Creating Better Health

Based on CIW Café Scientifique panelist presentation.

Bruce Lauckner, CEO, Waterloo Wellington LHINWhen we refreshed our mission, vision, and values two years ago, we made a conscious decision to focus on creating better health in addition to better healthcare for our community.

While that may seem like a small difference – it was a strategic choice – grounded in the reality that regardless of how hard we work to create better healthcare, the healthcare system alone won’t create better health. Creating better health is about impacting those elements in the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) that contribute to the overall health of an individual. Let me tell you why.

77 – this is the number of organizations we fund to provide health care services in our area – our hospitals, long-term care homes, mental health organizations, palliative care services, meals on wheels and so on.

1.5 – we spend $1.5B on health care in Waterloo Wellington each and every year

5 and 66 – 5% of the users of our health system consume 66% of the resources – that’s over a billion dollars every single year right here in Waterloo Wellington on a very small proportion of our residents.

Many are individuals just trying to make ends meet. Most have multiple chronic diseases and require a high degree of support. They have difficulty coping with the extent of their diseases and are often in and out of hospital.  

Some have mental health issues and some have limited family support. They are our neighbours, our friends, our family members. Most of them didn’t suddenly get sick. Instead, over the years, a series of factors created illness.

Now, the good news for these people is that our healthcare system is getting better and better at looking after them when they get sick. But still, this isn’t enough.

We know from research that all the hard work of our doctors, nurses, personal support workers and so on only contributes to about a quarter of person’s overall health and well-being.

Over half is determined by socioeconomic factors – things like early childhood development, housing, education levels and economic circumstances.

Pie chart estimating costs of the social determinants of health

As a community, if we don’t get at these elements we have little hope of creating a truly healthy population.

More good news is, using the CIW as the anchor point, we now have data on how well we are doing in each area that determines our health. As a result, really good things are happening in many of our communities. In Waterloo Region, we have initiatives being undertaken to address the issues identified in the Vital Signs Report. In Guelph, the Guelph Wellbeing Initiative is bringing people together to improve quality of life for Guelph residents.

In health we’re seeing doctors and nurses teaming up with police, education, and social service agencies to tackle these problems in new and different ways. As an example, in Cambridge, a dozen or so agencies meet every week at Lang’s Community Health Centre to talk about families in crisis and how they can help as a group rather than continuing to work in silos. In the past, the at-risk family had to contact each agency individually. Often, in frustration, many would give up or only contact one or two of the many agencies they truly needed.

The CIW is helping us change the conversation from health care to health and focus on all of the elements that impact well-being. We encourage each of you to ask:

How can my organization make use of the CIW to tackle problems in new and different ways? 

The Index not only measures what matters but is starting to make measures matter. 

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