First, let me say that I am very behind in blogging, largely because life can get away from us (me included). As I mentioned in my last post, in June, I have had the opportunity to participate in the Royal Roads values-based leadership program this year and I was very excited to start a few weeks ago. My hope is to be able to keep a monthly blog schedule that incorporates some of what I have been taking away from this experience.
As the title of this post suggests I am feeling a bit on the road lately and I am looking forward to being more present after this fall is over (which this year, apparently, was early October in Winnipeg).
So where have I been? I took some time off this summer to help prepare for some of my upcoming life changes, both personally and professionally. I came back and, like many of you, rocketed into a very busy fall. I had the opportunity to go to both Toronto and Seattle in my role as Co-Chair of the Canadian Association of Community Health Centres (CACHC), and continue to feel incredibly lucky to be a part of this national and international family of community health centres.
On behalf of CACHC, my co-chair and I did a keynote session for the North West Regional Primary Care Association in Seattle. This amazing opportunity helped me understand the power of community health models and what a strong voice, a commitment to social justice, and innovation can do. One of the most interesting questions I hear from our American counterparts is ‘why does Canada need community health centres?’ We then spend a great deal of time talking about the fact that health is much more than a medical issue. It’s a social issue, an equity issue, a poverty issue, a racial issue, and universal health care fails to address most of these things.
One of my key learnings is that there can be power in technology to support accessible health care; in this, we have a long way to go. One of my favourite conversations was when I mentioned faxing referrals and results in a session and one of my American counterparts asked if we, in fact, had internet in Canada. I have to admit I was very excited to return to Canada and hear that Saskatchewan has moved forward with giving patients access to their own medical records, which is hopefully a sign of things to come. After all, whose information is it?
What the National Association of Community Health (NACH) in the U.S is doing in their advocacy centre, and how they mobilize their supporters is inspiring; as are the tools they have developed, such as PRAPARE , a data collection and assessment tool based entirely on the social determinants of health.
For me, the highlight was sitting in on a session by the South Central Foundation on the Nuka system of care. Many community health centres have been using versions of Nuka type micro-teams for some time. They have established a great deal of evidence on empowerment-based models in giving clients and patients a better sense of control over their care, resulting in increased involvement in their own health plans and ultimately improved quality of life. There is also evidence on the increase in satisfaction by team members using this model.
In Seattle, one of the opportunities that really stood out for me was, not only hearing from care providers in the Alaskan Nuka model, but from a patient (customer-owner as they are referred to in Nuka) who happened to be in our session and shared her experiences as a partner in her care. The focus by Nuka on true patient centred and managed care, and non-hierarchical care teams, is impressive. In a Nuka model, it is often the medical assistant roles that the team pivots around, challenging the traditional health systems default model of physician-centred care teams. Over the coming year at Klinic, we are hoping to engage our staff and clients in learning from other community health partners leading in this model of care locally, nationally, and globally.
Something I often ask myself is, how do we best live our values? What do our values mean to the people that we serve? What do they truly look like in practice? If we do good work, is that enough? I know that many of us struggle with these questions and balancing the needs of so many people who require support. This is one topic I look forward to discussing more in the coming months, as I go further into my experience with Royal Roads.
In case you aren’t familiar, these are Klinic’s Values:
I have no doubt that with these strong values steering our work, we can continue to develop as leaders in equity-based health care. I look forward to working together with our team, clients, stakeholders, and community in making this happen.