By Anita Jean
Your health is determined by a variety of factors such as the genetic material inherited from your biological parents and your lifestyle choices. There are a range of factors called social determinants of health that will have an impact on your health. The most common social determinants of health consist in:
- How much money you have and your social status in society
- If you have family and friends to support you
- Your education and level of literacy
- Your job and working conditions, or your ability to contribute to society
- If you have safe and affordable place to live
- Your coping skills with the stressors of daily life
- The care you received the first six years of your life
The role in social determinants of health is significant. There is a direct relationship between income and health. According to a recent report by Health Quality Ontario, the poorer you are, the poorer your health will be. When comparing individuals from the poorest and richest neighbourhoods, residents of the poorer neighbourhood have twice as many multiple chronic conditions, while almost a third report having food insecurity.
According to the research of psychologist Susan Pinker, face-to-face contact will determine your longevity. She describes in her book “The Village Effect” how your personal support network will help you survive, and hopefully thrive. The network of connections you have, this village you belong to, has the most impact on longevity, followed by the relationships with close family members and friends. This sense of belonging is more important to live a long life than not drinking, not smoking, exercising, immunization and other lifestyle choices or factors.
Some people are at a disadvantage when it comes to social determinants of health. They have less access to resources such as money and power from sources such as social status in society. Individuals and groups may be disadvantaged or excluded because of poverty, race, sexual orientation, age, and ability. Once we begin to acknowledge inequities, we can begin working toward health equity.
The NorWest Community Health Centres is working to promote health equity. Our approach is not only to provide primary care, but to prevent illness, and to promote health and wellbeing. We aim to serve populations and groups that have traditionally had barriers to accessing health care. We design programs and services based on the needs of the communities we serve.
We offer culturally sensitive care within the District of Thunder Bay. Our multidisciplinary team consists of Physicians, Nurse Practitioners, Nurses, Foot Care Nurses, Chiropodist, Therapists, Community Health Workers, Dietitians and Community Nutrition Workers. This multidisciplinary team approach is to ensure that you have the most appropriate health care provider looking after you.
We have a range of supports for our clients, such as childcare and healthy snacks during parenting and caregiver programs. We offer some assistance with transportation and emergency food bags. Our Community Health Workers help clients problem solve around the determinants of health issues. They help clients navigate community services, secure personal identification, and provide assistance with a variety forms. Community Health Workers also help clients identify their health concerns, set goals and support clients to reach these goals. We create opportunities for clients to socialize and learn to take better care of themselves.
We measure our success by several indicators such as by the number of clients we are able to serve, the quality of the care provided based on best practice, and the client satisfaction with their care via client surveys.
From October 16th to 22nd across Ontario, the NorWest Community Health Centres will join the network of Community Health Centres to celebrate Community Health and Wellbeing Week. During the week, we will highlight the work we do to promote health equity. To find out more about our services, visit www.norwestchc.org.
Anita Jean is Manager of Health and Social Programs at NorWest Community Health Centres.
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