New Perspective Developed For Community Health Assessment

February 23, 1998

Researchers have developed a new approach to assess a community's social determinants of health that emphasizes the community's perspective.

The Community Quality of Life Approach examines issues such as employment, housing and education through the eyes of the people who live there, says Professor Dennis Raphael of the department of public health sciences. "This enables us to identify the community's strengths that should be protected and the needs that should be addressed.

"For too long, experts and policy-makers have been deciding what is important for the everyday person," Raphael says. "This new approach gives a voice to those members of society who are normally not heard and forces experts and policy-makers to listen to what they have to say about their quality of life."

Raphael worked on the study with staff at the South Riverdale and Lawrence Heights Community Health Centres. The researchers held group discussions and individual interviews with residents, service providers and elected representatives. "We are developing a portrait of the community to illustrate what people in the community think makes life good for them and keeps them healthy."

The tool is a product of the Community Quality of Life Project in which researchers examined the Toronto communities of Riverdale and Lawrence Heights. The work was a partnership of the South Riverdale and Lawrence Heights Community Health Centres, the City of Toronto and North York Public Health Departments, the Metropolitan Toronto District Health Council, the national office of the Canadian Mental Health Association and U of T's department of public health sciences and Centre for Health Promotion. Funding support was provided by the Jessie Ball Dupont Fund, a charitable agency based in Jacksonville, Fla.

The Community Quality of Life Report for Riverdale will be discussed Feb. 24 at 6:30 p.m. in the public meeting room of the South Riverdale Community Health Centre, 245 Carlaw Ave., Suite 104, and copies of the report will be available. Results from the Community Quality of Life Report for Lawrence Heights will be announced in a few weeks.

CONTACT: Professor Dennis Raphael of the department of public health sciences, (416) 978-7567, e-mail: or Christina Marshall, U of T public affairs, (416) 978-5949, e-mail:

University of Toronto

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