‘More than just access to healthcare’: Why this new centre wants to bring healthcare and social services together

A conversation with Sané Dube and Luwam Ogbaselassie about the University Health Network’s new social medicine centre — and the social medicine movement

Why It Matters

The problems social purpose organizations in Canada and around the world are working to solve — food insecurity, homelessness, income inequity, to name a few — are complex and linked to poor health. Addressing them requires a whole of society approach, including building partnerships between healthcare and the social sector.

Social problems are not just social problems. They’re healthcare problems, too.

Issues like housing unaffordability, precarious work, or systemic racism can be directly linked to poor health outcomes. The Coronavirus pandemic has shone a bright light on many of these issues, called social determinants of health: that racialized communities are more likely to contract the virus has been a prominent example. 

These are the principles behind a movement gaining traction in the healthcare world: social medicine. It’s based on the concept that in the Western world, medicine and social services are siloed. This is an ineffective system, social medicine argues, given how interconnected social issues and health outcomes are.

The movement is growing here in Canada. Community health centres across the country have begun offering social services and medical care under t

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