By Priscilla Wiredu
Posted on December 31, 2021
It is proven that Black women are discriminated against and marginalized in healthcare, whether the issue is with pregnancy and childbirth to pain management or cancer treatment. Black women and their health need to be protected with the same urgency as others. That’s why one health centre aims to create a safe space for Black women.
Women’s Health in Women’s Hands (WHIWH) is a community health centre for racialized women living in Toronto and surrounding areas. Their primary healthcare team consists of highly skilled professionals who specialize in the health and wellness needs of Black women and prioritize African, Caribbean, Latin American and South Asian communities. Services are fully accessible and designed to address barriers that prevent women from being in optimal health. The team consists of:
- Registered Nurses
- Health Educators
- Health Promoters
- Community Health Workers
- Community Outreach Workers
- Community-Based Researchers
- Nurse Practitioners
- Mental Health Therapists
WHIWH is committed to working together as a multidisciplinary team to provide quality healthcare. Their mission statement is as follows:
- Addressing the issue of access to healthcare (encompassing all the determinants of health such as gender, race, violence, disability, sexual orientation and socioeconomic circumstances).
- Developing strategies to remove the barriers embedded within the healthcare system which strongly influence how one experiences health and how one is treated by the healthcare system.
- Advocating for and with communities to enact change.
- Participating in community activities which create the social and environmental conditions that promote health and wellness.
- Enhancing women’s sense of well-being in an atmosphere that allows them to validate each other’s definitions and experiences.
- Supporting women’s right to make informed choices about their bodies.
Primary health care
WHIWH provides holistic health services to racialized women in the Greater Toronto Area. Primary health care is essential and made universally accessible to individuals and families in the community by means appropriate to them, with their full participation and at an affordable cost for the community. They manage healthcare concerns within the broader social determinants of health. Their team works together to ensure clients receive the best possible care. Programs and services are customized to meet the individual needs of the clients they serve. WHIWH provides available information, education and support to allow women to make informed choices regarding all aspects of their health and treatment and to promote overall well-being. Clients are also welcome to advocate for their health needs. With the exception of birth control and orthotics, services provided by WHIWH’s staff are free of charge.
WHIWH also conducts research studies on social determinants of health and factors surrounding certain diseases, such as diabetes, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), and many more.
Below are some of their programs, resources, and other activities.
Community services and programs
As ongoing advocates for inclusive and responsive strategies which address the needs of women, WHIWH engages in outreach, community-based activities and research that aid women in achieving change in the conditions that have adverse effects on their health.
The following ongoing programs are for registered clients. To join or for more information, call 416-593-7655.
WHIWH provides a safe inclusive environment where women who are or at risk of developing diabetes can be supported and encouraged to make their health a priority. The Diabetes Education Team teaches diabetes prevention, management and care through individual counselling sessions and group classes led by experienced dietitians.
WHIWH offers individual counselling and group therapy that employs a feminist, woman-centred approach that focuses on strengths, and capabilities. It also offers resources and acknowledges experiences of oppression based on race, class, gender, sexual orientation/identities, disability, age and spiritual or religious affiliation. They support women and fight to implement changes in their social and physical environment, to develop a significant social support system, to form constructive relationships with others, and to gain more control over their own lives. Staff also provide information, advocacy and appropriate referrals.
Interdisciplinary classes are offered to prepare pregnant clients for childbirth and to help provide the best possible beginning for the baby and mother, including practical tips for healthy birthing, labour and delivery, relaxation, exercise, nutrition, baby care, baby blues and breastfeeding.
WHIWH’s multidisciplinary holistic approach to HIV/AIDS links education, prevention, treatment, support care and advocacy to policy and research. Services are inclusive of the many factors that contribute to risk, ranging from individual behaviours to community and systemic issues. HIV prevention, awareness education, anonymous testing, clinical care and health promotion and skills development for HIV-Positive women are offered.
WHIWH’s multidisciplinary team members provide workshops, presentations and forums to community groups and agencies on issues affecting the health of women from priority groups including nutrition, diabetes, stress reduction, mental health and HIV/AIDS.
In partnership with the Daily Bread Food Bank, short-term relief is offered to clients who have limited access and availability to food through the emergency food cupboard program, Chakula Bora. WHIWH also distributes recipes and information on culturally appropriate healthy eating. With a weekly food bank, WHIWH raises awareness on the issues of food security and its impact on community health.
Well Women Care-Periodic health exams
A shortlist of WHIWH’s health exams are listed below:
- Breast Self Exam tutorials
- Teaching Sexually Transmitted Diseases information and treatment
- Pap smears
- Female Genital Mutilation advocacy support and care
- Mental and emotional health assessment
- Menopause counselling
- HIV/AIDS prevention advocacy support and care
- Family Planning and sexuality counselling
- Abortion counselling and referral
- Diabetes Wellness Education
- High blood pressure education
- Foot Care
- Prenatal & Postnatal Care
- Reproductive Health Care
Women are encouraged to participate and fight for their health. That is why WHIWH offers career opportunities for those interested.
Student practicum placements
WHIWH’s hope is to invest in the future of students who will become future practitioners with a clear understanding of issues that WHIWH promotes and will increase the access to healthcare for women from priority populations. Student placements must be initiated by academic institutions and approved by WHIWH. Also, students must have a formal practicum coordinator in the academic institutions.
Clinical electives opportunities are offered, with a special emphasis on family medicine and women’s health. Doctors, residents, and clinical clerks interested in placement opportunities should email WHIWH for more information.
Please do not call WHIWH to apply. Email them and only those accepted will be contacted for interviews.
Womens’ Health in Women’s Hands offers an array of programs, resources, and opportunities for marginalized women seeking help. Their contact information:
2 Carlton Street, Suite 500
Toronto, ON M5B 1J3
General Inquiries: 416-593-7655
General Fax: 416-593-5867
Clinical Services: 416-593-7655, Ext. 7
Clinical Services Fax: 416-848-6265
Priscilla Wiredu is a writer for this year’s Black Voice project. An alumni of York University, she graduated with Honors where she studied Social Sciences. She then went on to get an Ontario Graduate certificate in Creative Writing from the Humber School for Writers, and a college certificate in Legal Office Administration at Seneca College. She is currently studying for the LSAT in hopes of going to law school. Her main goal as a Black Voices writer is to ensure Black issues and Black Pride are enunciated through her works.