Let's say you've just arrived in Toronto, moved here from abroad. You'll immediately be faced with a host of challenges—everything from navigating the city's streets to finding an apartment and a job.
Among those challenges: managing your health in an entirely new environment. This includes everything from learning how the health care system works to understanding how to cook nutritious food when you can't necessarily find some of the ingredients that you're used to, or see different fruits and vegetables at the market than the ones you are familiar with.
Enter Self Care Catalysts
, a health care company, and local charity Community Matters
. They have teamed up to launch a new project in St. James Town, a Toronto neighbourhood with one of the highest concentration of newcomers in Canada. The project, called "Healthy Living in St. James Town" will enable residents to participate in their own health care management by allowing them to create customized platforms that can tackle anything from diabetes monitoring to dietary goals. Users will be able to access their personalized platforms either via mobile devices, or through desktop computers at Community Matters.
Because the majority of the population at St. James Town are newcomers, says Grace Soyao, CEO of Self Care Catalysts, “many of them do not have an understanding of the health care system in Toronto."
What local community workers realized is that these residents "needed a tool to help educate them about things like differences in the types of food you can buy and consume here versus their home countries. Many residents also have different beliefs about health and how to manage their health—culture essentially defines the way that they manage their health," and our health care system works differently than what residents may have been used to in their countries of origin.
Right now the service is provided in English, but given that many newcomers are also new to English, the goal is to add in other languages over time.
As for Self Care Catalyst, their business model doesn't rely on user fees: the service is free for all residents. What they do is gather information from their user base, stripping out all identifiable information about individuals, and create data sets that they can then sell to governments or health care companies, to help them improve health services based on the real behaviours of specific populations.
"We collect [various] kinds of data and correlate it with patient groups and profiles so that way we are almost collecting voices by patients…that can be used to develop better health care solutions," explains Soyao. So, for instance, with enough information about dietary habits, a data set could be used to generate a more culturally diverse food guide (or to create a series of culturally specific food guides, based on the kinds of ingredients different cultures tend to rely on).
It's a way of allowing patients to participate in their own care, the new partners hope, and also a way of allowing health care providers to learn from those very patients about how to serve them better.
Writer: Hamutal Dotan
Source: Grace Soyao, CEO, Self Care Catalysts