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Taking the pulse of community wellbeing

The Woolwich Community Health Centre is partnering with Community Care Concepts, Woolwich Community Services and the Wilmot Family Resource Centre for the first time to create a broader picture of wellbeing in Woolwich, Wellesley and Wilmot townships. Information gathered and pieced together by the organizations, including public surveys, will help shape future rural services and region-wide initiatives.

“We use the assessment for our own organization and I’m sure the other organizations will use it to inform their own boards, but we also provide information to other decision-makers. We use the assessment for serving awareness and advocacy for services the region might provide or the school board,” said Woolwich Community Health Centre program coordinator Lynda Kohler.

The health centre’s Community Wellbeing Assessment is part of a regular planning process for future programs – everything from dental programs for low-income families to support systems for aging populations. This year’s collaboration with the townships’ social organizations will broaden that scope, Kohler explained.

“We’re working together on a steering committee also including community representatives and a board representative to bring our own knowledge of the community to the table and try and use that knowledge to get the best information from the community.”

Although the 2012 Canadian Index of Wellbeing report – a framework for the assessment – shows Canadian wellbeing to be strongly connected to troubles in the economy, Kohler says there are more diverse factors on a local level.

“I think that, yes, the economy is an issue I’m sure will be raised through this assessment. But, there will also be areas that we’ll find in our rural communities are quite strong, like community vitality, and people’s sense of belonging and connectedness. Wellbeing isn’t just based on economic indicators but it’s also based on supportive communities and living in a healthy environment and having opportunities for education,” she said.

The last assessment completed in 2010 showed local rural communities to have a strong sense of togetherness, Kohler added. An increasing need for chronic disease prevention and management shaped the community diabetes and hypertension programs as well as Healthy Smiles Ontario, a dental program for local families.

The research also targeted education initiatives for the rural Low German – a population that often falls “between the cracks” Kohler said – which suffers from statistically low literacy rates. The program has been receiving funding for the past few years.

This spring’s assessment will include 30-35 focus groups across the three townships consisting of varied population groups in different geographical locations as well as widely distributed online and written surveys.

An online survey, to be completed by residents by May 31, is available on the health centre website’s home page www.woolwichcommunityservices.com, as well as through Community Care Concepts, Woolwich Community Services and the Wilmot Family Resource Centre websites. For print copies, visit the health centre at 10 Parkside Dr. in St Jacobs.

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