Moving away from acute-based care is part of a global trend

Nov 6, 2017

People require acute care for issues like heart attacks, broken bones and other emergencies. For more chronic health needs, many jurisdictions are moving towards a more sustainable model of providing care in a person’s community, rather than shipping patients to a hospital as the need arises. An example of this is Alberta Innovates’ recent partnership in a program called Merck for Mothers. This program offers support for women in marginalized or underdeveloped communities and aims to improve the wellbeing of mothers, pregnant women and their families. Alberta Innovates’ Vice President of Health Reg Joseph explains the benefits of this community-based care model.

What is Merck for Mothers?
In any community, having strong mothers demonstrates the resiliency of that community. Mothers look after the community, look after their children and often look after the elderly. Originally Merck for Mothers was focused on developing nations, but quickly realized that even within the developed world, there are challenges around providing capacities for mothers… particularly in Canada with respect to our Indigenous population. The program is really saying, what are the capacities that we need to build in the community to support mothers in terms of their ability to feed their communities, and to maintain the health (both in terms of physical and mental health) of their community.

What are the specifics as they relate to pregnant women?
Pulling a mother out of her community to give birth does not bode well for both mother and child. Being able to build that capacity in the community so that the mother is able to carry that child to term in a healthy way and deliver that baby in a healthy way within the community is what we are striving for. Because we know that that is what brings the best outcomes for both mother and baby.

How are things coming along?
As you can imagine, before deploying a full-blown program there is a fair bit of consultation with communities. These communities have identified the needs and we are now looking at the best mechanisms to address those needs. So, what we’re looking at in those quite diverse areas in Alberta—inner city to just outside the city to rural, remote areas—is the needs of mothers are quite distinct from one another.

The initiative is global. How many other Merck for Mothers programs exist in Canada?
Merck for Mothers decided to do a project in Canada and they actually conducted a large amount of consultation and research with the province of Ontario with non-profit organizations, with the government and, of course, with Indigenous communities. Alberta wasn’t even on the radar. We got serendipitously through a different channel through an invitation just to attend because we had done a fair bit of work in Alberta just around adding supports for our indigenous communities. […] And, interestingly enough, we were the first jurisdiction in Canada to secure Merck for Mothers dollars, actually before Ontario. So that’s kind of a special win for Alberta. And kudos to our health care practitioners who have been working very closely with our Indigenous communities in Alberta.

Adapted from an interview by Cheryl Croucher (originally appeared in Innovation Anthologies).