Introduction

The feasibility study into the creation of a Women’s Health Network in Hamilton was a partnership between the YWCA of Hamilton, the North Hamilton Community Health Centre (NHCHC), and Civicplan. The study was made possible with the support of a Women’s College Hospital, Women’s Xchange grant. It was conducted to identify community interest in a Network and what directions and priorities it may take. The research was performed over a nine month period. Two broad research questions guided the study and helped to frame the report. These were:
  1. What health-related programs and services currently exist in Hamilton exclusively for women?
  2. What level of interest/need is there for a Network, and in what form?

Programs

The study identified 130 health-related programs and services for women in Hamilton. These were organized into health concern categories. Those categories with identified programs and services are displayed below. Maternal health and pregnancy (n=43), physical activity (n=25), and violence (n=23) were the most prevalent programs specific to women in Hamilton, followed by programs related to substance misuse (n=14) and nutrition (n=14). There were no programs or services found for women in Hamilton related to autoimmune, dermatological, digestive, and neurological health. progs  

Mapping

Where do women live, and are there settlement patterns that could assist with a gaps analysis of services for particular populations? The Geography of Women reviewed Census data, specifically age, marital status, family type, mother tongue, and income, to better understand where women live in Hamilton. The following maps illustrate select populations of women and the location of programs and services related to specific health concerns.

Engagement

Meeting with stakeholders who work in and champion women’s health in the city, whether in medical or clinical settings, in providing community and social services, or research institutions and bodies was a central part of this study. 31 individuals from a cross section of organizations were interviewed, and 24 people attended a half day workshop held on November 17, 2015. Stakeholders were asked about whether they thought a Women’s Health Network was needed in Hamilton, to which there was universal support. Stakeholders were also asked about what issues and actions a Network might address in its work. Unique issues that were identified in the engagement included:
  • Lack of connection between the medical/clinical and social/community service sectors
  • Imbalance of funding for different types of programs
  • Relationship between formal and informal or grassroots programs and services
Four themes emerged around what actions a Network could take to improve women’s health in Hamilton, and to support existing work. These included:
      • Networking
      • Bridging Clinical and Community Services
      • Research and Evaluation
      • Advocacy
 

Next Steps

The feasibility research undertaken throughout 2015 has clearly identified a need for a Women’s Health Network in Hamilton. It is encouraging to see the support and interest in this project from various individuals and groups across multiple sectors working in women’s health. This study identified that, moving forward, there are specific challenges and opportunities that a Network could undertake. This study was designed to act as a resource and guide for how to begin to tackle aspects of this important work. For more information, contact the Hamilton YWCA.  
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