It was my pleasure to speak at the Prince Edward Family Health Team AGM and Staff Day at Isaiah Tubbs on September 18th. Coming from a community service background, I was excited about sharing the priorities, objectives and activities of the Children and Youth Services Network with the approximately 90 doctors, nurses and support staff in the room.
I told them about the Network’s initiative to train service providers in “No Wrong Door/Warm Hand-Off” to improve access to information and referral from the perspective of the family. I told them that our action items are focused on food insecurity and the vulnerability that exists in children entering school. I told them that the Enhanced 18-Month Well-Baby Referral Map has been updated to help primary care providers connect families with appropriate programs and services. Finally, I told them that the Children and Youth Services Network needs their input in order to plan effectively, and asked what they need from us.
During the break, I learned that primary care providers often struggle to know where to refer, that intake processes can require a lot of paperwork for the patient, and that many have followed the appropriate referral process only to be told much later that they have connected with the wrong service. Concern was also expressed about the wait times families often experience before actually receiving service.
I stayed for the afternoon presentation about “The Social Determinants of Health: Who cares?” led by Dr. Graham Burke with Dr. Margaret Tromp, Janie Hall, Joss Matthewman along with Peggy Neil who sits on the CYSN “Kindergarten Students who are Developmentally at Risk” working group and Kim Storms who sits on the “Food Reclamation Project” working group.
The question was posed, “Why treat people without changing what makes them sick”. Clearly, primary care providers recognize that poverty is a barrier to health and needs to be addressed. Otherwise, many individuals and families will continue to experience health problems as a result of food insecurity, a lack of appropriate housing, an inability to access services due to transportation issues, and the impact on mental and physical health caused by stress.
Those who participated in the breakout session that followed agreed that dialogue needs to continue. Stephanie MacLaren, the new PE FHT Executive Director, advised me that several people have said they would like to explore ways to strengthen partnerships with the various social service agencies in the community.
Here is an excellent opportunity for the CYSN to engage with primary health care providers in addressing common concerns about the health and well-being of children, youth and families in Hastings-Prince Edward. I encourage you to share your thoughts and ideas.