Health Equity Certificate Program

How the Program Works

Scarborough Health Network (SHN) is excited to launch the second cohort of our Health Equity Certificate Program. This program aligns with SHN’s strategic direction to improve population health, health equity and system integration and aligns to the provincial direction of improving patient experience and improved health. We are looking to build capacity and work together with our community to achieve this goal.

The Health Equity Certificate Program is designed to empower those involved in delivering health care to promote health and develop strategies to reduce health disparities. Upon completion of this certificate program, participants will have a strong understanding of the impact of social determinants of health and how to address them.

The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the significance of health disparities, especially in ‘hot-spot’ communities like Scarborough.

This group learning program is a self – approved activity (section1) as defined by the Maintenance of Certification Program of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeon of Canada and has also been certified by College of Family Physicians of Canada and the Ontario chapter for up to 3 Mainpro+ credits (for the sessions in 2019).

How the Program Works

This is a one-year program, consisting of:

  • Virtual education sessions led by subject matter experts
  • A self-directed and mentor-supported project focused on applying theories and strategies learned in real time by working on an issue relevant to your affiliated organization/practice that would address inequities in Scarborough

The objectives of the program are to:

  • Build capacity and knowledge around health equity and the social determinants of health and how they affect patients and impact health outcomes.
  • To apply health equity principles to everyday practice to reduce barriers and improve access.

Who should apply?

This certificate program is open to teams and individuals interested in enhancing their ability to reduce disparities and promote health in our community.

This program accepts applicants across all disciplines and sectors delivering care to the Scarborough community.

Program sessions

This one year program will hold sessions virtually on Zoom every fourth Wednesday of the month, from 12:15 to 1:30 p.m. – except for the first session, which will be on Wednesday, September 22 from noon to 2 p.m. Community of Learning Webinars will take place on Fridays.

Sessions will be led by multiple subject matter experts, including health-care providers, community advocates, and local champions.

Participants will have two study options:

  • Certificate of Completion (for completion of at least 6 out of 8 sessions) or
  • Certificate of Excellence (for completion of at least 6 sessions PLUS a Quality Improvement (QI) project or tool)
Community of Learning

Community of Learning

How it works

Transformational change cannot happen without a culture change and a shift of self, teams, organization and systems, and for this we need agile learning organizations. Two parts work together to integrate learnings into practice: acquiring new knowledge and reflecting on the learning experience. Participants will take part in Friday Community of Learning Webinars. These learning experiences offer the space to think through the new knowledge and learning from the Health Equity educational sessions and the application of learning into their personal practice and QI Action project.

Webinars are hosted on Zoom two weeks post lecture and each will consist of:

  • Reflection and deepening of learning of lecture material as it pertains to self, team and community
  • The application of one evidence-based QI

Action project tool/activity into practice Eight evidence-based tools/activities will be shared. Focus areas include:

  • Change Leadership
  • Innovation and Design Thinking
  • Integration of 5 domains of the LEADS framework: Lead Self, Engage Others, Achieve Results, Develop Coalitions and Systems Transformation
  • Support for development of QI Action Project

Celebrating our Inaugural Cohort

SHN’s first cohort of the Health Equity Certificate Program was a resounding success. Beginning the program in 2019, participants experienced local and global conditions that created a fascinating and important backdrop for their study of the impact of social determinants of health and how to address them. The program allowed participants to take part in interactive sessions about Indigenous health, disability and social exclusion, and the study of refugee and immigrant struggles. Below you will find some highlights of their achievements, and an explanation of how those involved in the program have applied their learnings to the current health care environment.

In their final projects, participants had an opportunity to create pitches aimed at finding ways to break down barriers that contribute to the social determinants of health, including:

Health Advocacy in Telemedicine Equality: Increasing awareness of the available programs and physicians at key centres that would provide continuity of care, and for access and secure locations for patients to log on for virtual appointments with providers.

Virtual Food Bank: Addressing household food insecurity and providing equitable Discharge Planning by offering patients access to a Virtual Food Bank, with delivery from hospital to home.

Mental Illness in Youth Detention Facilities: Improving youth mental health and utilizing mental health resources and accessibility to increase the likelihood of positive outcomes, resulting in successful reintegration into society and making communities safer overall.

On June 2, 2021, SHN hosted a special virtual celebration to commemorate the graduation of the first cohort of participants in the Health Equity Certificate Program. During this event, program participants presented their final projects, shared memories of their time in the program and the value they got out of it, and discussed the necessity and importance of this study of health equity.

Learn More

Learn More About Health Equity

What is health equity?

Health equity is created when individuals have the opportunity to achieve their full health potential; equity is undermined when preventable and avoidable systematic conditions constrain life choices. These conditions are known as the social determinants of health.

What are social determinants of health?

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines social determinants of health as the circumstances in which people are born, develop, live, and age. This includes:

  • Income and Income Distribution
  • Education
  • Early Life
  • Housing
  • Employment and Working Conditions
  • Unemployment and Working Conditions
  • Food Security
  • Geography
  • Social Exclusion
  • Health Care Services
  • Gender
  • Race

What does Scarborough social-economic demographics look like?

Scarborough is a large suburb of Toronto and home to over 600,000 people. It is one of the most diverse and at risk communities in the country with 25% of children living in low income families, 17 percent of households being headed by a lone female parent, over 11% of the population being unemployed, 13% having no high school education, 70% of the population being visible minorities, 50% speaking a language other than English as their first language and 20% being new immigrants.

We know that the social conditions have a greater impact on health than genetics or access to health services. The health inequities affecting Scarborough’s population are seen in health demographic data. Some of the health care gaps revealed by the data are lower cancer screening rates, well baby checks and hospital utilization and higher rates of teen pregnancies, hospitalizations for coronary artery disease and diabetes.


Contact Information

Dr. Mruna Shah, B.Sc (Phm), MD, FCFP

Director, Global Health, Diversity and Health Equity
Department of Family Medicine, Scarborough Health Network


Seemi Khan

Health Equity Lead
Scarborough Health Network