St. Michael's Hospital is expanding the reach of its inner-city health-research unit to help make disadvantaged people healthier whether they live in downtown Toronto, New York or New Delhi, the hospital said yesterday.
At the start of a four-day conference in Toronto on inner-city health, hospital officials announced formation of the International Society of Urban Health, which will connect research teams in New York and other U.S. cities, as well as large cities elsewhere, such as London and Mexico City.
The teams will co-operate and regularly report their findings in printed or on-line journals.
"In the past, people have tended to focus on their local problems. We are finding that there are common problems in all cities," said Ahmed Bayoumi, a St. Michael's researcher.
St. Michael's president Jeff Lozon said that Montreal-born James Orbinski, who accepted the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the group Médécins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), will join a 10-member research unit at St. Michael's in January.
As well, world-renowned researcher Prabhat Jha has joined the staff from the World Health Organization.
Dr. Orbinski is being hired with an endowment from a private foundation. Other financing is coming from the Ontario Ministry of Health, the Bank of Montreal and the Sisters of St. Joseph.
"Toronto offers a great deal for those working in the field of international health . . . with innumerable ethnic backgrounds and a cornucopia of languages," said Wendy Levinson, acting director of St. Michael's Inner City Health Research Unit.
The goal of the First International Conference on Inner City Health that opened yesterday is to go beyond the focus of immediate care to look at interventions that can help break cycles of poverty, homelessness, social isolation, drug abuse and mental illness.
More than 300 specialists in health for the poor, immigrants, aboriginals and other ethnic-minority communities are to make presentations. The discussions are designed to set the agenda for a conference on solutions next year in New York, Dr. Bayoumi said.