After just returning from the Canadian Mental Health Association’s national conference, we are more motivated than ever to engage in partnerships within our community and region.

A major theme of the national conference was focused on the determinants of health. The determinants of health refer to parts of our social community that, together create a healthy community, for example our employment rate, education, poverty, and the basic needs of food and shelter.

Healthy communities throughout the world are ones that have considered the impact of the determinants of health and have focused strategies on addressing them, which in turn results in a healthier community.

So, when we hear news about our community housing programs, our Best Start programs for children, and when we raise concern about our community employment rate, all of these factors contribute to not only a healthy economy, but also a healthy community.

In psychology, students are introduced to a theory called Maslow’s hierarchy of need. Maslow’s theory is based on the principle that basic needs have to be met before an individual can grow to develop more complex thinking about themselves and the world around them.

Addressing the determinants of health was a concept that Maslow’s theory addressed back in 1943, and continues to be a predicting factor of what motivates human behaviour. This is an important consideration that health-care practitioners need to think about when addressing treatment adherence for our clients.

thinkingThis is especially true when we consider some of the complex patient needs that we are caring for today. Sometimes, we hear of the lectures that clients receive when they visit their health-care providers. They are scolded for not following their diet, for not getting the exercise they ought to, or for not attending therapy appointments. Although all issues are valid, it’s especially important to consider what might be stopping our clients from following their treatment plan, which would lead them to better health.

Often, clients are more consumed with making ends meet, putting food in their families’ mouths, ensuring they can pay the rent or mortgage or fretting over their job security. These worries begin to consume and exhaust an individual, which can lead to many forms of mental and physical illness and become much more of a priority to address versus making it to their next rehab group.

A program that is receiving a lot of attention nationally and around the globe is called Housing First. Housing First is a program aimed to address the social determinant of housing and has demonstrated in several research projects that individuals with stable housing, without having to commit to any mental health intervention had better health outcomes and eventually began to trust health-care providers enough to engage in their addressing their health-care needs.

Housing First was launched in 2009, the research project officially ended in March 2013, this research seeks to determine whether the housing first approach works, and, if so, for whom and at what cost. In an early findings report, published in late 2012, it showed that housing is the first step and once people have secure, quality housing it is often an incentive for people to achieve other goals. The housing program is a core service of the Canadian Mental Health Association and has also demonstrated success in fostering positive mental and physical health outcomes. This program is aimed to address housing needs for individuals with a mental illness, who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. For more information about the CMHA LK housing program contact us at 519 436-6100.

To read more about Housing First, visit


Paula Reaume-Zimmer is Integrated Director of Operations, Mental Health and Addictions Programs, Chatham-Kent Health Alliance & Canadian Mental Health Association-Lambton-Kent


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