Update from the SRCHC Board of Directors

After over 19 years with the South Riverdale Community Health Centre, first as its Manager of Clinical Services and the last 5 years as its CEO, Jason Altenberg has informed the Board of Directors that he has accepted a new position, beginning at the end of the summer.

In the meantime, Jason will continue in his duties leading incredibly dedicated teams of health professionals. In the coming weeks, the Board of Directors will start its search for a new CEO.

“Jason has provided critical leadership through very challenging times which affected  all community health centres, including a global pandemic, a devastating housing and opioid crisis, and an unprecedented increasing need for mental health services. Jason’s compassionate and intuitive commitment to our community has been a guiding force everyday. Our Board and staff along with our clients will miss him greatly. We wish him all the best in his new position and thank him for his many years of dedicated service.” SRCHC Board Chair Emily Hill.

UPDATE: Progress Made on Safety and Community Initiatives

South Riverdale Community Health Centre (SRCHC) has moved forward on several environmental, safety, and community engagement activities as part of a comprehensive quality improvement process over the past year.

“Quality improvement is an ongoing process, it is not an end-state,” said Kathleen Foley, Director of Quality Accountability and Evaluation, “but we did want to report on several successful initiatives and to recognize the work that has been done by our staff, volunteers and community partners over the past several months.”

In terms of environmental safety, SRCHC has expanded the presence of trained alternative security staff on site from 6am to midnight every day, with staff conducting hourly needle sweeps in the immediate area of the health centre. Neighbourhood security walks within an expanded area have also been initiated.

Working with Toronto Police Services, SRCHC has improved the external environment and added lighting and security cameras, improved sightlines, and has fenced off the area between the health centre and Queen Street Presbyterian Church. SRCHC has also added needle boxes and introduced needle sweeps twice daily within an extended perimeter.

“This year we refreshed and relaunched our community liaison committee (CLC),” said Sarah Grieg, Director of Substance Use and Mental Health. “The involvement of our neighbours and key community organizations has made a real difference. The CLC has been and will continue to be an important part of our improvements.”

The CLC was relaunched in December and is co-chaired by SRCHC’s CEO and a community member. The health centre has also hosted four open houses so far this year to inform the community about the Centre’s work and to hear directly from local residents and businesses.

For more information on SRCHC’s Quality Improvement Initiatives, please visit www.srchc.ca/community-engagement

The Women’s Cancer Screening Program Receives Excellent Feedback from Clients

The Women’s Cancer Screening Program at South Riverdale Community Health Centre (SRCHC) began in 2004 as an initiative to promote breast cancer awareness in East Toronto. The program was created in response to community need for cancer screening conducted by women clinicians. Since 2004, the program has evolved to facilitate two cancer screening clinics for women every month, staffed by two Nurse Practitioners. Interpreters are available for clients who speak languages other than English.

Over 1,000 women have participated in the screening program over the years, many of whom have reported excellent feedback about the program. From the 2023-2024 survey, 94% of clients would consider coming back for a screening and 90% would recommend the program to other women who could benefit from the service. The processes of booking, registration, screening and education have also been highly rated. One client commented that “staff were helpful, knowledgeable and all instructions were clear,” while another noted that “everyone made an uncomfortable exam more relaxed. Thank you.”

Cancer screening tests are important for all women, as screening tests can help detect some types of cancer in early stages, which may lead to earlier treatment, reduced disease severity and improved health outcomes. For more information about cancer screening and provincial recommendations, please visit cancercareontario.ca/en. For more information about the Women’s Cancer Screening program at SRCHC or to book an appointment for a pap smear, please contact Grace at 647-642-8196.

Registered Respiratory Therapist, Alia Maratova, Joins as Primary Care Asthma Program Educator

Alia Maratova, registered Respiratory Therapist, recently joined South Riverdale Community Health Centre as a primary care asthma program (PCAP) educator. The PCAP is an evidence-based education and management program designed for individuals with a suspected or confirmed asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) diagnosis.

Part of Alia’s role includes working with clients to create a personalized support program to promote improved health outcomes. Throughout the program, clients can expect to gain a deeper understanding of their disease, identify triggers and develop effective coping strategies, and learn techniques for medication administration. Clients can also expect to perform a simple breathing test to help confirm a diagnosis, or to monitor their disease status and treatment effectiveness. Alia is currently offering pulmonary function tests (spirometry) for all clients with asthma or COPD who need them, and is also connecting clients with chronic disease self-management programs and community resources.

As smoking is the leading cause of COPD and an important trigger for flare-ups, the PCAP also offers a smoking cessation program, which will be restarting towards the end of the year. The program will assist clients with the cost of nicotine replacement therapy products and will provide counselling for individuals who want to reduce or quit their tobacco use. In the meantime, Alia is currently providing clients with smoking cessation information and resources, and connecting interested clients to available community programs.

How to Better Protect Yourself from Wildfire Smoke this Summer

Every year, wildfires spread in various areas of Canada, leaving communities devastated and creating a noxious haze that can spread thousands of kilometres. The spread of smoke, dust and particulate matter can pose a significant threat to public health. After a record-breaking year in 2023, Canadians should expect another smoky summer and are encouraged to stay up-to-date on recommendations to stay healthy.

While wildfire pollutants endanger everyone, individuals with chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are at heightened risk. For individuals with asthma, exposure to smoke can trigger wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath and chest tightness, often necessitating medical intervention. Similarly, individuals with COPD may experience worsened symptoms such as increased coughing, mucus production and difficulty breathing, potentially leading to respiratory infections and hospitalization. Beyond immediate discomfort, prolonged exposure to wildfire smoke can inflict lasting damage by reducing lung function and increasing the risk for lung cancer. Therefore, to reduce the negative impacts on respiratory health, prevention is important!

General recommendations:

  • Remain indoors, and keep doors and windows shut as much as possible.
  • Use a portable air purifier with HEPA filter or keep air conditioning on the recirculation setting.
  • If keeping the air clean inside your home is not possible, be aware of locations in your community with suitably clean air, such as libraries, shopping malls, community centres, etc.
  • Drink plenty of water. Staying well hydrated helps the kidneys and liver to remove toxins and reduce systemic inflammation.
  • Consider wearing a protective mask that is closely fitted around the face.
  • Use the following online tools to find information on air quality near you: WeatherCAN app, Air Quality Health Index and Environment Canada Alerts.

Recommendations for people with lung disease:

  • Keep your lung disease well-managed and under good control.
  • Follow your action plan. If you don’t have a written action plan, see your primary care provider or book an appointment with a Certified Respiratory Educator.
  • Keep rescue medications with you at all times and use as symptoms arise.
  • Watch for symptoms such as increased wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath and chest tightness. If these symptoms persist, seek immediate medical attention.

Successful Winter Session of the Mind Your Food Program at Harmony Community Food Centre

Harmony Community Food Centre (CFC) hosted another successful Mind Your Food youth program this past winter. Every Monday evening from January to March, 11 youth participants and 3 youth volunteers gathered at Harmony CFC to learn cooking skills, share food traditions, explore connections to land, and experience how food is related to wellbeing. For program participants, the highlights included preparing a traditional Tamil meal, making jalebi (click here for recipe), baking 300 chocolate chip cookies for Harmony CFC’s Community Meal, participating in a cooking competition with judges, and of course, enjoying lots of delicious foods!

The program wrapped up at the end of March with all participants and volunteers receiving a home-cooking kit to inspire future cooking and baking adventures! Harmony CFC is excited to welcome Mind Your Food alumni back to participate in food-centered alumni programming throughout the year. To stay up to date with future Mind Your Food sessions and Harmony CFC programming, please follow us on Instagram @harmonycfc and X (formerly Twitter) @harmony_cfc.

Harmony CFC is a program of South Riverdale Community Health Centre, in partnership with Community Food Centres Canada.  Harmony CFC is located at 2 Gower St, East York. Harmony CFC programs support local families and individuals by increasing access to healthy food, skill-building, knowledge sharing, and providing leadership and advocacy opportunities for all ages. For more information about Harmony CFC, please visit srchc.ca/program-category/harmony-cfc or call 416-752-0101 ext. 4226.

Harmony Community Food Centre Celebrated Black History Month at their Dine-in Meal

Harmony Community Food Centre (CFC) celebrated Black History Month in February at their monthly dine-in community meal. Along with a dedicated group of volunteers, Harmony CFC’s kitchen team prepared and served a delicious meal of baked beans with beef, collard greens, mashed potatoes and roasted red peppers. This meal served as an opportunity to learn about, recognize and celebrate the incredible contributions of Black community members, while also giving clients the chance to discuss efforts to address anti-Black racism locally.

In an effort to provide accessible and healthy foods, and alleviate food insecurity within the community, Harmony CFC offers clients hot takeaway meals every week and serves a dine-in meal once a month. Dine-in meals at Harmony CFC provide community members with an opportunity for celebration, relationship-building and community engagement centered around a nutritious, made-from-scratch meal. On average, Harmony CFC serves approximately 200 takeaway meals per week and between 60 and 80 meals on dine-in days (last Wednesday of the month from 3:30-5:00pm).

Harmony CFC is a program of South Riverdale Community Health Centre, in partnership with Community Food Centres Canada. Harmony CFC is located at 2 Gower St, East York. For more information about Harmony CFC, please visit srchc.ca/program-category/harmony-cfc or call 416-752-0101 ext. 4226.

Information Management Team Profile

The SRCHC Information Management Team is comprised of three staff members: Nicole Lewin, Hannah Bang, and Ashly O’Neil. Collectively, Information Management is responsible for the development and delivery of training and support within the various systems across the organization. The team also oversees the collection and analysis of health-related and sociodemographic data. These tasks are not only important to ensure the completion of funder and organizational reports, but also help to identify and address gaps in health equity and access to care among community members. The sociodemographic survey highlighted within this newsletter is a key initiative led by the Information Management Team, which aims to use personal health information data (PHI) to identify disparities in health access and outcomes across various social and economic factors. The information collected and analyzed by the team helps to improve the health and well-being of our clients – through quality improvement efforts, and program planning to address barriers.

January Open Houses

Thank you to all the community members who attended one of our January open houses! On January 17, 20 and 22, the 955 Queen Street East location of South Riverdale Community Health Centre (SRCHC) opened its doors to over 80 neighbours, local business owners and community members to learn more about our work.

For the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, open houses were hosted at the 955 Queen St. East location to engage and discuss services with community members face-to-face. Attendees were able to gain a deeper understanding of the wide range of programs and services available at the Centre, ask service providers questions, and talk to our passionate staff about their work. Program and service displays included diabetes care, physiotherapy, midwifery, harm reduction, seniors’ programs, the Harmony Community Food Centre, registered dieticians and more. Building tours of each floor of the Centre, as well as Consumption and Treatment Services, were also offered to provide a comprehensive view of the resources available to community members.

Additional open houses at 955 Queen will be hosted in upcoming months. The next one is Tuesday, March 5th from 6:00 – 8:00 pm. More info coming soon!

We Ask Because We Care

Sociodemographic data collection has been a practice at South Riverdale Community Health Centre (SRCHC) for many years. With efforts from many staff dedicated to influencing change in our health care system, the initiative aims to look at the social determinants of health that our clients face.

There is a desperate need to address health care inequities across the health care system. The collection of this data helps inform program development and delivery. Is there a gap in services being offered in languages which clients feel most comfortable speaking? Are there disparities in programs to support people living with chronic diseases? Is there a need to implement pathways to accessing primary care for newcomers and refugees? These questions aren’t possible to answer without the collection of sociodemographic data.

It is because of this data collection that we have been able to identify, for example, that 40% of SRCHC’s eligible East Asian client population have not completed their colorectal cancer screening tests. This data has presented SRCHC with opportunities to improve our programming to better reach this community of clients. Subsequent improvements have included providing educational materials on the importance of cancer screening and how screening can be accessed, in the languages that community members want.

Currently, SRCHC is in the process of rolling out an expanded set of sociodemographic questions; an initiative led and mandated by Ontario Health – Toronto Region. This includes an increased number of questions asking about important aspects of lived experience. The language of the questions has been carefully considered to ensure they are respectful and equitable, ultimately leading us to better understand the needs of our clients with regards to addressing health equity.

We ask because we care.