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Association of Ontario Health Centres
Association des centres de sante de l’Ontario

Ontario's voice for community-governed primary health care.

Health Equity Heroes: 'Every day I need to be part of the solution'

What is health equity? What is the work that enables and promotes it? Why is this work so vital? During Community Health and Wellbeing Week 2017, AOHC members are demonstrating the ways that they put Health Equity at the Centre. As part of those efforts, we're going to bring you a stellar lineup of Health Equity Heroes all of this week (and beyond). Get to know the heroes among you, and the ones in neighbouring communities, and let's all celebrate and support this important work that helps everyone achieve their best possible health and wellbeing. Follow this space to read about more heroes, and check out the hashtags #CHWW2017 and #HealthEquityHeroes on social media to learn about even more.

What’s your name, how long have you worked at the centre, and what role(s) do you fill there?

My name is Najat Benmellah, and I’ve worked at Somerset West CHC in Ottawa for 13 years as Bus Monitor and Housekeeper at Nanny Goat Hill Nursery School.

What does health equity mean to you, and how do make a health equity approach part of your work?

As the bus monitor at the Nanny Goat Hill Nursery School, I am often the main connection between parents and the school. By building strong, trusting relationships with parents, I have been able to better connect vulnerable families to the resources that they need; from services offered at our CHC, clothing donations, and parenting supports. My relationship with parents has also helped to encourage their involvement in our monthly parenting workshops and family events. Having engaged parents, equipped with the right resources, helps to encourage each child to realize his or her full potential.

Why is taking a health equity approach so important to your work?

When I first moved to Ottawa, I discovered that Somerset West CHC is a neighbourhod hub, where I could attend playgroups with my children, access primary health care services, and I soon learned about and became involved in the Headstart Nursery School programs.

A few years ago, I met a mother who wanted to enroll her child in our program. Her child had been diagnosed with autism, and as a newly divorced single parent, she had very little support. We worked with this parent to make sure that all paperwork was in place, so her child could start as quickly as possible. By getting to know this parent and building trust, I was able to connect her with other much needed resources, including counselling services at Somerset West, and practical items, such as clothing from our donation cupboard. This mom was also able to learn about different techniques that staff at the nursery school were using to manage her child’s behaviour. This had a positive impact on this parent, as she felt more empowered and in control of her family, and knew she had a support system in place.

In what ways is your centre able to support your health equity approach?

The centre enables us to meet people on a level playing field. All of our programs attempt to reduce any possible barriers that would prevent vulnerable families from accessing our services. In the nursery school program, we offer transportation, to make it very easy for children to attend. Having a monitor on the bus helps to ensure that staff can really connect with parents every day. By building this relationship, we are able to meet parents where they are at and make more successful referrals and connections.

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What’s your name, how long have you worked at the centre, and what role(s) do you fill there?

My name is Sarah Alderwick. I have been a Social Worker at South-East Ottawa Community Health Centre for almost one year. Currently I am providing programs for low-income and isolated seniors.

What does health equity mean to you, and how do make a health equity approach part of your work?

Health equity means that everyone can access the health services they need, and that their health is not negatively affected because of their gender, race, income, etc.

Why is taking a health equity approach so important to your work?

In my work, I support health equity by constantly thinking about the different barriers that could exist for people trying to access a program or service. I try and never make assumptions when planning activities, and this impacts every aspect of offering a program. For example, I may have to do outreach in different languages and ways (for example call people instead of just relying on a poster), offer help with transportation, provide food for participants, and think about how to create a safe space for diverse groups of people. One way I currently address barriers is by bringing programs directly to seniors where they live!

In what ways is your centre able to support your health equity approach?

Thinking about health equity is so important in my work because it is unacceptable to me that members of our community continue to have poor health outcomes due to things that are basic human rights such as access to transportation, food security, and housing. Every day I need to be part of the solution. Welcoming someone to the centre in their own language, giving bus tickets to get to a program, or filling a bag for them from the food cupboard may seem like small things, but they can have a huge impact.