Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Women's Health Strategy

I attended Ontario’s first ever Women’s Health Strategy Conference. It was Wow, so empowering and so enlightening. It was hosted by Community Development Halton and ECHO:
Improving Women’s Health in Ontario. Tuesday, June 22, 2010.

Women of Ontario – some facts
Ontario’s women are:
  • Growing (in population, not size)
  • Older
  • Diverse
  • Urban
  • More likely to live in lower income groups than men, with the largest group being those 65 and older
More women than men work in the healthcare sector, which sees many job losses.

Women of Halton:
  • Make up 51% of the population (or 225,000 persons).
  • In upper management, earn 71% of what men earn even with comparable education, degrees, etc.
  • On average, earn 51cents compared to the dollar earned by men.

Halton population facts:
  • 25% are immigrants
  • 13% are women of colour
  • 13.7% are 65 or older
  • 82% of lone parent families are female headed
  • And 22% of lone parent, female-headed families live in poverty
  • 9.1% of all women (or 20,600) in Halton are low income

Women’s health issues are different from men’s…
• For instance, women’s lung cancer is more commonly found in the later stages. Men’s tend to grow in the bronchial tubes; he coughs, brings up blood… an obvious warning sign.
Women’s lung cancer grows in deeper tissue with little warning sign. Knowing this can shift screening methods.
• Chronic care beds have been reduced, impacting on women as most of those moved out of chronic care beds are women, and therefore most of those waiting for, or denied access to, long-term care are women. And for the most part, they are women who cannot afford to privately pay for supplementary care.

Although the Government lists long-term care as one of its programs targeted at women, no evidence can be found that shows women’s particular concerns, or differences among women, are taken into account. This is the case despite research demonstrating dramatic differences in, for example, heart disease, lung cancer and breast cancer not only between women and men but also among women from different ethnic backgrounds.

• More women than men are caregivers. Caregivers are stressed due to a shortage of support systems. For instance, there is no stroke rehab in Milton, caregivers must take the patient to Oakville, adding to stress of the caregiver.

Immigrant women face their own challenges.
  • South Asians are less likely to access cancer screening;
  • They are uncomfortable talking about problems;
  • They prefer women doctors especially for gynaecological exams
  • They believe in a holistic approach to health, that social support, personal health practices and socio-economic factors are the most important factors affecting their health.
  • Social circumstances can be a barrier to good health for women: poor housing, low income, lack of childcare, etc. The minimum wage keeps people poor.
  • Life circumstances can also impact on health: poverty, housing, education, violence, race, ethnicity, gender, etc. Health is affected by many factors and certain groups of women are at high risk.
All these factors impinge on women’s health. We need increasing access to improve women`s health. We need social and community-level change and support. We need to invest in prevention and social determinants of health.

These women are our sisters, mothers, daughters, nieces, cousins– they could be us. The Region of Halton and Milton in particular, statistically speaking, is considered a wealthy community but statistics often hide harsh realities.

The hospital situation is under stress. The province is in the unusual guardianship role; the system is under pressure from growth, funding, etc.

LHINs are an added cost to service delivery –an extra layer of expensive bureaucracy.

Halton Healthcare CEO John Oliver told me at council Monday, June 28, that they argued for keeping all Halton together in one LHIN but the province put Burlington in with Hamilton, then lumped Milton, Halton Hills and Oakville in with Mississauga. The entire population of the 3 municipalities amounts to a mere 30% of Mississauga’s population. This break -up of the region weakens our case at the regional council table and healthcare IS a responsibility of the Region. That's why we have the Halton Chief Medical Officer.

The Milton Hospital has not increased in size since 1987 when the community was a fraction of the 90,000 now calling Milton home.

Even if Milton taxpayers cough up the money, approval to build must come from the Minister of Health & Long Term care. But, approvals are not going forward despite Milton being the fastest growing municipality with all the associated pressures of growth. I won’t get into the double taxation issue - that’s the topic of another blog: http://janmowbrayblog.blogspot.com/2010/05/milton-hospital-expansion.html

1 comment:

  1. I received the following note from a person who was involved in the beginning of LHINs and who also participated with me in the Women's Health Strategy session...

    You have done a super job on the meeting, involving input from such a broad-based group. I found it very refreshing and honestly open and productive. I felt something practical might come out of this group who seemed very sincere. Your points made may enlighten.

    Our hospitals seem to focus on centralized services, when we used to try to have local services, as much as was possible. Is this a good idea and will Milton become less able to provide coverage for our needs as a population of 90,000 and growing? Do we have a local health council in Milton who look into what we should be having to serve our community? Or do we count on the Region or Oakville hospital for our local planning?

    Dialysis, a Hospice, physio covered by OHIP as it used to be, are all questions needing to be addressed. Wellness is all a part of this need.

    Those who work at our hospital have comments about Milton being less than it should be, or has been, a squished filling in the middle of an Oakville-Georgetown sandwich! An honest open discussion with staff and volunteers would be so refreshing!

    An American firm established the geography for the LHINs and put Burlington in with Hamilton because of McMaster and other Hamilton connections. If they combined LHINs, Hamilton Niagara Haldimand and Brant could be a good arrangement for keeping Halton together. We fought for Burlington but could not change anything with the Ministry.

    There might be a smaller number of LHINs in the future, I have been told.
    Look into the new changes in LTC placement rules from July 1st, from the Ministry. Many may be upset! For years we tried to keep couples/family members together and had financial supports in place for those who needed them. Rules are changing.