The Health Planner is a simple document which helps you to lead a healthy life. It is divided into sections which collect basic information about your own health and health practices, some information about your families health history, a place to set and track goals and finally information which will help meet those goals.
The questions we ask about personal health help track individual health as compared to indicators used by Toronto Public Health to assess the health of all those living in the city of Toronto.
As an organization, we then total all of the information from those using their Health Planners to get a picture of the overall health of our participants. For example, we know that the biggest challenge our community has is the need to consume more fresh fruits and vegetables, which in some part is dependant on the availability of affordable produce. We regularly return to the Health Planner as a way to helo neighbours change their health behaviours.
Compared to the rest of Toronto, St. James Town residents are:
Two times as likely to have diabetes
Two times as likely to have hypertension
More likely to have high blood pressure
More likely to have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
Less likely to undergo screenings for prostate, breast and cervical cancer
Less likely to have contact with specialist physicians
Less likely to have had recent mammogram
Less likely to have had a recent Pap Test
Less likely to be admitted to hospitals
Less likely to have had a visit to a health care provider for mental health issues
Introducing The Health Planner
As neighbours become more involved in our programs we gradually introduce the health conversation into their participation. Once they demonstrate a genuine desire to change and improve their health we introduce our Health Planner. The Health Planner has been designed as a user-friendly document, which helps identify potential health issues and is a place to record a plan to address these issues. The planner records basic health information and statistics which are used by Toronto Public Health to measure the health of specific populations in the City. For example, we can calculate our persons BMI, we can gather information on the number of servings of fruits and vegetables. After completion, a quick review will establish which areas of a person’s health need to be addressed and from there simple health goals can be established.
The uniqueness of the Health Planner is that the completion is usually done with a Community Assistant who will help set the goal and then follow up regularly checking progress offering encouragement and support. The Health Planner is usually completed over several conversations. It is important to note that the Health Planner cannot be introduced in the first several meetings as this will possibly “scare off” the participant. We only complete this after the participant agrees that they should do something to improve their health or mitigate future health risks.
The use of the Health Planner as a tool has a long-term focus. The participant may not wish to have the health conversations for a time and then they may want to return. The Community Assistant who keeps their own records responsible for the ongoing gentle reminders and encouragement.
The data from all health planners help to inform the direction of the overall healthy living initiative and to determine the types of programming needed. Our workshops and programs not only provide interesting and enjoyable activities but also focused on prevalent health issues in the community. For example, the Zumba dance program addresses the need for exercise for those community members who are at high risk of type 2 diabetes.
Examples of Data Findings
From Data To Action
We analyze the data collected to understand the immediate needs of the community and take action in order to generate higher impact and minimize health risks. Here are a few examples of the graphs above:
- Our data shows that the community’s consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables is very low and can be a significant health risk for the community. Primary reasons include the availability of quality produce and price, especially when compared to other food alternatives. We introduced affordable food markets and food delivery services into St. James Town as well as increase the number of nutrition workshops. It was important to create a positive, fun environment to support the changes in people behaviour.
- The Community Health Risks chart shows that our neighbours are overwhelmingly a risk of High Blood Pressure and Diabetes. Our service response included redesigning our training for Community Assistant Health Support for individuals, and actively work with local health professionals to engage with our neighbourhood
- One of the most impactful sections of the Health Planner has been the screening questions. We screen our participants for health risks by completing a series of health questionnaires. The results show the high numbers who have not taken the Can Risk assessment for diabetes, a large number of participants have not had a Colorectal Colonoscopy and a large number of women have not had a Pap test in the last year. The answers to these questions help to create a series of prevention activities as a means to mitigate health risks. For example, we bring a cancer screening bus to the community with the assistance of community services and Toronto Public Health.