About Community Health Centres
Community Health Centres (CHCs) currently provide care and support to a wide diversity of individuals, families and communities across Canada. However, access to CHCs varies greatly by province/territory, town and neighbourhood.
CHCs have been in operation in Nova Scotia for over 40 years and are our province’s original “health homes”, ensuring comprehensive, continuous, and people-centred care.
CHCs remain a high-impact solution to many of Nova Scotia’s most urgent health, social, and economic challenges. Several essential features are common to Community Health Centres.
Not-for-profit or cooperative, publicly-funded services
Community Health Centres across Canada are funded through the country’s publicly funded, publicly-administered health insurance system — Medicare. In Nova Scotia, as in other provinces and territories, CHCs fall within the province’s mandate to plan and coordinate health services. CHCs comply with the values, principles and requirements of the Canada Health Act, and CHCs are strong proponents of more accessible and equitable health services for all Canadians.
Team-based, interprofessional care
Community Health Centres bring diverse first-line health services and providers out from isolation and their traditional silos. Together, within the Community Health Centre, family physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, dietitians, dental hygienists, health promoters, community health workers and other care providers and health program staff work as a team to deliver comprehensive care and support under a single roof.
For those receiving care and support from CHCs this means the right care, by the right providers, at the right time. Health providers are remunerated by salary, sessional fees and/or capitation rather than fee-for-service in order to place emphasis on appropriate client care and to improve collaboration among care providers. CHCs have historically been leaders and innovators within the Nova Scotia health system. Nurse practitioners, for instance, were first introduced into the health system via Nova Scotia’s CHCs.
Integrated, comprehensive primary health care
Community Health Centres integrate high-quality primary care services with health promotion programs, illness prevention programs and community development initiatives, in keeping with the World Health Organization’s definition and vision for primary health care.
As part of this integrated, comprehensive primary health care approach, CHCs support communities and residents to achieve health by addressing what are called “social determinants of health” — factors such as income levels, access to shelter/housing, education, language/geographical barriers and other factors that are known to have a direct impact on health outcomes for individuals, families and communities. In doing so, CHCs partner with other local agencies within the health sector and other sectors such as education, housing and justice to address the bigger picture of health.
Community engagement and participation
The factors affecting health and health care vary from province to territory, town to town, and community to community. That’s why CHCs are designed to focus on the most appropriate services and programs for the local community they serve. This local planning and attention to the needs of community residents is why we often say that “once you have seen one Community Health Centre you have seen one Community Health Centre!”
CHCs serve an identifiable community where individuals and families have a sense of local identity and/or collective empowerment and where they can participate in local decision-making. This includes urban and rural neighbourhoods or clusters of neighbourhoods as well as communities of individuals with common characteristics, such as youth, seniors, women and other groups.
This participatory, locally-relevant approach to health and health care extends to governance of CHCs as well. As not-for-profit corporations and cooperatives, Community Health Centres are governed by volunteer Boards of Directors that are comprised of members from the community. Not only does this give voice to community issues, it also helps CHCs foster and maintain relationships of trust with a broad range of groups within the community.