- Provide a description of an existing intervention in Canada, intended to improve health inequities. Include an explanation of the inequity and how the intervention targets upstream determinants of health.
- Describe the organizations involved and/or social policies enacted in the implementation of the intervention.
- Explain whether or not the intervention was/is successful and what lessons public health practitioners can learn from that experience that might improve population health in the United States.
A description of an existing intervention in Canada, pertaining to Health, is the new, state-of-the-art hospital that opened on March 24, 2013 in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. This new hospital is part of the Niagara Health System (NHS). The NHS is a multi-site hospital combination. It consist of six sites serving 434,000 residents across 12 municipalities that are part of the Regional Municipality of Niagara.
This new hospital was needed to replace the old St. Catharines General Hospital, which outgrew its facility. The new St. Catharines hospital improves health inequities by giving the Niagara Region in Ontario first-class, modern facilities, such as those enjoyed in other centres in the Province of Ontario (London, Hamilton, and Toronto for example).
This new St. Catharines facility has a radiation treatment floor, which was never previously available in Niagara. Those requiring radiation treatment would have to travel to Hamilton, Ontario, up to an hour or more away, depending on where one lives in the Niagara Region. The new hospital has modern equipment, expert specialists, and a host of services to serve the healthcare needs of the Niagara Region.
Furthermore, the entire NHS, in its specific sites across the Region, has services that include asthma clinics, an eating disorder program, cancer care/oncology, and a breast screening clinic, eye surgery, a diabetes education centre, chronic care, and more.
Involved in the implementation of this intervention in Niagara were the Provincial Government of the Province of Ontario, working together with the NHS. In addition, overall, the intervention (through the building and equipping of this new hospital) was very successful. Yes, there are still ‘bugs’ to be worked out to ensure that the hospital will run even more efficiently in the future, while controlling costs. But, on the whole, this hospital has been a fine addition to Niagara healthcare.
The lessons that public health practitioners can learn from Niagara’s experience to improve population help in the United States is that, no matter what, any new hospital will not please everyone. Some complain there are still not enough beds and that emergency room wait times are too long. The Province and the NHS are working to address concerns. It is not any easy process to put new programs and polices into place, especially in this era of cash-strapped budgets.
What the U.S. can learn from Niagara’s new initiatives is that change can and will occur, when everyone is patient, understands the financial challenges, and is committed to making healthcare better, rather than always complaining that things aren’t better.