ETHP’s expanded Community Advisory Council met for the first time during a welcome session in May.
East Toronto Health Partners (ETHP), the Ontario Health Team (OHT) serving East Toronto, has expanded its Community Advisory Council (CAC) to help ensure the voices of those who access and receive care in East Toronto continue to be reflected in its work.
The CAC is now comprised of 15 members, including a number of individuals who were members of ETHP’s interim Advisory Council, which was launched in August 2019 shortly after ETHP was declared one of Ontario’s first OHTs.
The expanded CAC will meet monthly over a one-year term on a volunteer basis to co-design ETHP initiatives. They will share their experiences as patients, family members/caregivers and community members and provide feedback on different health-related programs and services to help improve care for people in East Toronto. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these meetings will take place online until further notice.
“Patients, family members and caregivers are partners in every aspect of the development of ETHP, working together to improve the way East Toronto residents access and receive care close to home,” said Barbara Cawley, vice president of client services at VHA Home HealthCare and a member of ETHP. “These individuals interact with the local healthcare system every day, so they have valuable knowledge and experiences to share when it comes to how we can make health and social services more accessible and equitable for people in East Toronto.”
Members of ETHP’s expanded CAC were selected following a four-month recruitment process, from January to April 2021, which helped ensure diverse representation of patients, family members/caregivers and community members in East Toronto.
This recruitment process involved consulting ETHP’s interim Advisory Council and local community and grassroots agencies that are involved in community outreach work. This allowed these groups to co-design strategies with ETHP that helped engage populations of all ages and cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. In addition, this engagement helped ensure the application and interview process were as low-barrier as possible.
Outreach strategies included developing flyers in languages that are commonly spoken in East Toronto communities, such as Bengali, Farsi, Greek, Gujarati, Spanish and Urdu, and conducting virtual information sessions during the application stage to ensure those who were interested in applying to be a part of the CAC had the opportunity to ask questions and learn more about the role.
“It was important that we considered a wide range of tactics to help ensure the people who access and receive care in East Toronto, including racialized communities and those who may not speak English as a first language, are represented in this CAC,” said Omar Khan, a member of ETHP’s interim Advisory Council who assisted with the recruitment process. “This helps our CAC be truly reflective of the populations our member organizations serve, so we can involve them in the co-design of health and social programs and services in East Toronto and incorporate their feedback in an ongoing fashion to truly make a difference.”
ETHP’s expanded CAC includes patients, family members/caregivers and community members with diverse backgrounds and experiences. These individuals have expressed a deep interest in improving the local healthcare system and making a difference in their communities. They are passionate about helping to ensure accessible, equitable and efficient health and social services in East Toronto.
“I joined ETHP’s Advisory Council in order to amplify voices of the community relating to their health and well-being and to provide my input with the objective of improving the healthcare system to make it inclusive, accessible and responsive to the needs of the community,” said Abdul Rashid Athar, a community leader, Flemingdon Park resident and member of ETHP’s expanded Advisory Council.
“Reshaping how health services are delivered is not an opportunity you encounter every day, and participating in ETHP’s Advisory Council is a way for me to positively impact my family and the wider community in a sustainable, systemic manner,” said Shirley Zhu, a Riverdale resident and member of ETHP’s expanded Advisory Group.
The priorities for ETHP’s expanded CAC for 2021–2022 will be developed over the next few months. Two members will also be selected to be a part of ETHP’s Leadership Team, where they will work alongside leaders at ETHP member organizations to help improve care for people in East Toronto. They will succeed two existing members of the interim Advisory Council, who have been a part of the Leadership Team over the past year.