. The Health Unit monitors the cost of healthy eating in London and Middlesex. This information is used for different 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”, then 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 bring about change that improves health at a community or systems level. Some of the partnerships are outlined below.
The Child and Youth Network
The Child and Youth Network of London has multiple member agencies and individuals with a common goal of supporting optimal child development as a way to achieve healthy productive adults. Priority areas of the network clearly relate to the social determinants of health such as “income”, “education”, “access to health services” “healthy child development” and “personal health practices” among others, and so the Health Unit has membership on workgroups such as “Ending Poverty”, “Making Literacy a Way of Life”, “Healthy Eating & Healthy Physical Activity” and “Creating a Family-Centred Service System”.
London and Middlesex Local Immigration Partnership
The London and Middlesex Local Immigration Partnership focuses on the integration of immigrants 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 “access to health services”, “income”, “social inclusion”, and “culture” 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 Immigration London.
London has the highest per capita population of refugees in Canada.2 When Citizenship and Immigration Canada announced cuts to health care services for refugees in 2012, the Health Unit led a group of concerned individuals and agencies to develop a resource for physicians and service providers which includes a resource map and an accompanying resource booklet that can help to address some of the gaps that resulted from these cuts. This work addresses “access to health services” as a determinant of health.
The Homeless Coalition
The Homeless Coalition is a network of individuals interested in homelessness in London. Their vision is to eliminate homelessness and to that end they advise, shape and coordinate community response to issues such as improved access to services related to shelters, affordable housing and support to maintain that housing. As a basic need, housing is related to such health determinants as “income” and “physical environments”.
Last modified on: February 6, 2015