The McMaster University School of Nursing (SON) is dedicated to improving the health of residents in our local communities and fulfilling the School’s mission of community engaged scholarship.
To that end, in 2011 the School launched Health in the Hubs, an ongoing partnership between the SON and the local community planning teams (LPTs) from three Hamilton neighbourhoods: Crown Point, McQuesten, and South Sherman. The LPTs are made up of residents, service providers, places of worship, institutions and local businesses from each neighbourhood hub. A hub brings organizations, businesses and citizens in a community together.
This partnership is not a time limited project, rather it is an ongoing contribution of the SON to the work initiated and driven by local residents to make these neighbourhoods healthy and safe places to live, work, play and raise a family.
The partnership’s objectives are:
- To actively work with residents and service providers in neighbourhoods as a partner utilizing asset-based community development best practices in place in each hub
- To capitalize on the expressed goodwill of the health service community, municipal government, LPTs and residents
- To broaden the scope of the SON’s involvement in these communities to include health promotion and addressing social determinants of health in addition to supporting primary care development
- To create opportunities for enhancing neighbourhood strengths
- To contribute to the development of an active, contributing partnership between McMaster University and local communities that is mutually sustaining and beneficial
Health in the Hubs Phase 1: Neighbours and Nurses Working Together, wrapped up in June of 2011. From January through March 2011, resident coordinators went door-to-door with a group of nursing students to engage area residents in discussions about health issues of concern and have them complete surveys. Over 700 surveys were completed, with responses ranging from air quality and lead pipes to illegal duplexes and joblessness.
After analyzing the results and presenting the information to residents for their feedback, one key health issue in each neighbourhood was selected to focus on in Phase 2 of the project.
South Sherman residents said beautification and safety was a concern, mainly graffiti, gardens, litter and alleys. In Crown Point, the lower city bounded east-west by Kenilworth Avenue and Gage Avenue, residents began working to create a more walkable community by looking at traffic calming, safety and barrier-free walking. The McQuesten neighbourhood, west of the Red Hill Valley Parkway to Parkdale Avenue, decided to concentrate on job creation through food security by developing a community kitchen and community garden.
With funding from the Hamilton Community Foundation, Phase 2: Street Smarts↔Book Smarts saw students in a new independent study course, guided by faculty, work alongside resident consultants hired by the SON to examine existing literature and determine best practices for addressing the priority issues. The Partnering with Hamilton Neighbourhoods for Health course brought together students from different disciplines, including nursing; biochemistry; humanities; neuropsychology; the Arts & Science Program; and the Bachelor of Health Sciences Program.
While community development takes time, real progress is being made and students from other nursing classes have continued to move the resident-led agenda forward in each of the neighbourhood hubs.
This type of two-way information exchange is unique. Residents are able to apply academic research in an effort to build healthy neighbourhoods with help from university partners, while faculty and students learn more about engaging with the community for research purposes and how useful this type of research can be in future studies.
The idea behind the first two phases of Health in the Hubs is that addressing the social determinants of health is crucial to developing long-term solutions to improving health. This echoes the Hamilton Spectator’s Code Red series, which explored how where one lives in this city greatly affects one’s health. While the SON’s involvement with the community predates it, Code Red brought the issue of poverty in Hamilton’s neighbourhoods to the forefront.
The Partnering with Hamilton Neighbourhoods for Health course (3HN3) runs every year in the fall term, each time with a new class of students from different disciplines working with resident consultants and three LPTs to address some of the priorities in their neighbourhood action plans.
[Please click here to read the final Phase 1 report.]