Community Wellness Clinics and the Health Access Fund

Many of the 500+ members of the Victoria Health Co-op can benefit from complementary and alternative modalities of treatment, everything from acupuncture to chiropractic, from homeopathy to reiki and many more.  But not all co-op members can afford to pay full fees.  So Co-op practitioners donate their time, care and skill at the Co-op’s monthly Community Wellness Clinics.  Members receive treatments for whatever contribution they find affordable.  These contributions are added to the Health Access Fund.   That Fund is then used to help members access treatments when they need several rather than just one.  CCWSadministers that Fund.

Choices for a Healthy Lifestyle

This is a program the CCWS has organized and delivered through a number of community hosts including First+Met United Church, BC Housing, Our Place, Saanich Public Library.  In each situation we meet with a representative of the host organization and some of the people planning to participate.  Together we decide how many sessions we will deliver, what topics to cover, the best time of day and how the host and participants will get the word out to other potential participants.  In every session we provide a healthy snack.  Topics have included:

  • Shopping for Good Nutrition on a Tight Budget
  • Surviving to the End of the Month of a Tight Budget
  • Safety in the City (specially on dark, wet nights)
  • Using BC Transit including the Handydart
  • Entertainment on a Budget
  • Community Resources
  • Glamour on a Budget
  • Friends, Family and Boundaries
  • Dealing with Stress
  • Managing Meds and Food Safely
  • Mobility and Movement for All

For some sessions we’ve had expert speakers, for others we’ve just had a really good discussion, drawing out the existing wisdom of the group.

HansKai for Adults;  Young Hans Kai

HansKai is based on a program operating in Japan for over 50 years.  Several years ago it was introduced to Canada by the Nor’West Health Co-op in Winnipeg and the Robert Cliche Co-op in Québec.  HansKai empowers individuals to take an active role in the control of their own health and well-being and that of their community.  HansKai is offered only by Co-ops such as our partner, the Victoria Health Co-op, that are members of the Health Care Co-operatives Federation of Canada (HCCFC).

Adult HansKai is a participant-led program for adults wanting to maintain or improve their wellness.

A co-op that is a member of the HCCFC works with potential HansKai (group meeting)participants to create or serve groups of 8-15 people, then leads them through a health series called Hans Health School where they will learn about the HansKai program.

Seven 1-2 hours sessions cover:

  • introduction and goal setting session
  • learning about and how to check health
  • indicators (blood pressure, blood sugar, weight, and waist circumference)
  • managing sleep and stress
  • nutrition
  • physical activity plans
  • community resources, boundaries and consensus decision making

The eighth meeting is a mock session in which participants practice working as a Hans group.

After the health series, groups meet for a minimum of 2 hours per month using materials prepared by Nor’West and Robert Cliche co-op. The schedule can be adjusted; for example some groups meet for 30 minutes once a week.

At Hans meetings group members conduct health self-checks including blood pressure, blood glucose and waist circumference, engage in physical activity, enjoy healthy snacks and have time to discuss health issues. The group can also arrange for guest speakers to talk about recreational activities or health topics.  Groups are self directed with participants collectively making all decisions about how the group runs.  Co-op members are always available to support the group as needed.

HansKai in Winnipeg is a research project.  The research was designed to measure the impact of attending HansKai on both wellness knowledge of and actual changes in physical health, nutrition, physical activity, social supports, mental health, sleep and stress management.  The results are currently being analyzed.  All material are available to groups for either research or evaluation.

Currently there are workplace and community HansKai groups in Winnipeg, Québec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan with 3 groups starting soon in BC.  Youth versions focusing on mental wellness are being implemented in Winnipeg and Québec.   www.youtube.com/watch?v=JsrBpZL3NDY

Young HansKai has been created and is being used in several versions to respond to the needs of children and teens in areas served by the Japanese, Nor’West and Robert Cliche health co-ops.  The focus for all of these programs is emotional wellbeing with the aim of assisting the young participants to identify the range of behaviours and emotions that are a normal part of growing up.  Based on this knowledge the participants can be pro-active in remaining in this “safe zone” and be aware when they or others are heading into areas that could be dangerous to themselves or others.  Further, they know how to obtain help.  All of this is supported by adults who, through the program, are also equipped with the same understanding and the tools to identify danger signs and obtain appropriate help.  The program is not designed to treat mental illness but to either deflect it or find professional help.

Young HansKai is effective when provided to groups of young people who already come together and can integrate it into their activities on a regular basis.  After-school groups, sports teams, church youth groups, school wellness programs, parent-child groups are all appropriate.  Local legal requirements for appropriate supervision must be met.  This may be through the involvement of parents, teachers, counsellors etc.

The details of the topics covered, the duration, and the methodology are determined by each group with the guidance of the Young HansKai trainers and support team.  Adults organizers provide a health snack and resource materials for each session.  Games are a great way to introduce topics and provide information.  It is important to respect the existing knowledge of the participants.  Topics that are currently being pursued by groups in Canada include:

  • Teen reproductive health
  • Communications and relationships
  • Eating for health
  • Let’s get active
  • Working together
  • Mental health and bullying
  • Drugs, alcohol and smoking
  • Self acceptance

Currently there are Young HansKai groups in Winnipeg, Québec and Japan. Co-op members are always available to support the group as needed. Young HansKai has an evaluation component attached. The youth currently use photo-voice to showcase what they have gained out of Young HansKai and after each session they provide written feedback about what they learned, what they liked and what could be improved. A more formal evaluation of the goals of the program is currently being developed.

CCWS and Victoria Health Co-op representatives, along with colleagues from across Canada are working on the development of Young HansKai programs appropriate to a range of ages and context across Canada.

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