Empowering Communities Through Community Health Centres

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STEPS Sun Peaks Community Health Centre © Courtesy of British Columbia Association of Community Health Centres

Healthcare can sometimes feel impersonal and disjointed, as though yours is just another name on the chart. With personalized and holistic healthcare becoming increasingly necessary, Community Health Centres (CHCs) are a breath of fresh air, going beyond the conventional healthcare model and offering diverse services tailored to meet the unique needs of the communities they serve.

Championing Health for All

CHCs are not-for-profit organizations that provide primary care, health promotion, community programs, and social services in one-on-one and group settings. People can receive care for a range of issues from a team of healthcare providers, all through one health organization.

What makes CHCs so effective is their commitment to providing quality care from a team-based perspective. Taking a personalized approach to patient care, CHCs treat each patient as an individual whose well-being is approached from every angle. Patients benefit from access to a diverse team of healthcare providers who collaborate to address a spectrum of health issues. This team-based approach ensures that patients receive holistic, comprehensive and personalized care that considers every aspect of their well-being.

Additionally, CHCs break down barriers to health by providing services and programs focused on housing, employment, healthy foods, and other day-to-day needs, thereby reducing social causes of illness. Measures are taken to ensure that programs and connections in the community reduce social inequities faced by different groups.

People from the community play an active and ongoing role in identifying priorities for services, programs, and community action, and programs led by qualified staff help people manage their illness and learn how to keep up their health and well-being.

community health centres
REACH Community Health Centre © Courtesy of British Columbia Association of Community Health Centres

Patient-Centred Care in Action

The life-changing impact of CHCs is best shown in the story of 60-year-old Darren. RISE is part of Collingwood Neighbourhood House, a non-profit society governed by board members from their community. When Darren first visited the RISE Community Health Centre, he said he was “scared to death of medicine.”

With cerebral palsy, diabetes, and other health challenges, Darren had written off the healthcare system after previous practitioners had given him medications that made him sick. After visiting RISE, his view of medical care has completely changed. What made the difference for Darren was the way the staff at RISE were willing to answer all of his questions transparently, allowing him to understand how he was going to get help and play an active role in his care.

Living with both a disability and in poverty, Darren explained that while he is often expected to meet the needs of the system, it’s far more rare for the system to meet his needs—so when visiting a CHC made that happen, the difference was palpable. Since joining RISE, Darren has had a team of medical professionals working with him, including social workers, dietitians, nurses, pharmacists, and nurse practitioners.

He shared that having his needs met beyond basic medical care has been “the biggest gift that RISE offers.” Darren was even able to experience the range of support that CHCs provide beyond healthcare. Darren receives produce from the food hub program and received additional support from staff when the batteries died in his wheelchair, which made it impossible for him to leave his apartment.

Darren also actively participates in social prescribing, which bridges health and social services for seniors and older adults in the Renfrew-Collingwood neighbourhood. He shared that this program has helped him build new relationships and discover new goals. Darren no longer feels alone, and his overall quality of life and well-being have improved.

We can build healthier, more vibrant communities where every individual has the opportunity to thrive. Learn more at bcachc.org

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Everyone in BC deserves access to personalized and community-driven health and social services. Community Health Centres (CHCs) are designed to provide services and address wellness gaps. As champions of the CHC model, BCACHC exists to engage and support CHCs as we advocate together for this unique model of care.

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