Echo is closing March 2013

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News from ECHO today.... 
Women's health being supported through strategic research grants

In 2007, the Ontario government established Echo: Improving Women’s Health in Ontario demonstrating its commitment to enhance the province’s focus on women’s health equity.

Since opening officially in 2009, Echo has worked tirelessly to fulfil its mandate to be the focal point and catalyst for women’s health at the provincial level and to promote equity and improved health for women by working in collaborative partnerships with the health system, communities, researchers and policy-makers. 

Echo’s staff, in its primary role as health system change agents, has focused on initiating and supporting community based and health system improvements.  We have been working closely with partners to facilitate the adoption and adaptation of strong (research based) practices for improving women’s health.  

We are extremely proud of the significant accomplishments we’ve made in just a few short years, however our funder, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) has advised that Echo’s role will be coming to an end in March 2013 as the Ministry shifts the way it supports women’s health. Women’s health research is being “mainstreamed” in Ontario – it will be integrated into all the policy-relevant research that the ministry currently funds.  The MOHLTC will be supporting strategic research grants in the coming year, which will require the inclusion of a sex and gender-based analysis where applicable. Women’s Health will continue to be identified as a priority area for health services research funding through this new process.

Echo’s track record for system level change that supports improvements in women’s health is impressive.  

A few of our key accomplishments include the:

1) Development, evaluation and spread of a best practice model in sites across Ontario for to help pregnant and recently pregnant women to quit smoking in order to improve health outcomes for mother and baby while reducing health care costs;

2) Establishment, evaluation, and spread of strong practice models to support access to cancer screening for women who have increased risk of identifying cancers in later stages when they are more costly, both personally and for the health care system;

3) Creation of demonstration projects with evaluations in two Ontario hospitals to support women and men to have better access to cardiac rehabilitation toward reduced rehospitalization rates and reduced avoidable deaths;

4) Updating of standards of practice for the province’s 35 hospital-based Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Centres so women have improved access to quality services and there are reduced health system costs; 

5) Design, testing and support of dissemination for a decision-making tool in relation to incontinence, which is a patient-centred strategy to support women to have greater capacity to be aware of their options (including lower cost, less radical options) and make informed treatment decisions;

6) Development of the Ontario Women’s Health Framework (in collaboration with organizations and community women from across the province), to support planning and accountability, quality programming, and action on health inequities to improve women’s health; and

7) Completion of the ground breaking work on the POWER (Project for an Ontario Women’s Health Evidence-Based Report) Study, which has become a vital resource for researchers, educators, policy-makers, providers and consumers. This body of work on the health and health care services in Ontario provides a solid baseline of evidence on health and health service equity.

There is still much work to be done to improve health and well-being and reduce health inequities for Ontario women.  Echo’s slate of work this coming year includes continued work on the topics noted above, as well as several other projects including developing a strategy to reduce the number of preterm births, and creating and disseminating best practice standards for supporting women with post partum depression.  

Over the course of 2012/2013, Echo will be working with the MOHLTC and partners to complete some initiatives, while determining transition plans for others.  Echo maintains that women’s health requires targeted  attention, particularly because the uniqueness of women’s health has not been appropriately recognized and supported in health policy and practice patterns to this point (Women’s Health Research: Progress, Pitfalls and Promise, Institute of Medicine, 2010). The evidence shows that often women experience poorer health compared to men, and that certain groups of women more often experience exacerbating gender-related factors such as low income, low education, newcomer status and social and geographic isolation. It is imperative that women’s health remains at the forefront of the health agenda.

We encourage our women’s health stakeholders to continue the vital work being done across the province in the area of women’s health and invite you to utilize the valuable resources Echo has been instrumental in developing.  As the year progresses, we will be in a position to share more information about how to access these resources once Echo closes.

For more information on Echo’s work please visit www.echo-ontario.ca or contact us at info@echo-ontario.ca.
Marianne M. Park, MA
Interim Chair

Read more about the future of women's health in Ontario

Read more about the Health System Research Fund Program