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Home » News » Public education talks connect older adults to health and wellbeing resources

Public education talks connect older adults to health and wellbeing resources

Engagement efforts underway to introduce system navigators to Winnipeg health region residents

Winnipeg Regional Health Authority
Published Thursday, March 14, 2024

The health care system can feel like a complicated maze when it comes to finding the supports and resources to help with a health-related challenge. It is easy to be overwhelmed by the patchwork of people, organizations and agencies, all delivering a variety of programs and services. That's why system navigators play a unique role to bring together people who have a health-related need with the supports and resources available to help them.

One of the issues plaguing the health care system right now is something known as access block. It's when there aren't enough hospital beds available for incoming patients due to various factors, one of them being patients already in hospital waiting to be paneled to long term care facilities. In 2023, a team of staff from community health, hospitals, and other sectors within the Winnipeg Health Region worked together to look at this problem and determine how to address it. After months of work, a series of public and physician engagement events were planned to provide older adults and their caregivers with information they need to find resources and manage their well-being, to help prevent them from ending up in hospital in the first place and to allow them to stay healthy in their homes longer with community supports in place.

More than 300 people attended two events in November 2023 either in-person or online. The region partnered with a number of community organizations that offer insight into a variety of health and social services available to older adults. A panel of experts from 211 Manitoba, Age & Opportunity: Support Services for Older Adults, Canadian Mental Health Association, Family Doctor Finder, Seniors Resource Finders and WRHA Indigenous Health were in attendance to share information on the programs and services they offer.

74-year old Linda Hazelwood attended one of the events. "I think most useful was the amount of information that was available that can be accessed through one telephone number," said Hazelwood. "Because I am computer literate and my husband isn't, so I know if I'm not available I know that I can give him one number and he can call one number and get some help."

Eve Omar, Director of Health Services for ACCESS Winnipeg West, helped facilitate the two November events, which introduced the concept of system navigators, the go-to resource finders who stay up-to-date on the programs and services that support independent living. "One of the things people working in the health care system hear regularly is that people need more information to proactively maintain their well-being as they get older," said Omar. She noted that the audience at both events were very engaged, and were really looking for as much information as possible. "They had personal experiences, there was gaps in their knowledge and they were so happy to have the panel present and get their answers in real time."

Post-event surveys revealed that 70% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed they now know where to direct questions related to their well-being, and 76% understand how System Navigators can help them find services. Even Omar, who has been part of the health care system for many years, said she even learned some new things. "I think this is so helpful for us as employees of the health care system, to participate even just for our own knowledge. But it's so critical that as a health care organization we take this step and we put in the effort to deliver this information to the public. They need to know this."

Linda Hazelwood agrees. She says it's important just seeing the resources that are out there and the efforts being put in to help people as they age. "I drive, but there will be a time when I can't drive, so knowing that I can find people who can do things for us just to keep our lives easier as we age," said Hazelwood.

More sessions are being planned for 2024, including a French language event and one for newcomers. "This project closely aligns with the WRHA's Strategic Plan, which calls for us to invest in health promotion and strengthen communication with the public by building awareness of available services," says Mike Nadar, CEO of the Winnipeg Health Region. "These events are a way to ensure the information can be provided to more people who need it." Resources shared at the public education talks, including the booklet and presentation are available in French and English on the website.

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