Ontario Health Teams are good for your health.
The creation of Ontario Health Teams is a powerful way to change the health of Ontarians. By coordinating and integrating care among agencies that provide hospital care, community and social services, long-term care and primary care, we can provide seamless access to the programs and services that families need to be healthy.
Ontario Health Teams are about reorganizing how healthcare services are delivered locally. They place patients at the centre of care in a more connected, integrated system with better transitions between care providers.
Public health agencies are experts at working in collaboration with these groups and we are excited to be part of the creation of Ontario Health Teams. By working with and sharing our expertise in evidence-based strategies to improve health, public health agencies are supporting and bridging the gap between social services and healthcare.
What sets this new model for healthcare apart is that the team of different agencies working together are now accountable for the health and wellness of a population. This means that they are expected to keep the population well and improve the health of all the people in that population, whether or not they show up in a clinic or hospital. In public health we call this a “population health approach”.
The solutions to end hallway medicine are not found in hospitals, nor can physicians and nurses decrease the demand for healthcare by themselves. But by working together as teams with local government, social services, community groups, school boards and public health, it is possible to improve and protect health and reduce demands placed on hospitals, primary care providers and emergency services.
Specifically, when Ontario Health Teams increase the prevalence of long-lasting protective interventions such as immunization and parenting supports for healthy child development, when they focus on mental health and reducing the harms of substance use and when they partner to address access to housing, employment, and education, the health of families and individuals will improve.
Anything worth doing is worth doing well, and it will take time. But we are confident Ontarians will see improvements within the first year of Ontario Health Teams working together including improved access to care.
We know that transformational change is not easy, but we believe it is necessary. We know our communities, and we know what works to help keep them healthy, safe and well. Prevention is at the heart of what we do in public health and is central to what we are contributing to Ontario Health Teams. We applaud the provincial government for incorporating the population health approach as a new requirement of health system transformation. This approach can ultimately reduce costs to the health care system and decrease the need for hallway medicine.
Ontario Health Teams will be good for your health.
Dr. Vera Etches is the Medical Officer of Health with Ottawa Public Health. Dr. Nicola Mercer is CEO and Medical Officer of Health for Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health and Dr. Elizabeth Richardson is the City of Hamilton’s Medical Officer of Health.