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Using community outreach to promote healthcare services

August 7, 2018

By Heather Gardiner

For many, finding information about Women’s College Hospital (WCH) is just a click away. The hospital’s website provides detailed information on the many programs and services offered at WCH and how to access them. In stark contrast, at the beginning of the 20th century when WCH was establishing its roots in the community, it was difficult for the hospital to share information about its services with the people who would benefit from them most. As a small hospital, WCH did not have a budget for publicity and promotion. In order to target Toronto’s most vulnerable, WCH looked to an innovative way to spread the word about its programs and clinics – community outreach.

During the 1920s, WCH was slowly becoming popular amongst Toronto’s lower to middle class population of women and their families, primarily due to word of mouth. Since its humble beginnings, WCH had held a tradition of providing medical services to all, regardless of “financial circumstances, nationality or religious affiliation”. This was very attractive to low-income families in Toronto at a time when there were very few social services in place and many had limited access to affordable healthcare.

On October 31, 1923, the hospital established the Community Clinical Association (CCA). The group was comprised of more than a dozen WCH pioneering doctors, including gynecologists and  obstetricians, physicians Dr. Jennie Gray Wildman, Dr. Rowena Hume and Dr. Marion Kerr, along with Dr. Ida Lynd, chief of medicine and Dr. Edna Guest, chief of surgery. 

The group’s mission was to operate community clinics that would provide medical attention to the “needy poor” in Toronto. Most importantly for the future of WCH, the group would promote the hospital and its programs at the clinics. Throughout the 1920s, the CCA ran daily community clinics out of two Toronto locations – the Euclid Avenue Methodist Church and the Fred Victor Mission. WCH doctors donated their time in the clinics and the Runnymede Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire (IODE), along with private donors, provided funding for the clinics’ supplies.

Through these community clinics, the doctors were able to not only promote WCH’s programs and services, but were also able to build longstanding relationships within the community. Gaining the trust of the community, especially for Canada’s first and only hospital operated by women, was very important to WCH at a time when the public was still cautious of women doctors.

WCH’s community outreach during the 1920s contributed to the success of the hospital. So much so that by 1928, WCH began fundraising to construct a 140-bed modern hospital at 76 Grenville St.– upgrading from its 52-bed hospital located in a residential house.

Today, WCH continues to look for innovative ways to reach out to new communities. One great example is the outreach work done by the Crossroads Clinic. As Toronto’s first hospital-based refugee health clinic, Crossroads faces unique challenges associated with effectively promoting its services to its specific client base. One way Crossroads is successfully able to reach out to the refugee community in Toronto is through the support of the Refugee Health Advisory Council. The Council shares information with its representatives from 19 partner organizations, including refugee shelters, community health centres, clinicians and researchers.

For more than 100 years, WCH’s programs and services have evolved to meet the ever-changing healthcare needs of Canadians. Today, the hospital continues to develop creative and innovative ways of reaching out to new communities. 

Euclid Avenue Methodist Church 

 

 

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