Advancing a more equitable health system

A spotlight on the research of Dr. Aisha Lofters

Lofters_Aishweb.jpgA one size fits all approach simply doesn’t work in healthcare. We’ve long known that race, ethnicity, newcomer status, income and other factors play a major role in a patient’s healthcare experience and outcomes. Health research that shines a light on the unique needs and experiences of underrepresented communities leads to better and more informed care. That is exactly what Dr. Aisha Lofters is focused on.

The chair in implementation science at the Peter Gilgan Centre for Women’s Cancers, a scientist at the Women’s College Research Institute (WCRI), a Women’s College Hospital Institute for Health System Solutions and Virtual Care (WIHV) innovation fellow, and a family physician, Dr. Lofters research aims to advance health equity for all patients. Over the next year, Dr. Lofters will be launching two new research studies that focus on improving disease prevention and improving the cancer experiences of Black Canadian women.

Understanding disease prevention in low-income communities

“Canadians living with lower incomes are disadvantaged when it comes to smoking, physical activity and access to healthy food. This leads more often to the development of multiple chronic conditions earlier in life,” Dr. Lofters explained. Using the successful approach – Building on Existing Tools to Improve Chronic Disease Prevention and Screening in Public Health – Dr. Lofters and her team will adapt the intervention to reach low-income adults under 40, in order to help them reduce their risk of future chronic disease.

Working in partnership with Durham Region Public Health, participants will have tailored, one-on-one visits with a healthcare provider to discuss tools and strategies to improve their health. Public health will also be providing assistance in addressing the social determinants of health affecting participants. By helping individuals make lifestyle changes earlier in life, the team hopes the approach will be more successful in achieving long-term health goals. “During our study we will seek to understand the individual, interpersonal and structural-level barriers to chronic disease prevention for low-income young adults. Leveraging those findings will allow us to work with other partners to ideally spread and scale this approach more broadly across Canada.”

Improving the cancer care experiences of Black women

Black women who are at risk of, or have been diagnosed with, breast cancer lack access to comprehensive information about what to expect in their breast cancer journey. “The voices and perspectives of Black women are largely absent when it comes to breast cancer education. As a result, Black women don’t often see their experiences represented and don’t feel as informed as they could be,” explained Lofters.

To address this gap, Dr. Lofters will be working with a multidisciplinary team to lead the development of materials designed for Black Canadian women along the breast cancer care journey, from prevention to survivorship. “Our team will be conducting a series of interviews with Black women and will be engaging with community groups to hear their stories. At the Gilgan Centre, we plan to develop a website to act as a trusted information source for Black women where they can find information specific to their needs, as well as recent breast cancer research more broadly.” 

Recognizing the distinct needs of different patient groups and tailoring care to their specific circumstances or lived experience enables providers to enhance the care experience and improve health outcomes for all.

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