News Release: Films for people with chronic disease to ‘Choose Health’ in East Toronto, September 19, 2019


September 19, 2019

Films for people with chronic disease to ‘Choose Health’ in East Toronto

TORONTO (September 19, 2019) – Last night, South Riverdale Community Health Centre (SRCHC) and the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) launched a community film screening program to bring short films into communities across Toronto. As part of a community building experience to address social isolation, the two partner organizations leveraged their strengths to train people living with chronic health conditions to facilitate post-screening discussions. This community film screening program is an expansion of work previously done with arts and cultural institutions within SRCHC’s city-wide service, Choose Health. Choose Health is a Government of Ontario, Ministry of Health mandated service offering 14 peer-facilitated programs that help people learn how to take care of themselves while living with long-term health conditions such as diabetes, heart diseases, cancer and other chronic health conditions.

People watching a movie in a group setting.
Participants enrapt with the film “Roy Thomson”at the inaugural peer facilitated community film screening program of South Riverdale CHC and TIFF.

“We are excited to begin this partnership with TIFF and bring celebrated Canadian short films and guided conversations to our clients who will benefit from social interaction, community engagement, and wellness opportunities like these. We have found that a social activity like visiting the museum or watching a film together that is led by someone with similar lived-experience and relatable health conditions improves access and connections for our clients,” said Jason Altenberg, interim co-CEO and Director of Programs, SRCHC.

By partnering with arts and cultural institutions across Toronto and co-creating peer-led programs with people who live with chronic conditions, SRCHC and Choose Health are inviting clients to engage in their health and well-being through social interaction and belonging.

“TIFF’s Mental Health Outreach program is one of several community initiatives dedicated to increasing access to film. Year-round, we partner with hospitals and community health programs across the Greater Toronto Area to co-create film experiences that reflect the needs, interests, and experiences of each group. Watching and discussing film in a supportive group setting can be a transformative experience, promoting well being by creating space for self-expression, social connection, and skills development. We are thrilled to partner with SRCHC and Choose Health to empower a passionate group of film lovers to bring these films and experiences to their communities,” said Elysse Leonard, Senior Coordinator of Youth & Community Initiatives, TIFF.

This partnership with TIFF is built upon the success of the community health centre’s partnership with the Art Gallery of Ontario that began in January 2016. In both partnerships, SRCHC and Choose Health have brought in expertise, an understanding of the importance of the social determinants of health and people who live with chronic health conditions trained to deliver the services. TIFF, much like the AGO, provided an empowering training program that encouraged peer facilitators to approach film through the lens of their individual strengths, interests, and experiences, as well as those of their audience, and also allowed time for co-design with trained peer facilitators.

“I’m passionate about film because it can entertain, enlighten and change hearts and minds. It’s a window into society. It communicates feelings and thoughts, ideas and culture, in an inclusive and powerful way. As a TIFF Peer Ambassador, I look forward to introducing film to clients so that they can engage in activities and meaningful discussion about what they see,” said Carolyn B., SRCHC Peer Ambassador.

Hosted at SRCHC’s Danforth and Greenwood location, the program featured short films that explore themes of “storytelling” as a vehicle for family reminiscence (Roy Thomson, directed by Sofia Bohdanowicz), navigating one’s cultural identity (Show & Tell, directed by Reem Morsi), and combating colonial views of history (Flood, directed by Amanda Strong).  The 14 people who attended the screening were past participants from one of seven community based peer programs offered through Choose Health.

The idea of referring patients to supports offered in the community to improve their health and well-being has been described as social prescribing and has gained broad support in the UK’s National Health Services. In Ontario, the Alliance for Healthier Communities’ social prescribing pilot has brought similar attention to the power of community supports in helping a patient live a healthier life. SRCHC’s partnership with arts and cultural institutions, such as TIFF and the AGO, are about leveraging community supports to engage people in their health and well-being. The peer-facilitated model and access to co-designed programs provided by these cultural institutions is a unique service offered by SRCHC and its partners like TIFF and the AGO.

SRCHC and TIFF will host two more film screenings in the coming months. To learn more, please visit:

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About SRCHC:  South Riverdale Community Health Centre is a non-profit, multi-service organizaton that provides primary healthcare, social and community outreach services with an emphasis on health promotion and disease prevention primarily to people of East Toronto. Our mission is to improve the lives of people that face barriers to physical, mental, spiritual and social well-being. We do so by meaningfully engaging our clients and communities, ensuring equitable access to primary health care, and delivering quality care through a range of evidence informed programs, services and approaches. We value health equity and inclusion and respect in our work and in the delivery of our services.


About Choose Health: Choose Health is one of South Riverdale Community Health Centre’s city wide services. Our service mandate is to enhance patient self-management and provider health literacy using evidence-based training and programs. Choose Health works in partnership with 33 arts, health, and social service sector organizations that are located in neighbourhood improvement areas and engages 1300 people annually in Toronto.


About TIFF: TIFF is a not-for-profit cultural organization with a mission to transform the way people see the world through film. TIFF is dedicated to presenting the best of international and Canadian cinema and creating transformational experiences for film lovers and creators of all ages and backgrounds. As Canada’s premiere home of cinema, TIFF offers screenings, lectures, discussions, festivals, workshops, events, professional development and opportunities to meet, hear and learn from filmmakers from Canada and around the world.