November 4, 2008
(Edmonton, Alberta...) Aboriginal communities have improved access to primary health care services due to new programs offered by many Primary Care Networks (PCNs) across the province.
In the Calgary West Central and Bonnyville/Aspen PCNs, access to health services aimed at improving the health of the population and encouraging people to be active in managing their health has increased.
Primary Care Networks (PCNs) are a made-in-Alberta approach to improve the delivery of primary care. Alberta Health and Wellness, Alberta Medical Association and Alberta Health Services are partners in the development of Primary Care Networks.
The Bonnyville/Aspen PCN recently changed the format of its prenatal services clinic at the Kehewin Health Centre from a simple prenatal checkup to a comprehensive prenatal session. Women come for the afternoon and participate in crafts and other social activities while they wait for their turn to see the physician. Once everyone has seen the physician, the women gather for circle time with the physician to talk about common health concerns. The new format and set schedule also allows the clinic to help arrange transportation, which used to be a major barrier to attendance for many of the women.
The women are encouraged to play an active role in their own care. With the assistance of a health professional, the women mark their weight, blood pressure and blood glucose on their prenatal health records and they can compare them to their previous entries.
“We know that prior to implementing the program 33 per cent of our patients had four or fewer prenatal visits during their pregnancy, and some were not coming for a prenatal check up until their eighth or ninth month,” said Dr. Tharine Van Deventer, physician lead for the PCN’s obstetrical program. “The change in our format has resulted in women coming for prenatal care earlier in their pregnancies and taking more responsibility for their health. This means better outcomes and healthier babies.”
“They are bringing their friends and family members for pre-natal care,” added Gisele Gagne, the nurse in charge at Kehewin Health Centre. “Feedback from the women has been very positive and they appreciate both the personalized care and the opportunity to interact with other pregnant women.”
In the Tsuu T’ina Nation, a different need was identified. One family physician worked in the clinic half a day per week – not enough to support the primary care needs of the 2,000 people living on the reserve.
The Calgary West Central PCN arranged for a physician to work at the drop-in clinic every afternoon, Monday to Friday, to see patients. A part-time nurse also provides support for prenatal health, seniors’ health, chronic disease management and population health strategies.
When access to the physician was limited, only pressing health matters were addressed. Now that access is improved, people living on the reserve are starting to be more proactive about managing their health.
“It was a matter of approaching the chief and council members with open ears and an open mind to learn about their health needs and address the gaps,” said Doreen Nasr, Executive Director of the Calgary West Central PCN. “We are building relationships with the community which allows us to have an impact on the health of the population.”
Building the relationships means interacting with the community in a meaningful way. The PCN held a health expo at a recent rodeo on the Tsuu T’ina reserve. They were able to provide information to over 7,000 people and encourage them to set personal health goals for the upcoming year.
“PCNs are designed to improve access to family physicians and other frontline health care professionals, and part of their mandate is reaching out to populations that may have difficulty in accessing the necessary health services,” said Lee Hall, Program Director for the Primary Care Initiative, which has responsibility for providing PCNs with
the necessary funding. “We are very pleased to see the PCNs and aboriginal chiefs and councils working collaboratively to improve health services for aboriginal populations.”
Initiatives like these are being implemented by PCNs across Alberta, each tailoring health solutions to the population they serve.
Primary Care Networks (PCNs) are a made-in-Alberta approach to improve the delivery of primary care. A Primary Care Network is formed when a group of physicians and Alberta Health Services agree to work together to provide enhanced primary care services. In addition to physicians, other health professionals are key partners in delivering PCN services. Alberta Health and Wellness, Alberta Medical Association and Alberta Health Services are partners in the development of Primary Care Networks.
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Primary Care Initiative Communications
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