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Primary Health Care System

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“Community Health Centre and Aboriginal Health Access Centre Research Strategy "
Presenters: Arron Service, Ph.D, Community Health Centre Regional Decision Support Specialist, East (Champ and SE LHINs)
March 15, 2012


Ontario’s 73 Community Health Centres (CHCs) and 10 Aboriginal Health Access Centres (AHACs) primarily serve vulnerable populations who live in resource poor neighbourhoods, and who need high quality and comprehensive care as a result of health and social complexities. They are located in over 150 communities, and individually design specialized community-based PHC services for local vulnerable populations. There is an emphasis on prevention, health promotion, health education, and community development provided in partnership with organizations in other sectors, such as social services, immigration, environment, education, justice, recreation and economic development. Research from Ontario demonstrates that CHCs are more effective in comprehensive care delivery and chronic disease management 1,2. In the US, CHCs have been shown to generate significant cost savings to health systems while providing high quality care to more complex clients 3. However, in general, there is a paucity of knowledge about how to tackle the burden of illness among vulnerable populations, though it is clear that a sickness-based model of primary care is ineffective 4. By studying alternative models of care, we can identify opportunities to expand successful programs, payment mechanisms and interdisciplinary teams to more effectively target and address the needs of vulnerable populations. Such models may also be translated to improve accessibility, appropriateness and coordination of prevention and care for all Ontarians. The goal of our project is to foster a systemic and sustained approach to cross-sectoral and interdisciplinary evidence building in CHCs/AHACs across Canada by leading the development of a CHC Research Strategy and Guidelines.

The three specific objectives for the development of the strategy and guidelines are to:

  1. Forge new pan-Canadian research partnerships to exchange learning about local models of care and unique community needs;
  2. Form consensus on CHC/AHAC research priorities as well as a research governance structure to ensure research has relevancy and is translatable, and;
  3. Build new and enhance CHC/AHAC research infrastructure to improve receptor capacity for external research.

The CHC Research Strategy and Guidelines will align our priorities with our growing capacity and infrastructure and recommend potential partnerships to guide the development of high-quality, high-impact, applied and intervention research that addresses the gaps in PHC research, mitigates risks to the clients and communities that CHCs and AHACs serve, and promotes positive social change. The CHCs and AHACs are poised to augment their current research capacity, and this breadth of interest and activity creates a fertile ground for initiating cross-boundary, comparative research and natural experiments that can yield evidence leading to the potential to improve existing services and catalyze new initiatives. As such, the Association of Ontario Health Centres (AOHC) has committed to developing a CHC Research Strategy and Guidelines in its 2011/12 annual plan; the completion date is scheduled for September 2011.

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