Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Day one Toronto

Yesterday I had my very first visit and, lucky for me, it was in a Women’s Hospital so I felt way too comfortable. Day one and I met three great women and already I'm brimming with ideas – despite the jet lag! I’m interested in the Women’s College Hospital for two reasons. The first is that in their promotional materials they clearly distinguish women’s health and highlight the social determinants. The second is their consumer website, which we have utilized at the Women’s on many occasions. The Women’s Health Matters website has a wealth of consumer health information, as well feature stories, an ask the expert option, and other interactive features. It looks great, is appealing for women and is on track to becoming a rich and wonderful site for women.

I met with the director of digital marketing who is working on the redevelopment of the Women’s Health Matters website. The site has undergone a lot of change over the last decade mostly in response to the changing needs of consumers and the ways in which people access the internet and search for information. As an example, Margaret said that people won’t trawl through documents about how to use a website anymore – we have to assume that people will just go looking for what they want and websites have to accommodate that. Margaret has only been in the position for a year; her background is in web marketing and she has mostly worked in the private sector. She brings a particular and dynamic perspective and is clearly working on creating a site that is sustainable and strong despite any possible funding fluctuations. Funding and resourcing projects this big is always going to be a challenge for public hospitals even though there is strong evidence that good information has the effect of reducing the resource drain in clinical areas. Maybe hospitals should be rewarded for initiatives that keep people away. A whimsical thought I admit but merit there somewhere. The Women’s College Hospital has established a funding arrangement with one of the two major pharmacy retailers in Canada (which has a particular women’s health bent).
The hospital has been experimenting wth the idea of online interventions for women. In collaboration with the Princess Margaret Hospital they developed an online support and education program for women with gynaecological cancers about sexuality. It's a closed group that runs for 12 weeks and introduces a new topic each week. At the end of the topic a number of questions are asked on the participants in order to stimulate discussion. Catherine Classen, Director on Mental Health at the Toronto General is one of the collaborators and talked about said that work has been done to evaluate this model but an bigger study is being considered off into the future.

Finally, Toronto General has a Director of Equity and Consumer Engagement. How fantastic is that! Someone responsible for equity and engaging community with equity in mind! It's a new position and is currently filled by a great woman, Angela Robertson - her role she says is to resource and design initiatives to enable access to hospital services. Specifically for marginalised populations who are differentially impacted based on the social determinants. Her community engagement then is about developing community partnerships with equity and access in mind. A key initiative is her convening tables where community, government, health come together to sort out issues of access - health literacy in action across portfolios. Great stuff.

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