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Ottawa Health Task Group Awarded Funding
Gets set to identify unmet needs in health service delivery

With contributions from Christopher Rastin

GET ready GLBT Ottawa-Carleton!  A group of volunteers is preparing to professionally develop a survey to find out what your health needs are and how the local system may be failing to meet them.

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The first cheque has just been received by the Ottawa-Carleton GLBT Health Task Group subsequent to funding requests being approved in the amount of $80,000.  The Group applied in November to all 3 levels of government after almost a year of planning and development.

Thirty thousand dollars has been received from the Region of Ottawa-Carleton and another $50,000 from Ontario's Trillium fund.  A decision on a $15,000 request from Canada's Millennium Bureau is pending.

"We got more than 10% of the money available this year from the Region for projects like this," announced Bruce Bursey, Co-Chair of the Task Group.  "It's the first time anything like this has been done in Ottawa-Carleton," he added.

But local GLBT health care consumers aren't the only ones who will be surveyed.  Health and social service providers will be, too, in a mapping of available resources which will then be published in print and electronically.

"We'll be surveying GLBT people and their families, specifically on what their health needs are," continued Mr. Bursey, "and looking at who presently delivers the kind of services GLBT people say they need."  The results will then be compared in what is known as a 'gap analysis,' with recommendations made for improvements.

Although the project is volunteer led by the Task Group, it will be professionally implemented.

The services of consultants will be sourced for the development of the survey and other measurement instruments in order to meet the scientific and statistical requirements of validity and reliability.  And the resultant data will similarly be analyzed by professionals in the interest of conclusions remaining objective.

In other words, the Task Group with the Community will decide 'what' to measure and the 'how' of it, exactly, will be determined by the consultants.

In health and social services circles this type of project is known as a 'needs assessment' and is increasingly a necessary precursor to the development of publicly funded programs for change and improvement.  Precisely what's lacking or needs improvement in the system - and to what degree - must be documented first.

The Task Group will be releasing a Request for Proposals to the consulting industry in early June.

Volunteers, volunteers, volunteers and surveys - EVERYWHERE!

The middle step in the project - getting the survey distributed - will rely to a large extent on volunteers.  And people will also be needed for activities like translation and to ensure multicultural groups within the Community are reached.

Surveying 'non-out' people has been determined to be the biggest challenge.

"The extent of the [outreach] will depend on volunteers," explained Mr. Bursey, who confirmed that the project will be bilingual throughout.  The different types of volunteers sought are detailed in a backgrounder, submitted to gayottawanow.com this week as a Community Report.

The Task Group is very concerned with reaching all profiles of GLBT people in the geographic expanse of Ottawa-Carleton.  They have made achieving 'representativeness' of the sample a priority.  Surveying 'non-out' people has been determined to be the biggest challenge.

"Thank God for the internet," continued Mr. Bursey, and said that e-mail increases accessibility while reducing the time and cost of communications.

He went on to describe a myriad of innovative, if not avant-garde, methods the Group plans to use to solicit survey respondents:  the newsletters of politicians to their constituents, links on the employee pages of company inter- and intranet sites, and communiqués from religious councils to their member churches.

"The Interfaith Council of Ottawa-Carleton is on-side," declared Mr. Bursey.  "And links with unions and G & L employee groups of companies are there."

In addition to these tactics other traditional ones will be used such as mail-outs from Community groups, approaching service providers directly, and good old reliable OC Transpo bus ads.

Cheques and balances

The Health Task Group does not stand alone as a not-for-profit corporation but is organizationally housed and sponsored by Ottawa's Pink Triangle Services (PTS), which does.  Because of this, ultimate accountability for the Task Group's use of the funds lies with PTS and a multi-page memorandum of understanding between the two has been created.  Funders expect a project report by May 2001.

Input from the Community will take place in a workshop to be held in about 4-months' time.

A Management Committee has been struck within the Task Group and is comprised of Yvon Vaillant (a former president of the Pride Committee), Carmen Paquette (on the Board of Directors of EGALE), Ben Murray (formerly with the AIDS Committee of Ottawa and a member of the transgendered community), Judith Allanson (a physician at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario and official PTS representative [along with David Hoe]), and Bruce Bursey.

An Advisory Committee is planned as well with hopes for it to include volunteers with a specialization in particular areas, such as a professor with expertise in needs assessments, for example.

Input from the Community for survey development (the 'what' to measure) will take place in a workshop to be held in about 4-months' time.  All stakeholders will be invited - not just strictly medical ones:  health care consumers, service providers, coordinators in the delivery system, Community organizations, churches, etc.  Guest speakers will lead participants through focus groups in order to identify the issues for measurement.

The Task Group officially launches April 27th.  For more information please contact wellness@pinktriangle.org, visit www.pinktriangle.org/wellness, or subscribe to the Wellness Project listserv at www.onelist.com/group/glbthealth.