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 various neighbourhoods in the east and central City of Hamilton. 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 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
After an initial phase in which neighbourhood priorities were identified through teams of residents and students conducting surveys door-to-door, the stage was set for launching a new independent study course. Students, guided by faculty, worked alongside resident consultants hired by the SON to examine existing literature and determine best practices for addressing the priority issues identified by the community members themselves. The course known as “Partnering with Hamilton Neighbourhoods for Health” continues, bringing together students from different disciplines, including nursing; biochemistry; humanities; neuropsychology; the Arts & Science Program; and the Bachelor of Health Sciences Program.
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 Health in the Hubs and now its legacy course 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.
Nursing courses that strengthen our community engagement include service learning courses in years 1 and 2, Community Health Nursing Practice in year 3 and students can chose community health placements for example in Public Health or Community Mental Health in year 4.