Designing a healthcare system that integrates kids’ mental and physical health - News Releases

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Designing a healthcare system that integrates kids’ mental and physical health

A group of conference attendees
The 2016 Medical Psychiatry Alliance Annual Conference

The 2016 Medical Psychiatry Alliance (MPA) Annual Conference on Oct. 5 attracted more than 230 participants who came together at The Hospital for Sick Children’s Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning in Toronto to define successful collaborative, integrated healthcare for children, youth and their families. 

Guided by hosts Dr. Karen Leslie, MPA Education Lead SickKids, and Evelyn Smith, Clinical Manager, SickKids, the conference kicked off with remarks by Deputy Minister Alexander Bezzina from the Ministry of Child and Youth Services. He shared his own family’s experience navigating  healthcare services when his daughter fell ill, and stressed the need for better connections between primary care, specialty services, emergency care and with schools, so that ‘families know where to go for help’. 

Dr. Tony Pignatiello, MPA Director of Child, Youth and Family Health, then provided further context for the day by highlighting the fact that over 20 per cent of children with physical health conditions are also living with mental health difficulties. 

“In order to serve these families better, we all need to work together – our MPA partners, community organizations and agencies, educators, policymakers and providers who come into contact with children and youth,” Dr. Pignatiello said. 

Providing an impactful patient perspective, the MPA video ‘Aligned’ was screened, telling the story of a teen’s journey through the healthcare system. In this video, Christopher’s successful recovery from a co-existing mental and physical health illness depended on the effective communication, collaboration and integration of his care across services at SickKids and with community partners, while he  and his family were at the centre of the care team.

Over the course of the day, participants heard from speakers who each provided a unique viewpoint from within a healthcare system where they care for children and youth with complex needs. Conference participants engaged in discussions about what successful collaborative approaches look like, and provided input into local, provincial and national collaborative initiatives. The issues of timely access and coordinated care were identified as some of the top concerns by both providers and families.
MPA 2016 conference session

“Kids are looked after many people, so we need to coordinate with everyone involved,” said Dr. Morton Goldbach, Assistant Professor with the Department of Pediatrics at U of T, who spoke from a community pediatrician’s perspective. “We all need to be able to call on each other’s expertise so that patients can do well sooner.”

During the second day, on Oct. 6, a smaller group of invited experts gathered at the conference venue to identify gaps in current healthcare models for children and youth, and to brainstorm possible solutions to address these gaps. Dr. Benoit Mulsant, Executive Director of the MPA, and Dr. Michael Apkon, President and CEO of SickKids, welcomed the day’s participants by emphasizing the need for more systematic models of care to deliver the best health outcomes for children and youth.

Conference participants then heard from the day’s featured presenters, before breaking into small groups to discuss the need for clarity in provider roles, as well as to identify elements that could inform the design of an ideal child, youth and family-centred system in Ontario. 

“The conference really highlighted the value and importance of collaboration, both for children, youth and their families, and for the service system,” said Ghada Khoraych, Regional Knowledge Exchange Lead for the Provincial System Support Program at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). 

With colleague Alexia Jaouich, Ms. Khoraych shared with conference attendees their own lessons regarding the challenges of collaborating across sectors. “Sometimes, even when we recognize the value of collaboration, we can still get stuck on the ‘how’,” she adds.

The feedback and input from conference participants over both days will further guide the MPA’s overall child and youth mandate. The next MPA Annual Conference will be hosted by CAMH in October 2017.
MPA 2016 conference sessionWomen looking at MPA 2016 conference postersDr. Benoit Mulsant and Dr. Catherine Zahn with others at 2016 MPA conferenceMPA 2016 conference posters

Related links

A list of the posters on display at the conference is available here.
The MPA video 'Aligned' screened at this conference is now available on MPA's YouTube channel here.
Video presentations will be made available soon.