University of Toronto Family Medicine Report: Caring for Our Diverse Populations
Family medicine is the foundation of our healthcare system. For many, family doctors serve as the entry point, guide and companion on long and complex care journeys. But as we adapt to the pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic and transition to increasing amounts of virtual care, we risk leaving some individuals more vulnerable and marginalized than before.
The University of Toronto Department of Family and Community Medicine (DFCM) has released a new report on the state of family medicine and the health of patients in the Greater Toronto Area. The 2020 University of Toronto Family Medicine Report: Caring for Our Diverse Populations, illustrates the critical role of family doctors in caring and advocating for the communities they serve.
“More than half of our population’s health is determined by our social and economic environment,” explains report contributor Dr. Andrew Boozary, an assistant professor at DFCM, Executive Director of Population Health and Social Medicine at University Health Network, and a family doctor at Inner City Health Associates. “Family doctors play a key role in the care and advocacy for the most marginalized in our communities, and our health system needs to integrate both patient health and social policy to meaningfully improve health outcomes.”
Launched in 2019, the University of Toronto Family Medicine Report draws primarily on electronic medical record data from UTOPIAN, one of the largest and most representative primary care research networks in North America, which includes patients throughout the Greater Toronto Area and across Ontario. This report focuses on almost 400,000 active patients who are enrolled with a UTOPIAN physician.
The patient stories presented in each chapter outline the ways in which illness, disability, oppression and social conditions impact the health and lives of many. This includes people living with physical and mental illnesses, those who experience racism and discrimination in healthcare, and those whose access to care is limited by structural barriers such as those who are homeless, refugees and newcomers to Canada.
“As family doctors we often have deep and long-term relationships with our patients, which gives us unique insight into their lived realities,” explains Dr. David Tannenbaum, DFCM Interim Chair. “Fortunately, many family doctors – and our patients – are speaking up about health inequities more loudly and forcefully than ever before. These voices are very much needed, especially on behalf of those on the edge, and outside of, the current system.”
The fragility of our health, social and economic systems has been exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the next phase will play out in the community where family doctors see the effects first-hand.
The University of Toronto Family Medicine Report highlights the significant barriers faced by those with complex care needs and those disadvantaged by social policies and structures that underpin health inequities. While addressing these inequities is a long and complex journey, the report illustrates the work being done by family doctors to care for patients in a way that truly reflects the lived realities of the individuals, families, and communities they serve.