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Research dedicated to changing health inequities in northern Ontario

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Monday marks the grand opening of the Gilles Arcand Centre for Health Equity at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine University in Sudbury.

The grand opening of the Gilles Arcand Centre for Health Equity at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine University in Sudbury. June 10, 2024 (Alana Everson/CTV Northern Ontario)

Officials at the centre said northern residents have the worst health outcomes of any geography in the province.

"In northern Ontario, the health inequities are profound," said Dr. Sarita Verma, the dean of NOSM.

"Emergency rooms are closing, there aren’t enough family doctors. We have a high rate of mental health and addictions chronic disease. People don’t have clean water good food to eat."

Officials recognized people in northern Ontario have shorter life spans.

"In terms of longevity, so two years less than … the rest of Ontario in terms of death rate," said Dr. Erin Cameron, the academic director of the Dr. Gilles Arcand Centre for Health Equity.

"So it really is something that we want to change and what can we start to improve."

Officials at the centre said right now, it's not yet fully understood just how bad health inequities are in the north or why they exist.

"The Dr. Gilles Arcand Centre for Health Equity will be able to lead research and the collection of this data to start better understanding and provide some solutions that are from the north, made in the north for the north," said Dr. Alex Anawati, a NOSM associate professor.

Anawati said the vast geography of northern Ontario, as well as language challenges, can be health care barriers for many people.

"We have many francophone communities that have unique health care needs to access to health care services in their mother tongue, their language," the professor said.

"And we also have many resilient Indigenous communities who have survived despite colonialism and imposed inequities that are it very difficult for them to achieve a reasonable quality of health."

Officials said the purpose of the centre is to connect what is learned through research with what the people in northern Ontario need and deserve in health care.

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