Already besieged by acute health-care issues, the impact of COVID-19 has hit especially hard in Brampton and the Region of Peel in Ontario. “There’s an urgent need that’s pandemic-related,” says Dr. Michael O’Leary, dean, Faculty of Applied Health & Community Studies at Sheridan College. But he adds that it’s “complicated by the legacy of health challenges that we have within Ontario.”
Dr. O’Leary notes that 60 per cent of Peel residents are physically inactive and about the same number are considered overweight or obese. Approximately 48 per cent report having at least one diagnosed chronic health disease, such as diabetes, which is highly prevalent.
The Centre for Healthy Communities on the Davis campus – which opened in 2008, houses Sheridan’s applied health programs and serves 1,800 students a year – has been front and centre in addressing the needs of the region, says Dr. O’Leary.
An example is the response to the demand for personal support workers (PSWs) in acute care in hospitals, long-term care and community care. The college ramped up the number of new students to 500 this past year and increased enrolment in practical nursing in both the fall and winter semesters.
But it is imperative to look beyond the immediate stresses on the system, suggests Dr. O’Leary. “We have great practitioners, nurses, doctors and other caregivers who help Ontarians and residents of Peel recover from illness. But we need to do more in terms of upstream preventative care.”
Dr. Michael O’Leary Dean
Faculty of Applied Health & Community Studies at Sheridan College
Sheridan College is planning a significant expansion to the centre as identified in the college’s campus master plan. The intention is to build a 150,000-square-foot facility in order to increase clinical care and enhance existing community-focused health services. Adjacent to the building will be a re-designed transit hub, “which is desperately needed in this part of the city,” points out Dr. O’Leary. “We’ve reimagined the Centre for Healthy Communities as a more interactive and accessible space for our learners but also the community.”
While the college’s existing spaces have provided integral services to the community, Dr. O’Leary says, “we need a more integrated clinic for chronic disease management that would specialize in looking at the whole individual from multiple lenses.
“The new centre would eliminate restrictions and allow us to be more impactful and broader in our engagement with the communities we serve. It will be transformative – not only for our students but for the people of the region.” The college is working on securing funding sources for the capital project and hopes to commence building the new centre within the next two years.
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