Breaking Down Barriers to Health in the City

The Rotary Club of Toronto’s pioneering spirit and community concern in the mid-90’s brought health care right on to the City streets with the inception of a mobile Health Bus program. Initially operated by The Wellesley Central Hospital, now in partnership with Sherbourne Health Centre, the Health Bus program has gone from strength to strength, supporting the health and well being of community members who are homeless or vulnerably housed. The program’s two iconic Buses, proudly displaying the Rotary logo, can be seen 6 days a week across downtown Toronto. They receive thousands of visits each year.

More than 15 years on, Rotary is developing its partnership with Sherbourne Health Centre – and its reputation for pioneering health care initiatives – yet further, with the establishment of The Rotary Club of Toronto Newcomer Clinic in St James Town.

Centennial Committee members recognized that some of the City’s biggest health care challenges remain behind closed doors. Many newcomers experience significant barriers to good health, and struggle to negotiate the complexities of the Canadian health care system. They may simultaneously face settlement and language challenges, and must adapt to a new climate, different food products and a new culture. Some arrive healthy; others, particularly refugees, may already be physically and emotionally impacted by a traumatic journey. But recent research indicates that even immigrants who arrive healthy often face a deterioration in their health and well being. Immigrants are shown to be disproportionately affected by infectious diseases such as TB, and more prone to key chronic diseases including diabetes. It is essential that communities such as St James Town – with its record levels of low-income, high-density households and around 40% of residents identified as recent immigrants – receive more dedicated and strengthened health support.

The Rotary Club of Toronto Newcomer Clinic will provide just that support. The St James Town Community Corner is already a burgeoning new community hub, and the addition of the Newcomer Clinic will provide much-needed, culturally-sensitive primary care and prevention programs for residents – right in the heart of the community. Two brand new and fully outfitted clinical rooms will facilitate access to nurses, doctors and health promoters, with extra services including Diabetes prevention sessions, stress management counseling, and a flu clinic. A multi-purpose waiting and education area and two fully-accessible washrooms will support the clinical rooms.

The Newcomer Clinic positions Rotary once again as a pioneer and compassionate catalyst in the struggle to break the cycle of ill-health.