AOHC Internship Blog (2011)

Note: I moved the contents of this blog from Posterous, which will no longer be in service as of April 30, 2013. I wrote this blog as part of my Communications internship at the Association of Ontario Health Centres in 2011.

A Broader Definition of Health
Join me as I learn about the great things Ontario Health Centres are doing to expand healthcare.

Sexual and Reproductive Health Programming for Young Men: A Learning Process for Health Educators - June 22, 2011

During one of my final weeks interning at the Association of Ontario Health Centres (AOHC), I read the fascinating descriptions of the workshops that were to be held at the international Community Health Centres conference the AOHC was organizing. One posed big questions about why men are so glaringly absent from sexual and reproductive health programming.
I had to learn more. I’d never heard or read these questions before.
So, I interviewed Michele Chai, a Community Health Promoter for Planned Parenthood Toronto, about how her work for this community health centre that promotes healthy sexuality inspired her to create the interactive workshop called “Effective Strategies for Engaging Young Men in Sexual and Reproductive Health Programming.”
When Michele started going to schools with two peer educators to hold workshops about sexual and reproductive health, she noticed that male participants were often distracted and disruptive. Homophobia and sexism were apparent. Then after the workshops, some would approach Michele individually and rave about them.
Michele asked these males about their change in interest and attitude. She discovered that participating in this kind of discussion often makes males targets for bullying by their peers. There’s a kind of peer pressure to pretend not to care. It’s a presentation of masculinity.
This creates huge problems for increasing access to sexual and reproductive health programming because it requires a deconstruction of the pathology of men’s psychology to shift their perceptions of masculinity.
Homophobia and sexism must be addressed, Michele says, but it has to be in the right language. Male participants are more actively engaged when they can identify with those who are teaching them.  She says males need health promoters to be non-judgmental and to have the option of a male provider in clinical services.
Planned Parenthood Toronto has a program called the “Young Men’s Peer Project” in which Michele trains a small group of men to become health educators.
These men designed and launched “It’s That Easy,” a campaign to promote safe sex. The posters feature young men telling their peers about the importance of getting tested in informal language and a casual font.
To become engaged in sexual and reproductive health programming, young men need to identify with the people who are promoting it.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend Michele’s workshop at the conference, as I was busy training delegates on the basics of social media, so Michele kindly provided me with a summary on the workshop. 
She said that participants shared many myths and assumptions: that male participants just don’t care, that they are a “lost cause.” The workshop was highly interactive. In feedback forms, participants said they had found the strategies for engaging young men useful. I am thrilled, but not surprised that this workshop was a success.
This blog post makes the end of my communications internship for the Association of Ontario Health Centres. I have immensely enjoyed learning about the great work the AOHC and Community Health Centres have been doing to improve healthcare and sharing these stories Thanks so much for following me on my journey.

Community Health Centres on Video - May 18, 2011

Recently, I watched some Youtube videos about Ontario Community Health Centres that really showcase their great programs and services. The most effective ones use narration about the Centre and footage of the staff and community members in action on the CHC premises. LAMP Community Health Centre posted a great example of this on its own Youtube Channel.

Not only are the viewers of this video learning about why LAMP matters; they're learning about the CHC model of primary care: a holistic, preventative approach to addressing the healthcare access needs of a community. The opportunities of social media for healthcare really excite me! A great video, properly promoted, has the potential to go viral, or to at least be seen by many people within the province who perhaps didn't even know that CHCs exist or why they do. Youtube videos can spotlight the social health issues faced by particular communities.

The AOHC posted this video interview of a community dietician for South Riverdale Community Health Centre talking about how she and her Centre are breaking down barriers the Toronto Chinese community face to healthy eating.

I am currently creating a communications plan to help the AOHC promote its Youtube videos and generate interest in the annual international conference in Toronto it co-sponsors. Last year at the conference, the AOHC interviewed attendees about health equity. Here, Bob Gardner talks about the importance of community mobilization for policy change.
  
Hundreds of delegates from around the world will attend this year's conference from June 9 to 10 to deliver on community health innovations. Find out more or register for Community Health Centres: Acting today, shaping tomorrow. Hurry! Time is running out! Visit AOHC’s Youtube Channel for more video interviews and stay tuned for more after the conference!

Groundbreaking Report Gives Voice - May 9, 2011

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.

Celebrating Health - April 28, 2011

While completing my Honours BA in Health and Society and Professional Writing (Specialized Periodical) at York University, I studied and wrote about the impact of class, race, disability, gender and sexual orientation on health. Marginalized and racialized groups tend to be less healthy for many complex reasons.
Community Health Centres, Community Family Health Teams and Aboriginal Health Access Centres are doing amazing work to increase access to healthcare and provide programs and services relevant to the needs of their communities. I am thrilled to be promoting these important activities in an internship at the Association of Ontario Health Centres (AOHC) for my post-graduate certificate in Corporate Communications and Public Relations at Centennial College.
The highlight of my time at AOHC so far was attending the grand opening of TAIBU Community Health Centre, the first Community Health Centre in Ontario mandated to serve the Black community. I was given a tour of the building where I met many of the staff including physicians, nurse practitioners, social workers, dietitians and dentists who talked to me about how they were staying attuned to the needs of the community. TAIBU, like all Community Health Centres in Ontario, values not just the medical needs of its community, but the social, emotional and spiritual ones. Health is more than a state of physical wellbeing. It is not merely the absence of illness.
After the tour, I sat down to a wonderful procession of African drumming and dancing. A celebration of the achievements of the centre. Of African culture. Of health. Of breaking barriers. 
The speeches that followed were just as lively. Former Canadian Idol judge Farley Flex opened the night with great humour. Floydeen Charles-Fridal, president of TAIBU’s community board, spoke about the challenges and triumphs in creating the centre. She also read a moving poem. AOHC Executive Director Adrianna Tetley talked about her pride in seeing TAIBU grow and about the racism that affects the health of the Black community.
It has been such a pleasure to learn from Adrianna and the rest of the staff at the AOHC. I am happy to bring my academic knowledge, social media and writing skills to this place. Stay tuned for more updates on my experiences!

About

I am an experienced health writer passionate about addressing factors in society that influence health and create barriers to healthcare access.
I am thrilled to be interning at the Association of Ontario Health Centres to spread the word about the great work Community Health Centres, Community Family Health Teams and Aboriginal Health Access Centres are doing to create change in their communities.

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