Let the data show the way

I recently learned some interesting facts.

About two-thirds or more of health care dollars are spent on less than 10% of the population. About 75% of the Waterloo-Wellington Local Health Integration Network’s (WWLHIN) $1 billion budget is spent on about 5% of the population. In Guelph, the WWLHIN estimates this to be approximately 5000 people.

If someone was considering this information through a financial lens, and concerned about managing costs, they would start by looking at the 5%.

With a patient-focussed lens, your interest would be whether there was a way to improve the health outcomes of this group. How can we do a better job of serving these people to improve their quality of life? Better health outcomes for patients can lead to fewer demands on the health care system as a whole.

The Province is putting these two lenses together through a new program called Health Links.

“Health Links will encourage greater collaboration between existing local health care providers, including family care providers, specialists, hospitals, long-term care, home care and other community supports. With improved coordination and information sharing, patients will receive faster care, will spend less time waiting for services and will be supported by a team of health care providers at all levels of the health care system.”

Guelph is extremely fortunate to be selected as a Health Links pilot community. We have the family physicians of the Guelph Family Health Team to thank.

Guelph is uniquely positioned for success in this pilot. Between the Guelph Family Health Team (representing 73 local family physicians), Guelph General Hospital, Guelph Community Health Centre, St. Joseph’s Health Centre, and Homewood Health Centre, approximately 80% of Guelph’s primary health care needs are being met – just five key organizations. Compare that with other communities that must bring dozens of primary health care organizations and individual to the table to simply begin a conversation.

Participation in this pilot does not end with these five organizations and will engage a broad range of community health and social service providers – including the Guelph Police Service.

Why the Guelph Police Service? Now that is part of an equally compelling story and opportunity for our community.

At the Police Chief’s invitation, I attended a workshop in Waterloo hosted by the WWLHIN. The workshop brought in the architects of a successful collaborative model in Saskatchewan that had similar goals as the Health Links pilot.

The model had its roots in Prince Albert and the driver there was crime prevention and the escalating costs of policing.

However, the same risk factors that lead to crime and victimization also impact outcomes in health, education, early childhood development, mental health, addictions, substance abuse, social and family services, employability, safe housing and economic growth.

It is all connected.

By sharing data from many community service providers and letting the data tell the story, Prince Albert is helping people better and managing budgets at the same time.

This is one of the goals of the Community Wellbeing Initiative. There is a gap between the community people want to live in and our current ability to deliver on these aspirations. The costs of providing current levels of service are escalating. Yet there are substantial resources found in our community – government funding and services, community assets and programs, charitable giving and volunteerism. How might we put these resources to better use to deliver on our community’s aspirations and sustain existing services?

One of the questions that the Community Wellbeing Initiative Leadership Group has asked is “who sets the community’s priorities?” Prince Albert has provided part of the answer through their collaborative approach to sharing information – they let the data show them the way. The alignment and mobilization of the community’s resources to achieve better outcomes becomes much easier.

As with any change model, I am sure there were early adopters, some that waited on the sidelines for proof and others that refused to play, or worse tried to sabotage the effort.

Between our community’s penchant for collaboration, the WWLHIN’s keen interest in the social determinants of health and the learning from the Community Wellbeing Initiative, I believe we are poised to achieve something really magnificent for our community.

And just to prove everything is connected, I was chatting with our Chief Librarian, Kitty Pope, about Health Links and the Prince Albert model. Her husband’s family hails from Prince Albert so she was aware of the model and that the local library was also at the table.

We shouldn’t be surprised about this.  Libraries are places where people gather. They are spaces that encourage social interaction. The vision for the Community Wellbeing Initiative is to be an engaged community that creates healthy and resilient people, places and spaces.

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About Karen Farbridge

An unwavering change maker seeking a just, democratic and sustainable world.

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2 Comments on “Let the data show the way”

  1. Barry King Says:

    Community engagement is a very powerful and effective strategy towards Guelph becoming a safer and healthier community in which to live, learn, work and play. Parachute’s Canadian Safe Community Designation program, is an integrated leader in injury prevention in partnership with Safe Kids Canada, ThinkFirsr Canada and SMARTRISK, supporting Canadian communities to prevent injuries and save lives. Dedicated collaborate, identify evidence informed risk and

  2. Marion Willms Says:

    My name is Marion and I live in Rockwood. Thank you so much for your blog. It gives me a snap shot of what is happening in Guelph.
    I am a Registered Nurse working in a local hospital. I am very glad for this Health Link projects. I see many people who frequently are patients at the hospital I work at. I see that coordination of services would be a big way of decreasing these hospital admissions.
    It seems that health care services have been very isolated from each other. I hope we can break these silos down. it means better care for the patients.
    with thanks

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