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Driving Health Equity into Action: Planning Strategy to Address Complex Social Determinants of Health
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Driving Health Equity into Action: Planning Strategy to Address Complex Social Determinants of Health


This presentation provides insight on the importance of a planning strategy to address complex social determinants of health. …

This presentation provides insight on the importance of a planning strategy to address complex social determinants of health.

Bob Gardner, Director of Policy
Follow us on twitter @wellesleyWI

Published in Health & Medicine , Technology
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  • inequality in how well people live:clear gradient of health in chronic conditions in Ontario¼ of low income people report that their activities are prevented by pain – 2X that for high incomePower Studyinequality in how long people livedifference btwn life expectancy of top and bottom income decile = 7.4 years for men and 4.5 for womenmore sophisticated analyses add the pronounced gradient in morbidity to mortality -> taking account of quality of life and developing data on health adjusted life expectancyeven higher disparities btwn top and bottom = 11.4 years for men and 9.7 for women Statistics Canada Health Reports Dec 09
  • highlight RoadmapOut: health equity is all about reducing inequalities in health outcomesneed to start by understanding nature, impact and roots of current health disparities
  • so search for pathways from particular determinants to health effects is illusionaryintroduce term if needed to further illustrate complexity of landscape? inter-sectionality – reflecting the fact that personal identities and group dynamics do not reflect a single line of oppression/identity such as gender, race or class, but their reinforcing and interacting natureOut: what is the impact of all this?
  • Ont 2005 age standardized 25>
  • Principle applies throughout system – at provider and often at program level as wellwhat are equivalents in climate change strategy intoaction?
  • start from solid strategic commitmentmajor priority within OAHPP, OPHA, collaboration among urban PHUs across Canada, etc.a number of Public Health Units have been pioneering social determinants approachesSudbury has developed comprehensive strategyWaterloo has focused especially on food insecurityToronto has emphasized health impact of increasing income inequalitywide range of promising approaches, programs and interventions -> potential to share and build on all this local innovationMinistry of Health Promotion and Sport is taking a healthy community planning approach – potentially more equity-orientated
  • broad public and policy recognition that creating healthy communities and populations is critical to society as a wholeand the cost of poor and inequitable health are a significant driver of public spending
  • backgrounder does thatsupplement through local place-based and community-based research
  • need to match tools to purpose equity-focused as a specific angle is not consistently developed in all these levels
  • theme: use levers to hand – LHINs can require use of such toolscould also require planning, environment and other relevant municipal departments to undertake health equity impact assessments
  • lesson from health reform and equity strategyrecognizing that what gets measured, matterswhat are equivalents for climate change strategy/action?
  • SSM was one of these big ideas and tremendous work of AOHC and allies
  • summary again


  • 1. Driving Health Equity Into Action: Planning and Strategy to Address Complex Social Determinants of Health
    Bob Gardner
    Climate Change Adaptation and Health Equity Workshop
    May 24, 2011
  • 2. Health Equity Context = Systemic Disparities in Ontario
    • there is a clear gradient in health in which people with lower income, education or other indicators of social inequality and exclusion tend to have poorer health
    • 3. + major differences between women and men
    • 4. the gap between the health of the best off and most disadvantaged can be huge – and damaging
    • 5. in addition, there are systemic disparities in access to and quality of care within the healthcare system
  • 6.
    • addressing health disparities has become a major priority within the health system:
    • 7. from the prov Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, through LHINs and PHUs to many providers
    • 8. some promising equity strategy, planning and operationalization
    • 9. will draw out some parallels and lessons learned from health system reform
    • 10. but overall health is shaped by factors well beyond health care – income inequality, the jobs we do, racism, housing and living conditions, social connectedness – the social determinants of health
    • 11. and reducing health disparities involves far more than health reform
    • 12. will focus on how equity needs to be considered in health care, climate change policy and many other spheres and some tools and principles on how to build equity into strategy across the determinants of health
    Building Solutions -> Comprehensive Health Equity Strategy
  • 13. 4
    Foundations of Health Disparities Roots Lie in Social Determinants of Health
    • clear research consensus that roots of health disparities lie in broader social and economic inequality and exclusion
    • 14. impact of inadequate early childhood development, poverty, precarious employment, social exclusion, inadequate housing and decaying social safety nets on health outcomes is well established here and internationally
    • 15. we need comprehensive strategy to drive policy action and social change across these determinants
  • SDoH Meets Climate Change Strategy
    • environmental factors – air, water, built environment, communities we live in – are crucial components of these determinants
    • 16. so climate change and its effects on air, water, disasters and other environmental trends is very much a health issue
    • 17. but the inequitable distribution and impact of these underlying determinants also means:
    • 18. some health disadvantaged populations are far more vulnerable to the effects of climate change and other environmentally driven problems
    • 19. some populations have fewer resources and less capacity to cope with the impact of climate change and other emerging challenges
    • 20. so climate change and clean air are very much a health equity issue
  • 21. SDoH As a Complex Problem
    • Determinants interact and intersect with each other
    • 22. In constantly changing and dynamic system
    • 23. In fact, through multiple interacting and inter-dependent economic, social and health systems
    • 24. Determinants have a reinforcing and cumulative effect on individual and population health
    • 25. Figuring out effective policy and community responses to these complex and inter-dependent determinants is a crucial problem across all the spheres in which we work
  • 26. Three Cumulative and Inter-Dependent Levels Shape Health Inequities
    because of inequitable access to wealth, income, education and other fundamental determinants of health ->
    also because of broader social and economic inequality and exclusion->
    because of all this, disadvantaged and vulnerable populations have more complex needs, but face systemic barriers within the health and other systems ->
    gradient of health in which more disadvantaged communities have poorer overall health and are at greater risk of many conditions
    some communities and populations have fewer capacities, resources and resilience to cope with the impact of poor health
    these disadvantaged and vulnerable communities tend to have inequitable access to services and support they need
  • 27. ‘Wicked’ Policy Problems
    • social determinants of health and health disparities are classic ‘wicked’ policy problems:
    • 28. shaped by many inter-related and inter-dependent factors
    • 29. in constantly changing social, economic, community and policy environments
    • 30. action has to be taken at multiple levels, by many governments, service providers, other stakeholders and communities
    • 31. solutions are not always clear and policy agreement can be difficult to achieve
    • 32. effect takes years to show up – far beyond any electoral cycle
    • 33. need comprehensive strategy to tackle the underlying roots of health inequality in the wider social determinants of health
    • 34. from high-level national social and policy change to reduce inequality through community-based innovation, cross-sectoral collaborations and mobilization
    • 35. that can identify the lines of connection between all these factors and identify the crucial leverage points for change
  • 36. Part of Addressing these ‘Wicked’ Problems Is Making the Connections
    • climate change is very much a complex social problem and ‘wicked’ policy challenge
    • 37. will weave in and out in this talk:
    • 38. some lessons learned from working to develop equity strategy, planning and implementation within the health system
    • 39. links between environmental and climate issues as determinants of health – fleshed out in your Backgrounder
    • 40. benefits of thinking of these issues in inter-connected ways, so:
    • 41. climate change is defined as a critical health equity issue – and this is built into strategy and planning
    • 42. health reform is always connected to bigger picture of addressing underlying determinants of health, including environmental factors
    • 43. those addressing complex issues can learn from each other and build momentum to address the root issues
  • 44. SDoH -> Gradient of Health-> Inequitable Risks and Vulnerabilities
  • 45. Asthma = Sensitive to Air Quality
    neighbourhood patterns parallel distribution of poverty, income inequality and other social determinants
  • 46. Drill Down: Health Equity Implications of Climate Change
    • consistent gradient by income of these and other chronic conditions
    • 47. because of the health burden of these conditions – and their inequitable distribution -- some are more vulnerable than others to adverse impact of climate change
    • 48. also because of overall inequality these more vulnerable populations tend to have less capacity and resources to cope with adverse effects
    • 49. this has to be built into public policy around climate change adaptation
  • 50.
    • goal is to ensure equitable access to high quality healthcare regardless of social position
    • 51. can do this through a multi-pronged strategy:
    building health equity into all health care planning and delivery
    doesn’t mean all programs are all about equity
    but all take equity into account in planning their services and outreach
    aligning equity with system drivers and priorities
    embedding equity in provider organizations’ deliverables, incentives and performance management
    targeting some resources or programs specifically to addressing disadvantaged populations or key access barriers
    looking for investments and interventions that will have the highest impact on reducing health disparities or enhancing the opportunities for good health of the most vulnerable
    while thinking up-stream to health promotion and addressing the underlying determinants of health
    Lessons Learned from One Sector: Health Equity Strategy Into Action
  • 52. Powerful Starting Point Equity Is a Fundamental Priority Within Public Health and SDoH are Understood
  • 53. Start From a Clear Strategy
    • need to develop clear overall strategy:
    • 54. clear vision of success – of what health equity or equitable climate change adaptation strategy looks like
    • 55. identify key levers or drivers for change + coherent and coordinated set of programs and activities
    • 56. grounded in a clear ‘theory of change’ -- the principles, assumptions, ambitions and activities that will lead to the changes we want
    • 57. within health, important changes can and have been made:
    • 58. provincially, population health and equity are important principles of Excellent Care for All Act and public health standards
    • 59. locally, equity is a major priority of Toronto Central LHIN and Toronto Public Health; they have both built this priority into their overall planning and operations; and both have led or enabled many promising equity service or collaboration initiatives
    • 60. parallel for climate change?
    • 61. aligning climate change with population health and health equity priorities may be useful direction
  • 62. And Strategic Planning for Emerging/Complex Issues
    • various Ministries and governments often do forms of long-range scenario planning
    • 63. has to take dynamic and complex nature of social determinants of health into account
    • 64. for health planners:
    • 65. can’t just be demographic, technological and medical forecasting
    • 66. has to also include broader environmental trends and threats
    • 67. similarly, long-term planning within environmental policy has to:
    • 68. take account of health impact of climate change and other trends/threats
    • 69. undertake equity analyses to assess inequitable risks and vulnerabilities of different populations
    • 70. build this equity analysis into development of strategy on how to adapt to climate change
  • 71. Start from Solid Evidence
    • analyze best available medical, health and community-based research:
    • 72. links between air quality and asthma, lung disease and other chronic conditions
    • 73. links between inequitable prevalence and impact of these chronic conditions and wider social determinants of health – at the multiple levels:
    exposure to poor air quality and attendant health risks varies inequitably by populations and neighbourhoods
    capacity of communities and residents to cope with poor air and adverse health impacts also in turn shaped by wider social determinants of health
    compounded by inequitable access to remedial health, social and environmental services and resources
    • to build the case that poor air quality and other environmental factors are population health issues
    • 74. idea: environmental and planning agencies to collect equity-relevant data
  • 75. Into Practice Through Equity-Focused Planning
    • lessons learned from health equity strategy = addressing health disparities requires a solid understanding of:
    • 76. the specific needs of health-disadvantaged populations
    • 77. key barriers to equitable access to high quality care
    • 78. gaps in available services for these populations
    • 79. this requires sophisticated analyses of the bases of disparities:
    i.e. is the main problem language barriers, lack of coordination among providers, sheer lack of services in particular neighbourhoods, etc.
    what is the immediate environment in different communities and how does this affect health and health disparities?
    which requires good local research and detailed information – speaks to great potential of community-based research
    involvement of local communities and stakeholders in planning and priority setting is critical to understanding the real local problems
    • and requires an array of effective and practical equity-focused planning tools
  • 80. Equity-Focused Planning Tools: For Climate Change Adaptation Policy
    ensure health impact and health equity are considered in development of client change adaptation policy and relevant environmental service delivery/planning
    assess implications for health disadvantaged populations of climate change adaptation policies and programs
    assess current state of climate change policy stakeholders re awareness of health and health equity impact
    determine needs of communities facing inequitable health impact of climate
    assess impact of programs/interventions on health disadvantaged populations
    simple equity lens
    OAHPP Equity Assessment Framework or MOHLTC Health Equity Impact Assessment
    policy and program audits and/or HEIA
    equity-focused needs assessment, place-based analysis, community health profiles, local CBR
    equity-focused evaluation
  • 81. Health Equity Impact Assessment
    • Health Impact Assessments grew out of environmental impact assessments and have been used for several decades
    • 82. but concern that HIAs did not sufficiently focus on equity -> increasing attention to equity-focused impact assessment – from WHO, through most European strategies, PHAC, to MOHLTC and LHINs
    • 83. planning tool that analyzes potential impact of program or policy change on health disparities and/or health disadvantaged populations
    can help to plan new services, policy development or other initiatives
    can also be used to assess/realign existing programs
    intended to be relatively easy-to-use tool
    essentially prospective, helping plan forward
  • 84. Into Practice
    • piloted in Toronto in 2009 by MOHTLC, Toronto Central LHIN and WI, and in several LHINs
    • 85. final version of template and workbook released by Ministry in 2011 see their page at http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/pro/programs/heia/background.aspx
    • 86. growing use within health:
    HEIA is being used in Toronto Central and other LHINs
    by many hospitals and other providers across Toronto
    Toronto Central has required HEIA within recent funding application processes for Aging at Home, and refreshing hospital equity plans
    primers on HEIA and a variant Mental Health Wellbeing Impact Assessment, many Wellesley workshops and other resources can be found on page at http://www.wellesleyinstitute.com/policy-fields/healthcare-reform/roadmap-for-health-equity/heath-equity-impact-assessment
    • Equity Assessment Framework being developed and piloted by the Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion
    • 87. following workshop
  • 88. And For Climate Change Adaptation?
    • build health equity impact assessment into policy development process
    • 89. could use HEIA to analyze potential impacts of climate change on poorest and poorest serviced neighbourhoods – where will indoor temperature get unsafe? what options do people in those neighbourhoods have?
    • 90. then analyze how to target program responses to those neighbourhoods and communities most in need/at risk – who benefits from home retrofitting?
    • 91. could drill down to analyze specific issues such as heat islands, availability of safe open spaces and air conditioning, etc.
    • 92. need resources to enable this use of HEIA:
    • 93. leading jurisdictions have offices that work with various sectors to undertake HEIA
    • 94. tools, resources and support are needed from Province
    • 95. + teeth:
    • 96. idea = any new environmental/climate change policy going to Cabinet or Council must have HEIA done before approval
  • 97. Beyond Planning: Embed Equity in Targets, Incentives and Ongoing Performance Management
    • clear consensus from research and policy literature + consistent feature in comprehensive policies on health equity from other countries =
    • 98. setting targets for reducing access barriers, improving health outcomes of particular populations, etc
    • 99. into performance management through cascading expectations through the system -- Prov -> LHINs, agencies, etc.-> providers
    • 100. developing realistic and actionable indicators for service delivery and outcomes
    • 101. closely monitoring progress against the targets
    • 102. disseminating the results widely for public scrutiny
    • 103. tying funding and resource allocation to performance
    • 104. how to adapt for climate change strategy?
    • 105. target = reduce differences in prevalence of asthma by neighbourhood
    • 106. monitor = ensure programs collect data by neighbourhood and other equity-related indices to ensure uptake and reach is equitable
  • 107. Use Strategic Levers to Drive Equity Into Action
    • from health system:
    • 108. LHINs have required providers to prepare equity plans
    • 109. been effective at embedding equity within organizational planning and priorities and encouraging front-line equity initiatives
    • 110. all providers will be doing Quality Improvement Plans under new Act
    • 111. embed equity as one of dimensions of quality in these plans
    • 112. PHUs have to meet key standards around population health and equity
    • 113. align equity with system priorities such as chronic disease prevention and management
    • 114. can’t address diabetes without addressing the social circumstances and conditions in which people have to manage their conditions
    • 115. and for climate change adaptation?
  • 116. Strategic LeversFor Climate Change Adaptation?
    • require municipal plans to both:
    anticipate and analyse potential impact of climate change across the range of city concerns and services
    explicitly analyse the equity implications of anticipated impact – differential vulnerability, ability to adapt, need to target response
    • what levers could be used?
    • 117. build equity into any scenario planning or environmental impact assessments
    • 118. into building codes and other regulatory powers
    • 119. targeted programs such as Tower Renewal have particular implications for low-income tenants who live in these areas
    • 120. what system and organizational drivers?
    • 121. within health, can tie equity to crucial system priorities of quality, efficiency and sustainability
    • 122. what equivalents for climate change adaptation – reducing long-term costs, ensuring overall sustainability?
  • 123. SDoH into Action: Cross-Sectoral Planning
    • cross-sectoral coordination and planning are much emphasized in public health and health policy circles
    • 124. public health departments and LHINs are pulling together or participating in cross-sectoral planning tables on health issues
    • 125. Local Immigration Partnerships, Social Planning Councils, poverty reduction initiatives, etc on many other connected issues
    • 126. the Ministry of Health Promotion and Sport is developing a healthy communities strategic approach
    • 127. cross-sectoral planning to ground health promotion
    anti-smoking, exercise and other health promotion programmes need to explicitly foreground the particular social, cultural and economic factors that shape risky behaviour in poorer communities– not just the usual focus on individual behaviour and lifestyle
    need to customize and concentrate health promotion programs especially for most disadvantaged
    if this isn’t done -> can unintentionally widen disparities as better off take up programs more
  • 128. And For Climate Change Adaptation?
    • from healthy community planning angle:
    • 129. ensuring healthy environments with clear air can be part of planning and program changes to build healthier communities = get to those tables
    • 130. highlighting community activism to address environmental issues as one powerful way to highlight SDoH
    • 131. from climate change and environmental issue angles
    • 132. need to bring health and equity organizations/issues to those tables
    • 133. through showing the inequitable health impact of climate change and other environmental trends
    • 134. identifying areas where most disadvantaged neighbourhoods and communities need enhanced services:
    • 135. indoor air quality is crucial to health -> concentrate remedial and restorative programs to improve quality of living conditions where need is greatest
    • 136. if parks and trees are seen to be one way of enhancing local environmental quality -> concentrate new investments in worst-off areas
  • 137. SDoH into Action: Policy Coordination
    • addressing these ‘wicked’ policy challenges -> requires a significant commitment and re-orientation of social and economic policy + more ‘joined-up’ policy:
    • 138. more coordinated, cross-departmental and cross-government policy development and coordination
    • 139. growing interest in a ‘health in all policies’ approach:
    • 140. Quebec requires any laws or regulations that could have health implications to be reviewed by the Ministry
    • 141. Ontario has done policy research on HIAP and developed several tools
    • 142. policy forums have been created:
    • 143. Saskatchewan has provincial and regional forums of all ministries involved in human and social services
    • 144. innovative planning processes have been developed
    • 145. in Peel, planners and public health staff work together to ensure health impact is considered in planning decisions
  • 146. Back to Community: Building on Potential of Community-Based Service Initiatives and Innovation
    • huge number of community and front-line health initiatives addressing equity across province
    • 147. Community Health Centres, community mental health, community organizations based out of specific ethno-cultural communities
    • 148. e.g. many community providers have established ‘peer health ambassadors’ to provide system navigation, outreach and health promotion services to particular communities
    • 149. not being systemically shared or built upon -> need to create forums and infrastructure to identify, assess and adapt this potential
    • 150. this progressive service delivery = beacon of inspiration for other sectors + constant living demonstration that action is possible
    • 151. what are clean air equivalent initiatives that could capture imagination and build initiative?
    • 152. look for insight and inspiration from ‘out of angle’ sources:
    • 153. e.g. community gardens and kitchens can contribute to food security to some degree, but they can also help build social connectedness and cohesion
  • 154. Back to Community Again: Build Momentum and Mobilization
    • sophisticated strategy, solid equity-focused research, planning and innovation, and well-targeted investments and services are key
    • 155. but in the long run, also need fundamental changes in over-arching state social policy and underlying structures of economic and social inequality
    • 156. these kinds of huge changes come about not because of good analysis, but through widespread community mobilization and public pressure
    • 157. key to equity-driven reform will also be empowering communities to imagine their own alternative vision of different health futures and to organize to achieve them
    • 158. we need to find ways that governments, providers, community groups, unions, and others can support each others’ campaigns and coalesce around a few ‘big ideas’
    May 23, 2011
  • 159. Health Equity +
    health equity broadly defined could be one of those ‘big’ unifying ideas..
    if we see opportunities for good health and wellbeing as a basic right of all
    if we see these pervasive health disparities as not only incredibly damaging to so many, but also as an indictment of an unequal society
    if we recognize that coming together to address the social determinants that underlie health inequalities will pull together and benefit many other spheres – such as building safe and healthy living environments and communities
    if we see that addressing the roots of so many of our social problems requires broad collaboration and mobilization
    • we can start to connect these ideas – so being able to live in a safe and healthy environment can be seen as an essential building block of health and healthy communities
    • 160. thinking of what needs to be done to create healthy and equitable communities is a way of imagining and forging a powerful vision of a progressive future
    • 161. and showing that we can get there from here
  • 162. Inter-Connected Messages
    • health disparities are pervasive and deep-seated – but can’t let that paralyze us
    • 163. do need a comprehensive and coherent health equity strategy – but don’t wait for perfect strategy
    • 164. think big and think strategically – but get going
    • 165. there is a solid base of evidence, provider experience, commitment and community connections to build on
    • 166. poor quality air has an adverse impact on health
    • 167. because of overall health disparities, this impact is inequitable and places a greater burden on the most vulnerable
    + these disadvantaged populations have less capacity to cope with adverse climate impacts to come
    • any policies addressing climate change, air and other environmental issues need to take health impact and equity into account
  • 168. Key Messages II
    • have set out a roadmap of strategies, principles and tools to drive health equity into action through policy change and community mobilization
    • 169. many within the health, environmental and other sectors have long experience and strong commitment to equity -> build on this to drive coordinated and coherent system-wide equity agenda into action
    • 170. work in broad partnerships and collaborations to address the underlying determinants of health inequalities
    • 171. clean air and environmental quality are critical parts of these overall determinants of health – can be one key site of mobilization
    • 172. making connections between all the issues/determinants is needed to build healthy and equitable communities
  • 173.
    • these speaking notes and further resources on policy directions to enhance health equity, health reform and the social determinants of health are available on our site at http://wellesleyinstitute.com
    • 174. my email is bob@wellesleyinstitute.com
    • 175. I would be interested in any comments on the ideas in this presentation and any information or analysis on initiatives or experience that address health equity
    Following Up
  • 176. Wellesley Roadmap for Action on the Social Determinants of Health
    look widely for ideas and inspiration from jurisdictions with comprehensive health equity policies, and adapt flexibly to Canadian, provincial and local needs and opportunities;
    address the fundamental social determinants of health inequality – macro policy is crucial, reducing overall social and economic inequality and enhancing social mobility are the pre-conditions for reducing health disparities over the long-term;
    develop a coherent overall strategy, but split it into actionable and manageable components that can be moved on;
    act across silos – inter-sectoral and cross-government collaboration and coordination are vital;
    set and monitor targets and incentives – cascading through all levels of government and programme action;
  • 177. Wellesley Roadmap II
    6 rigorously evaluate the outcomes and potential of programme initiatives and investments – to build on successes and scale up what is working;
    7 act on equity within the health system:
    • making equity a core objective and driver of health system reform – every bit as important as quality and sustainability;
    • 178. eliminating unfair and inefficient barriers to access to the care people need;
    • 179. targeting interventions and enhanced services to the most health disadvantaged populations;
    8 invest in those levers and spheres that have the most impact on health disparities such as:
    • enhanced primary care for the most under-served or disadvantaged populations;
    • 180. integrated health, child development, language, settlement, employment, and other community-based social services;
  • 181. Wellesley Roadmap III
    9 act locally – through well-focussed regional, local or neighbourhood cross-sectoral collaborations and integrated initiatives;
    10 invest up-stream through an equity lens – in health promotion, chronic care prevention and management, and tackling the roots of health disparities;
    11 build on the enormous amount of local imagination and innovation going on among service providers and communities across the country;
    12 pull all this innovation, experience and learning together into a continually evolving repertoire of effective programme and policy instruments, and into a coherent and coordinated overall strategy for health equity.
  • 182. © The Wellesley Institute