During Community Health Week, I attended an event Toronto Community Health Centre Women’s Health in Women’s Hands (WHIWH) held to release and discuss the findings of a groundbreaking report called Every Woman Matters. It was conducted by the Centre and other health organizations including Parkdale Community Health Centre and Rexdale Community Health Centre.
Staff of WHIWH, which provides Primary Healthcare to Black Women and Women of Colour, researchers and members of the community spoke about the data they collected and the healthcare access issues expressed by the women studied.
“Black women were the experts in what their needs were.” Notisha Massaquoi, Executive Director of WHIWH, said about how the report, a combination of stories and data, was conducted. This wasn’t a group of women being studied; it was a group of women sharing their knowledge with researchers. This is just one example of Community Health Centres connecting with their communities to understand what their needs are.
Dr. Charmaine Williams of the Factor-Inwentash School of Social Work at the University of Toronto described the most basic healthcare access concerns of the women they studied: “How am I going to get to the doctor?” “Who will look after my kids?” She also said that the homeless and underhoused report participants don’t have networks like friends and family to get access to care, like a doctor.
My colleague Lee McKenna, Manager of Policy and Government Relations for the AOHC, and I were very moved and stimulated by everything that was said. Referring to the fact that few other health agencies conduct similar research, Lee told the audience that some women are going to “feel that they are being heard for the first time in their lives.”
Dr. Williams said the Every Woman Matters research findings are designed to be used in training and educational settings for health providers and also to be applied within health care agencies. The report will also help make the case for increased resources for Women’s Health in Women’s Hands as well as other Community Health Centres. “It’s important to translate research into action,” said Wangari Tharao, Program and Research Manager for the Centre.
Women’s Health in Women’s Hands is also ensuring the research data compiled in Every Woman Matters is available to the community, as access to academic research often requires a subscription.
I originally published this on my intern blog for the Association of Ontario Health Centres.