Evidence shows that Community Health Centres (CHCs), including Seaway Valley Community Health Centre and Centre de santé communautaire de l’Estrie keep people healthier, out of the emergency department, and help save the system money
As health care leaders across Ontario and Canada continue to grapple with health system challenges, evidence continues to accumulate that one of the most important components to transforming our health system for sustainability is access to comprehensive primary health care and health promotion services.
Community Health Centres, first introduced in Ontario in the 1960s, provide access to comprehensive primary health care for people who experience barriers all across the province in urban, suburban, rural and northern communities. CHCs do this through direct provision of services such as primary care via salaried physicians and nurse practitioners.
Part of the comprehensive care includes a full team of providers that can include: dietitians, social workers, chiropodists, physiotherapists, mental health professionals, peer support workers, system navigators and more. Health promotion, community development and other social and community support services are delivered in many Ontario communities through this integrated model of health and wellbeing. This model allows for people to be cared for by one team, instead of having to navigate sometimes complex referral and continuity of care planning on their own. CHCs also open their doors to the community and provide services and programs to people who do not receive their medical care directly from CHCs.
For a long time, CHCs have flown “below the radar” in the Ontario health system, with persistent questions about costs, benefits and sustainability. Now, evidence is in – and it consistently shows that CHCs expand access to programs and services overall, better serve marginalized people by improving outcomes and reducing emergency department use, and overall save health system spending. They also help support other allied health care and social services providers to better serve people along the continuum of care.
“We aim to deliver a seamless, effective and more equitable experience of the health system for everyone we serve,” said Erin Killoran, Executive Director, Seaway Valley Community Health Centre. “To address the health and wellbeing needs of the most marginalized people in our community, we have to be a foundation for primary health care, social services, mental health and community development in Cornwall – but also, crucially, in those people’s individual lives. We’re able to do that by listening closely to the community. When it comes to our health care system right now, people need a strong anchor they can count on – in their own lives, and when we face a crisis together.”
“So that’s the role we play. And that’s why we’re seeking the support of our community and our government leaders for adequate funding and the resources to meet people’s needs here in the future.”