Community medicine: surprising insights surface when local health care leaders collaborate and connect.

Author:Lauckner, Bruce

AS THE Chief Executive Officer of the Waterloo Wellington Local Health Integration Network, I spend most of my time working with health care leaders and front-line health professionals to improve the health care local residents receive. I also spend a significant amount of time with community leaders and residents discussing the need for a "whole-of-community" approach to health.

As a result, I am often asked two questions: what is a Local Health Integration Network (LHIN)? And why is the leader of the health care system talking about things like high school graduation rates and early childhood development?

Most of the time, the first one is easy. The second, I'll explain in a moment.

LHINs were created in Ontario in 2006 with the idea that no one knows better what services are needed in a community than the people who live, work, receive and provide health care services there.

Today, the network covering Waterloo Region, Guelph and Wellington County is among 14 LHINs across the province.

The "local" in LHIN is the foundation of who we are. We are a group of local health and business professionals --doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, planners, accountants, technology experts, etc.--tasked with planning, funding and integrating services in the local health care system, from those delivered by hospitals to mental health and additions to community-support agencies.

A crucial part of our role is community engagement. We work with residents, families, health-service providers, community organizations, local government and other community partners to build a better health care system. We are passionate about putting residents first in everything we do. We listen, we build partnerships, we act and we lead--and we do it all together with dedicated professionals across the system.

When developing our most recent strategic plan, we also updated our mission, vision and values. As a result of engaging with our community and examining the characteristics of the highest performing health systems in the world, we realized we needed to look at more than just health care to improve the health of our community. We launched a single core value: to act in the best interest of our residents' health and well-being. That led us on a journey to get to the root causes of poor health outcomes.

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