What’s New This Quarter

This year, Community Health & Wellbeing Week (CHWW) is all about ‘building equitable futures’. Throughout the week, Access Alliance will be hosting a series of 3 webinars which feature discussions around critical health equity topics, including stigma, language access, and housing discrimination.

At each webinar, we will address each topic as it relates to supporting systematically marginalized populations, using our reports and their critical findings to frame the issue and launch discussion.

We have invited external panelists whose organizations are also driving important work in these topic areas to join the discussion. This will ultimately offer a sector wide learning opportunity to Alliance member agencies and staff.

Here is the lineup:

Monday, October 4th, 2-3pm

Tackling Stigma – the Unresolved Barrier to Achieving Good Health – Following the release of our report, “Tackling TB Stigma”, we have brought together a panel of experts to highlight the role of stigma in creating barriers to support, care and better health and how we might reduce or eliminate stigma as a barrier. We’ll hear from panelists working with varied populations and conditions including HIV, TB and women’s health. They will share and discuss the impact/effects of stigma on clients and communities, as well as strategies and practices that can address stigma. The goal of the event is to raise awareness and contribute to the conversation on stigma and ways it can be addressed at both agency and system levels.

Register for Monday’s session here, 

Read our “Tackling TB Stigma” report.

Wednesday, October 6th, 1-2pm

Real Steps to Language Access in Health Systems – Following the release of our report “Investing in Language Access to Optimize Health System Performance”, we have brought together a panel of experts to talk about what’s working now and how we can leverage those successes and implement best practices across health systems. Our panelists will be discussing actions, sharing strategies and best practices. The goal of the event is to contribute to the conversation on language access and to provide various stakeholders with tools to realize the calls to action.

Register for Wednesday’s session here.

Read our “Investing in Language Access” report.

Friday, October 8th, 2-3pm

Confronting Housing Discrimination against LGBTQ+ Newcomers – Following the release of our report “Beyond Positive Intentions: Seeking Equity & Wellbeing for LGBTQ+ Newcomer Women and other Trans and Gender Non-Conforming Newcomers”, we have brought together a panel of experts to talk about the unique and layered discrimination facing LGBTQ+ newcomers in accessing private housing and shelters in Toronto. We’ll hear from panelists working with this population across various sectors, including settlement, shelters, and housing to take a critical look at the system- and service-level barriers facing LGBTQ+ newcomers. The goal is to bring awareness to this issue, and explore a way forward in terms of improving access to housing for LGBTQ+ newcomers, through highlighting current initiatives and discussing strategies.

Register for Friday’s session here. 

Read our “Beyond Positive Intentions” report here.

Fall and Winter 2021-2022 Program Calendar

Download and print or read our Fall and Winter 2021-2022 calendar here.

A ‘massive undertaking’: How community organizations are collaborating to get East Toronto residents vaccinated against COVID-19

The impact of COVID-19 on some of Toronto’s most vulnerable communities has been well documented.

According to City of Toronto data, as of May 31, 2021, 73 per cent of reported COVID-19 cases identified with a racialized group and live in communities with higher percentages of racialized and newcomer communities, including Taylor-Massey, Oakridge, and Victoria Village.

It is also well documented that these three communities have lower-than-average vaccination rates. Collaboration among community organizations and community ambassadors has been critical in flattening the curve and providing access to care for those most at risk of contracting COVID-19.

To help flatten the curve in high-priority areas, the City of Toronto funded the Vaccine Engagement Team Project this past spring. The initiative brings together local not-for-profit organizations to increase vaccine confidence and address barriers that prevent the acceptance and uptake of COVID-19 vaccines.

In East Toronto, this involves a consortium of organizations known as the Vaccine Engagement Team. The consortium is led by Access Alliance and includes TNO — The Neighbourhood Organization (TNO), Toronto Community Housing, Working Women Community Centre (WWCC), WoodGreen Community Services, Bangladeshi-Canadian Community Services (BCS), Afghan Women’s Organization (AWO), and The Neighbourhood Group (TNG). Many of these organizations are members of East Toronto Health Partners (ETHP), the Ontario Health Team (OHT) serving East Toronto.

While vaccine hesitancy has often been cited as a major factor that has increased the prevalence of COVID-19 among racialized communities, it is only one variable.

Through the collaboration of the Vaccine Engagement Team and the hard work of community ambassadors, different barriers to vaccination, such as language and culture, precarious employment, child care responsibilities and stigma, have been tackled.

“Over the last year and a half, this situation with COVID-19 has been constantly evolving, with shifting information and priorities for the partner organizations,” explained Rejwan Karim, Manager at AccessPoint on Danforth, a community hub where Access Alliance offers its services.

“Access Alliance and the consortium are deeply connected to the community, which provides us with an opportunity to reach thousands of community members with vaccine information and health promotion. With the support of our partner organizations, the City of Toronto and Michael Garron Hospital (MGH), we’ve been able to confidently tackle this massive undertaking.”

The pandemic has been challenging in many ways, forcing community organizations to redeploy team members, rapidly innovate, and stretch their resources to meet the challenge of providing responsive care.

However, as demonstrated through the work of the consortium, there are many advantages to centrally coordinating community organizations to help increase vaccination uptake among local residents.

In collaboration with MGH, other ETHP organizations, and the City of Toronto, the consortium has been able to form an advisory committee and working group that allow the partner organizations to better understand, coordinate and respond to the needs of the communities they serve.

Resources have been shared among partner organizations to effectively host pop-up vaccine clinics and increase vaccine uptake within vulnerable communities. Through the support of the City of Toronto, community members have also been provided with transportation support to local clinics and access to personal protective equipment (PPE).

Most importantly, there are hundreds of stories of local residents who have been able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine through these efforts. For many of these individuals, the vaccine otherwise seemed unattainable. In partnership with community ambassadors, community leaders, schools and faith groups, the consortium has been able to reach community members with a far higher degree of success.

One success story comes out of a clinic that was hosted on July 14, 2021 in the Agnes MacPhail Community. The clinic was lead by Access Alliance in collaboration with TCH, ETHP and MGH. This building is in the Taylor-Massey neighbourhood, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the city.

TCH staff made phone calls to senior residents in advance informing them of the clinic date. Outreach by the multilingual health ambassador team throughout the day encouraged many residents to get their vaccination. The most valuable was the ability for MGH ETHP staff to answer questions residents had about the vaccine. These factors combined with the accessibility of the clinic led to a successful turnout.

Residents lined up over an hour before the clinic began and by the end of the day, 124 doses were administered, 36 of which were first doses. Seniors were highly appreciative of having such an organized vaccine clinic right at their building.

Efforts like these have helped to steadily flatten the curve among communities in the city with the lowest vaccination rates.

These efforts also demonstrate the impact of effective collaboration and continuous communication. With the right resources, deep community engagement and collaboration with partners like MGH and ETHP, the impact of organizations already working in the community can be expanded to respond to any challenge.

Nahom Berhane Scholarship for Leadership and Inclusion

We’re proud to announce the recipients of this year’s Nahom Berhane Scholarship for Leadership and Inclusion. The Scholarship provides assistance to youth with a proven track record of volunteerism, community service and leadership in the community, who are in need of financial support to attend a post-secondary institution including universities, colleges and professional trades training.

Photo Scholarship recipients

Find out more about the Scholarship here.

August 4, 2021 – Published today, Tackling TB Stigma, a new comprehensive and community-driven report, shows that taking a wraparound approach to health care for newcomers, including hyper-local strategies to deal with stigma around diseases, is the best way to ensure people can address their health issues as soon as possible, and in comprehensive ways. Tuberculosis (TB), and especially the stigma related to the disease, including stigma based in people’s countries of origin, and stigma that’s pervasive here in Canada. The report is published by Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services, a community health centre in Toronto serving refugee and other newcomer populations in many areas across Canada’s largest city.

“The findings in this report are drawn from the unique experiences of newcomers to Canada, their descriptions and observations of the particular kinds of stigma they’ve faced, and their experiences of what has worked to help them address tuberculosis and other health challenges,” said Cliff Ledwos, Director of Primary Care and Associate Executive Director at Access Alliance. “Coordinated collaboration across health and social sectors that interact with newcomers, to ensure timely and sustained access to wraparound health services, is one of the big keys to ensuring that stigma and other barriers to health and wellbeing are addressed, and people can get the supports they need.”

The global pandemic continues to show how disparities and inequities related to access to wraparound health and social supports are key factors that affect if someone will get sick, how sick they get, and if they’ll be able to access the care they need to get well when and if they do. This report points at what needs to be done to ensure people can get that access to wraparound supports in a timely fashion.

Some key findings of the report include:

  • In 2017, populations not born in Canada represented over 70 per cent of reported cases of active tuberculosis. Despite this, newcomers face significant barriers to accessing comprehensive health and social care and support.
  • Working to address culturally-specific TB-related stigma must be a priority to increase access to local health and social supports. This requires campaigns that are community-informed, designed and delivered.
  • Economic precarity and stigma combined can force marginalized populations to prioritize food, housing, employment, as well as settlement and legal issues over their health.
  • Risks presented by TB are an opportunity to connect people directly to wraparound supports that are needed to address complex issues, including other issues related to mental health and chronic disease management.
  • TB education, screening, treatment and care works best when centered in interdisciplinary team-based primary care settings, offered in collaboration with Public Health, TB specialists, settlement and social service providers.

Voices in support of Tackling TB Stigma

“Community health centres like Access Alliance are vital to supporting new immigrants address social determinants of health. They are a commendable example of a group that is actively working to break down barriers for their community members, including through their work on tuberculosis-related stigma.”
— Dr Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada

“Our association was honoured to contribute to this project and are encouraged by this report. Not only does it improve our understanding of the many intersecting factors that contribute to stigma and its impact on health, it will also better equip agencies and service providers across Canada to integrate approaches that reduce stigma and its impact on diverse individuals and groups.”
–Scott Wolfe, Canadian Association of Community Health Centres

“I’m thankful for being included in this project and having the opportunity learn about the gravity of the TB situation faced by newcomer communities in Canada.  The barriers of stigmatization presents serious challenges in ensuring care and accurate health information reaches residents who most need support.  The effort made to engage stakeholders across sectors is a valuable step forward towards community service alignment to address this and other public health issues for the benefit of all.”
–Craig Todd-Langille, Toronto Public Library

“The intersections of TB, inequity, stigma, migration and (un)settlement are glaring in this telling report. The Access Alliance team has laid out a really well informed vision to address gaps in how we treat newcomers affected by TB.”
–Professor Amrita Dafarty, York University

“TB has such a deep and profound impact on the lives of some of the most vulnerable members of our community and now is the time for change. As a responsible society, and with our health system, we need to carefully examine the recommendations of this report, and commit to implementing them”.
–Tania Xerri, Director of the Health Leadership & Learning Network, York University

To learn more or schedule an interview with report authors or other stakeholders, please contact:
Jason Rehel; 416-817-9518

Find the full report, fact sheets, and more information here.

TORONTO – 4 août 2021 – Le rapport Lutter contre la stigmatisation liée à la tuberculose publié aujourd’hui, souligne l’importance de l’adoption d’une approche globale aux soins de santé pour les nouveaux arrivants, y compris des stratégies très ciblées pour lutter contre la stigmatisation liée à des maladies, afin que les personnes puissent faire traiter leurs problèmes de santé le plus rapidement possible et de manière exhaustive. Il faut lutter contre la tuberculose, et particulièrement contre la stigmatisation liée à cette maladie, y compris la stigmatisation provenant du pays d’origine des personnes affectées, et la stigmatisation omniprésente ici au Canada. Le rapport est publié par Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services, un centre de santé communautaire de Toronto qui offre des soins et des services aux réfugiés et à d’autres populations de nouveaux arrivants dans divers secteurs de la plus grande ville au pays. Aussi, le rapport a reçu le soutien de l’Agence de la Santé Publique du Canada.

« Les conclusions de ce rapport sont fondées sur les expériences des nouveaux arrivants au Canada, leurs descriptions et leurs observations des diverses formes de stigmatisation auxquelles ils font face et de ce qui les a aidés à recevoir des soins pour traiter la tuberculose et d’autres problèmes de santé », explique Cliff Ledwos, directeur des soins primaires et directeur général adjoint à Access Alliance. « Afin de lutter contre la stigmatisation et d’autres obstacles à la santé et au bien-être pour que les personnes reçoivent les soins et les services dont elles ont besoin, il faut une collaboration coordonnée au sein des divers secteurs de la santé et des services sociaux qui servent les nouveaux arrivants pour leur donner accès en temps opportun à des soins de santé complets ».  

La pandémie mondiale continue de mettre en évidence la façon dont les disparités et les iniquités quant à l’accès à des soins de santé et des services sociaux complets sont des facteurs importants qui ont un impact sur la probabilité qu’une personne soit malade, sur la gravité de sa maladie, et sur la possibilité qu’elle ait accès à des soins en cas de maladie. Ce rapport souligne les mesures qui doivent être prises pour que les personnes aient accès à des soins et des services complets en temps opportun.   

Certaines constatations du rapport :

  • En 2016, 70 % des cas de tuberculose active ont été recensés chez la population d’immigrants. Nonobstant cette donnée, les nouveaux arrivants font face à d’importants obstacles à l’accès à des soins de santé et des services sociaux complets.
  • Il faut accorder une priorité à la lutte contre la stigmatisation liée à la tuberculose dans les diverses cultures en vue d’améliorer l’accès aux soins de santé et aux services sociaux locaux. Pour ce faire, des campagnes de sensibilisation renseignées, conçues et menées par les communautés sont nécessaires.
  • La précarité économique et la stigmatisation peuvent forcer les groupes marginalisés à mettre en priorité l’alimentation, le logement et l’emploi, ainsi que les problèmes juridiques et d’établissement, au détriment de leur santé.
  • Les risques posés par la tuberculose représentent une occasion de mettre des personnes en contact avec des ressources nécessaires pour traiter divers problèmes complexes, incluant ceux liés à la santé et à la gestion de maladies chroniques.
  • La sensibilisation à la tuberculose, le dépistage, le traitement et les soins devraient être faits par une équipe interdisciplinaire en milieu de soins primaires et offerts en collaboration avec des partenaires comme la santé publique, des experts en tuberculose et des fournisseurs de services sociaux et d’établissement.

Des appuis pour la lutte contre la stigmatisation liée à la tuberculose :

« Les centres de santé communautaire comme Access Alliance sont essentiels pour aider les nouveaux arrivants relativement à certains déterminants sociaux de la santé. Ils représentent un exemple louable d’un groupe qui travaille activement pour éliminer les obstacles pour les membres de leur communauté, entre autres par leurs efforts pour lutter contre la stigmatisation liée à la tuberculose. »   
– Dre Theresa Tam, administratrice en chef de la santé publique du Canada

« Notre association est fière de participer à ce projet et elle très heureuse de ce rapport. Il améliore notre compréhension des nombreux facteurs convergents qui contribuent à la stigmatisation et à son impact sur la santé, et il permettra aux organismes et aux prestataires de services au Canada d’adopter des approches qui réduisent la stigmatisation et ses répercussions sur diverses personnes et divers groupes ».    
– Scott Wolfe, Association canadienne des centres de santé communautaire

« Je suis reconnaissant d’avoir été inclus dans ce projet et d’avoir eu l’occasion d’apprendre sur la gravité de la situation à laquelle font face les communautés de nouveaux arrivants au Canada relativement à la tuberculose. Les obstacles causés par la stigmatisation font en sorte qu’il est plus difficile pour les personnes qui ont le plus besoin d’aide de recevoir des soins et de l’information fiable en matière de santé. Les efforts déployés pour susciter l’engagement d’acteurs de divers secteurs sont un pas important vers l’alignement des services communautaires en vue de lutter contre ce problème et d’autres problèmes de santé publique pour notre bien collectif ».
– Craig Todd-Langille, Bibliothèque publique de Toronto

« Ce rapport révélateur souligne explicitement le chevauchement de la tuberculose, de l’iniquité, de la stigmatisation, de la migration et des problèmes d’établissement. L’équipe d’Access Alliance a décrit une vision bien renseignée visant à combler les lacunes dans notre façon de traiter les nouveaux arrivants affligés par la tuberculose ».  
– Amrita Dafarty, professeure à l’Université York

« Les soins de santé primaires complets et intégrés, dont la prestation se fait par une équipe interdisciplinaire, et pour lesquels les centres de santé communautaire sont les mieux placés, peuvent satisfaire aux besoins des nouveaux arrivants qui souffrent d’infections tuberculeuses et de stigmatisation associée à celles-ci, étant donné qu’il s’agit d’une approche holistique qui met la personne et sa communauté au cœur des soins qu’elle reçoit. En apprenant de ces expériences et en intégrant les recommandations du rapport Lutter contre la stigmatisation liée à la tuberculose, nous pouvons nous appuyer sur les forces d’un système de santé apprenant communautaire et ainsi nous adapter aux besoins des personnes qu’il sert ».   
– Jennifer Rayner, directrice de la recherche et de l’évaluation, Alliance pour des communautés en santé

« La tuberculose a de graves répercussions sur la vie des certains des membres les plus vulnérables de notre communauté et le temps est venu pour des changements. En tant que société responsable, et considérant le système de santé que nous avons en place, nous devons examiner attentivement les recommandations de ce rapport et nous engager à les mettre en œuvre ».  
– Tania Xerri, directrice du Health Leadership & Learning Network, Université York

Pour en apprendre davantage ou pour fixer une entrevue avec les auteurs du rapport ou d’autres acteurs, veuillez contacter :

Jason Rehel;; 416-817-9518

TB Stigma Project Presentation