Health Promotion students IMAGINE a better future for interprofessional health education

April 13/2016

DLSPH Student Blog

By: Anne Rucchetto, Fatima Mussa, Antu Hossain, & Anjum Sultana

Healthcare is an ever-expanding field where various specialists — including public health professionals, physician and nurses — must work together to improve health for all.  All healthcare experts are interdependent and beneficiaries of one another’s success when communication and innovation are supported through timely feedback, respect and shared goals.

As four Health Promoters at various points in our education and career paths, these requirements are crucial to providing the highest quality healthcare possible.

We all work at IMAGINE — Interprofessional Medical and Allied Groups for Improving Neighbourhood Environment — a student-run community health initiative affiliated with the University of Toronto.  IMAGINE provides medical, social and health services and programming through its Saturday clinic at Queen Street West Community Health Centre, and through advocacy and community outreach.

At IMAGINE, we work collaboratively with students from medicine, nursing, social work, occupational therapy, pharmacy, physiotherapy and more. A growing body of research demonstrates that the majority of health outcomes are determined by things outside of the healthcare sector, such as the social determinants of health: housing, gender, race, socioeconomic status, educational attainment, and even the neighborhood a person grew up in.

The health promotion program emphasizes the importance of social determinants of health repeatedly, informing our core values and professional perspectives, and it’s is one of our pivotal roles when working in partnership with clinicians and allied healthcare providers.

To help close the wide disparities in health outcomes across different social groups, health promoters encourage anti-oppressive approaches to healthcare provision. At IMAGINE, we ensure that we are working collaboratively with the communities we serve by fostering partnerships with agencies that are already addressing concerns across the GTA.

Working with vulnerable populations is always challenging, but our education helps us manage power differentials and mitigate their impact. The health promotion program stresses reflexivity, which highlights the importance of taking time to critically reflect and analyse our positionality and approaches in how we support communities.

Health professionals need to remain accountable to meeting the objectives and goals they aim to deliver, whether through reflexivity or more operational techniques such as evaluation. IMAGINE has enhanced our program evaluation and design skills by working with the process and quality improvement team to develop an evaluation framework of the clinic’s sustainability.

This is a challenging task which measures key indicators to ask hard questions on how well is IMAGINE doing. It embraces newer evaluation approaches, theory, needs assessment, and mixed methods research, all of which stem from an equity lens. This form of self-audit informs action plans that continuously improve the quality of healthcare delivery.

As health promotion students, we act as a bridge between community members and social agencies, healthcare providers and clinicians. This enhances IMAGINE Clinic’s goal of serving communities through interprofessional partnerships, which is essential in promoting population health.

How does health promotion factor into the larger landscape of interprofessional education at the University of Toronto?

One way to enhance the reach of health promotion and public health is to promote greater collaboration and interactions between the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and the other health professional faculties through participation in interprofessional events. Fostering these interprofessional initiatives earlier in the education trajectory would help to promote collaborative health partnerships that advance public health among working professionals and organizations once students enter the workforce.

As health promotion students working with other allied clinical health professional students, we appreciate the added value that health promotion provides at IMAGINE through program planning, delivery and evaluation; advocacy and organizing around critical public health issues; in strategic planning and in reflexive practice.

We hope to continue to foster these connections through our work at IMAGINE, but are interested and hopeful for more avenues to connect, collaborate and work with our colleagues in other related fields. It is this interdisciplinary action that will aid our efforts to achieve health equity in the years to come.

Click here to learn more about IMAGINE.

Anne Rucchetto is one of IMAGINE’s  Advocacy Co-Chairs. Follow at @av_ruc
Fatima Mussa is one of IMAGINE’s Health Promotion Co-Chairs.
Antu Hossain is a member of the Process and Quality Improvement Committee at IMAGINE.  Follow at @antuhossain1
Anjum Sultana is the Executive Co-Director of IMAGINE. Follow at @anjumsultana

 All writers are current Health Promotion Masters of Public Health Students at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.