Kahir Lalji is a community champion and non-profit leader. Inspired by caring for his grandparents, Kahir dedicated the last 15+ years of his life to supporting the quality of life of older adults – always attempting to ensure the representation of traditionally underserved populations. He is the Provincial Director of Population Health with the United Way of the Lower Mainland and the Executive Director of the United Way Southern Interior BC.
Marcy has worked as a researcher, policy consultant and educator on labour market, training and employment policy, health care services and health system change. In her role as a health policy researcher, Marcy co-authored more than 25 academic studies and policy reports on community health and long-term care restructuring, health workforce development and service quality issues, and community-based solutions to the current challenges in our health care system. Now that Marcy has retired, she has become increasingly interested in the broader social determinants of healthy aging and interventions that support resiliency in older adults. She is currently one of the co-leads on the Raising the Profile project, a new provincial network supporting community-based senior’s services to work more collaboratively with each other and with the broader community and governments. Marcy is also volunteering in an advisory capacity with Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House, the BC Health Coalition and the BC office of the Centre for Policy Alternatives.
Executive Director, Sage Seniors Association
Karen McDonald’s career has focused primarily in the field of gerontology, including a decade in seniors’ supportive housing and more than a decade with the Sage Seniors Association, most recently as Executive Director. Sage is a community-based seniors serving organization that provides social services, primary health care, community development, and life enrichment programming. Karen is currently also acting as Chair of the Interim Community Leadership Council, working with community-based seniors serving organizations across Alberta to advance sector development.
In 2015, Karen co-founded MatchWork, an interactive employment training and assessment tool used by employment support organizations to more effectively guide and support those who face barriers to employment, including older workers and caregivers.
Karen completed her MBA and BA at the University of Alberta. She recently joined the Board of the Muttart Foundation and is a past Rotarian.
Dr. Grace H. Park is a Family Physician and the Regional Medical Director for Home and Community Care in the Fraser Health Authority in British Columbia Canada. She brings decades of experience as a primary care provider in working at the systems level within the health authority. Dr. Park’s area of interest is integration of primary healthcare with health authority services in the community. She developed and implemented the Community Actions and Resources Empowering Seniors (CARES) in Fraser health since 2015 and launched frailty education for community GPs with Divisions of Family Practice. She is a consultant to Doctors of BC Health Promotion committee on Frailty since 2019 promoting support for primary care practitioners to manage frailty in their practices as well as contribute to policy development on frailty management.
In this workshop, Dr. Park will speak of the physician’s role in collaborating with the Community-Based Seniors Services Sector (CBSS) and the ‘seniors’ community connectors’ in Social Prescribing programs.
Angela Brooks, United Way, Canada
Kahir Lalji, United Way, Canada
Marcy Cohen, Community Based Leadership Council, Canada
Karen Mcdonald, Fraser Health, Canada*
Grace Park, Fraser Health, Canada
*Karen Mcdonald will be presenting virtually
Access to health, community and social care services are integral to enabling older adults to age in place. Likewise, the provision of community-based services that leverage the skillsets of the older adults and provide platforms for social connectedness and civic vitality are at the core of keeping older Canadians connected, active and engaged in their home and communities.
Social interventions for health have arisen in response to an aging population and increasing prevalence of long-term conditions, associated with social isolation and increased health care utilisation. Social prescribing provides healthcare professionals with a non-medical referral option, in order to address the non-medical factors that determine patients’ health, wellbeing, and often lead to frequent primary and secondary care visits. To meet the non-medical needs of people, social prescribing links primary care patients with sources of support provided within the community. Studies show that social prescription indicates that there is a potential for psychosocial benefits, health, and wellbeing improvements for program participants who engaged with the service.
This workshop provides a snapshot of the work being done around social prescribing in three provinces in Canada (British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario).
The aims of this study were to:
- Understand the impact non-medical interventions have the quality of life of older people. What is the interconnectedness between social determinants of health and healthy aging?
- Examine the different service delivery models of social prescribing and learn best practices from different models. What is the value of the model being embedded in community verses in healthcare?
- Support the continuum of service delivery among community and health care, towards an integrated system of support. How do we address the siloed approach to service delivery?
A convergent mixed-method outcome evaluation focused on the impact of this community-based collective of agencies during the pandemic. Both qualitative and quantitative data were collected from volunteers, partners, and leaders who work in these agencies through individual interviews, regional and provincial consultations, and a survey. The data represents all five health authorities in BC, as well as remote, rural, suburban, and urban communities through single-service and multi-service organizations.
Interim findings revealed that social prescribing is benefiting participants, including older adults and caregivers through meal and grocery delivery, participating in physical activity and improved ability to feel seen and heard, connection to peers via conference calls and support groups, identification of health issues and suggestions for participants to seek medical care and access community resources. Older adults described positive changes in their access to community supports and services, physical health, mental health, quality of life, sense of belonging and connectedness, ability to navigate the health care system, and sense of safety at home.
Caregivers expressed how programs normalized their experience and indicated the program increased their confidence to provide care, improved their mental health by increasing their understanding and acceptance, and increased their knowledge and skills in providing care. Caregivers acknowledged the role the program plays in filling in gaps in the formal health system as services have filled their unmet needs, including access to specific resources/services and opportunities for social connection and belonging.
Implications of findings
Early findings demonstrate that investment in community collaboration is a critical success factor. Findings also indicate the role community programs and services can play in the upstream focus of healthcare and the importance of human agency in self directing care and support. It also has identified gaps in service delivery that policy makers need to take into consideration when developing supports for older people.