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.
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.
- 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.