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Partners in wellness

A letter from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority

BY REAL CLOUTIER
Winnipeg Regional Health Authority Vice-President & COO
Wave, September / October 2016

Milton Sussman
Real Cloutier

Since its inception in 1965, the United Way has always been seen as a critical player in helping to maintain the social fabric of the community.

Increasingly, though, it is also being acknowledged for something else: the important role it plays in helping to support the health and wellness of many of our citizens.

At the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, we recognize the connection between social services and individual health and wellness. While we are in the business of providing health care, we understand that a health-care system can only do so much to keep our citizens well.

The research on this is fairly clear. According to a variety of experts, differences in health outcomes can be attributed to a broad range of factors. These factors, known as the determinants of health, include things like income and social status, education, social support and healthy childhood development, just to name a few.

In fact, as was reported in the May/June issue of this magazine, some health experts have suggested that the determinants of health may account for as much as 50 per cent of the Canadian population's health outcomes, compared to the 25 per cent that may be attributed to health care.

As one Region report on the issue noted, "Income, education, where you live, the opportunities you had or did not have in childhood, especially early childhood, are among the key factors that shape your chances of good health throughout life."

Not surprisingly then, given the evidence, the Region has sought out ways it can help effect change. For example, it supports the Poverty Reduction Council, an initiative of the United Way that pulls together leaders from business, government and community organizations to work on ways to help those in need. The Region is also a participant in the campaign to end homelessness, an initiative launched two years ago by the United Way to end homelessness by 2024.

The Region has also made a conscious effort to incorporate the concept of health equity in all of its programs and services. Indeed, the concept of health equity, which essentially involves efforts to ensure everyone has the chance to reach their full potential for health, is a key part of our 2016 - 2021 Strategic Plan.

Given our common interests, it's easy to see how our partnership with the United Way will continue to grow going forward.

The United Way's new campaign, for example, is in perfect alignment with the Region's own efforts to promote health equity. Set to launch this fall, the United Way will spend the next three years continuing to protect and strengthen all the programs and services thousands of people rely on every day, while focusing on doing more in four key priority areas: mentors for kids, youth mental health, job skills and money management training, and help close to home at neighbourhood family centres.

The emphasis on children and families only makes sense. As the United Way points out, as many as 20 per cent of our kids do not graduate from high school, a number that jumps to 40 per cent in lower income neighbourhoods. To help address that issue, the United Way is supporting programs that mentor kids, a move that will provide them with a better chance to succeed. As the United Way points out, "mentored kids are 75 per cent more likely to graduate high school and go on to post-secondary education."

The United Way is also conscious of the need to support more mental health programs for kids and families. The organization says, "One in four Winnipeggers age 10 and older has a diagnosed mood or anxiety disorder, yet less than one in four of those who need help actually receive it."

The United Way is also looking to increase its support for jobs skills and money management training. The organization's research shows that one in 10 Winnipeggers lives in poverty, including one in four children. At the same time, research shows that "pre-employment programming" can help people get jobs and keep them, the organization says.

As a result, the United Way will seek to fund programs that provide pre-employment training and help people learn how to better manage the money they earn.

These are just a few of the many things the United Way hopes to achieve over the next three years. I think it's fair to say that to the extent they succeed in achieving their goals, we will all benefit.

That's one reason why the Region is pleased to partner with the United Way. We understand their efforts will not only help people overcome difficult social circumstances now, but will also help them live longer, healthier lives over the longer term. It's also why we encourage our staff to participate in fundraising activities throughout the year.

As the United Way points out, "We all belong to the same community."

Wave: September / October 2016

About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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