What is Community Engagement in a LHIN Environment

In March 2006, the Government of Ontario passed legislation that created 14 Local Health Integration Networks (LHIN) across Ontario. LHINs were tasked to work with local health service providers and community members to determine the local health service priorities of the region they are responsible for and plan, fund and integrate local health services to reflect these priorities.

Recognizing the important role community members and stakeholders play in health care, the role of community engagement was entrenched in the legislation that created and governs LHINs, the Local Health System Integration Act, 2006 (LHSIA).

Specifically LHSIA states the following:

“A local health integration network shall engage the community of diverse persons and entities involved with the local health system about that system on an ongoing basis, including about the integrated health service plan and while setting priorities” (c. 4, s. 16 [1])

Community engagement was established as a core function of the LHINs, with the understanding that regional planning is a more appropriate method for assessing and interpreting the local needs of a community. Community engagement needs to be purposeful, accessible and its products transparent to the public and LHIN decision makers. 

Definition of "Community Engagement"

Community engagement refers to the methods by which LHINs and HSPs interact, share and gather information from and with their stakeholders.

The purpose of community engagement is to inform, educate, consult, involve, and empower stakeholders in both health care or health service planning and decision-making processes to improve the health care system.

Community engagement activities can be ongoing or project specific, outbound or inbound.

Definition of “Community”

Section 16.2 of LHSIA defines “Community” as patients and other individuals in the geographic area of the network, health service providers and any other person or entity that provides services in or for the local health system, as well as employees involved in the local health system.

Stakeholders are individuals, communities, political entities or organizations that have a vested interest in the outcomes of the initiative. They are either affected by, or can have an effect on, the project. Anyone whose interests may be positively or negatively impacted by the project, or anyone that may exert influence over the project or its results is considered a project stakeholder. All stakeholders must be identified and managed/involved appropriately.

Duty of Health Service Providers to Engage

Although LHINs are responsible for ensuring that they are adequately engaging their communities, the responsibility is also shared by the agencies funded by LHINs to provide health care services. The duty of Health Service Providers to consult is stated in LHSIA, requiring community engagement in the development of plans and setting priorities for the health services they provided. 2006, c. 4, s. 16 (6)”.

Primary Care Physician Engagement

Effective primary care is essential to a high performing health system. Well integrated primary care models can achieve distinct health, service and system goals simultaneously. Research indicates that improvements in health care require direct and meaningful involvement of physicians.The following resource provides tools towards creating a positive LHIN-Physician discussion.