When the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) established its independent National Expert Commission to explore health-care transformation, it recognized the importance of consulting a cross-section of Canadians. The goal was to get direct input from citizens on the key challenges facing the health-care system, their ideas for better health care and health promotion, and the role they saw registered nurses (RNs) playing in creating a stronger system.
Out of this goal came a partnership between CNA and YMCA Canada that allowed the commission to hear from people “on the ground.” Through this collaboration, a series of public roundtables were held in 19 communities across the country, with each event organized by the local YMCA.
The events brought together YMCA co-ordinators, health and fitness members, parents of children attending childcare and early-learning programs, clients of newcomer settlement centres and others. People of all ages and backgrounds had a chance to participate, and two of the roundtables were specifically offered for youth.
Connected to communities
“This teamwork on the part of the YMCA and CNA works on a number of levels,” says Ida Thomas, vice-president of Children, Teens and Young Adults for YMCA Canada. “The local YMCAs are very connected to community and are involved with a number of partners on health-related initiatives. So they have a lot of insight into the issues of concern to the nurses and the commission.”
The partnership also makes sense because both the YMCA and CNA are committed to taking an expansive view of health, notes Ms. Thomas, adding that the organizations understand that promoting a healthier society requires tackling the social and economic factors underlying health.
“The YMCA is committed to strengthening the foundations of community in a number of ways. These include nurturing the potential of children and promotion of healthy living,” she explains. “Like the nursing profession, we are focused on the broader determinants of health, such as education, income, healthy child development and social support networks.”
One of the strong messages that came through in the public consultations was it is beneficial to populations when RNs work in collaboration with public health educators in the communities. CNA and YMCA Canada will continue to build on the relationship between RNs and communities through a national health promotion partnership.