The Reducing the Impact of Financial Strain (RIFS) project was a ground-breaking collaboration between primary care and communities. Primary care teams screened for and responded to the financial concerns of their patients, while teams from multiple sectors within communities came together to discuss financial strain, identify community assets, and find ways to build relationships between the health sector and community organizations.

There are many factors that contribute to our health. It is estimated that social determinants of health contribute to 50 per cent of our overall health and wellness while health care is responsible for 25 per cent. 

Some social determinants include: 

There is strong evidence that low income can affect health outcomes, including:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Early age of death
  • Cancer
  • Mental illness

Financial wellbeing is also influenced by life events such as:

Any person in Alberta can have trouble making ends meet. 

Community supports and health care teams belong to an important ecosystem. By developing a holistic, collaborative approach, we can improve financial well-being, leading to overall well-being. Together, we can:

  • Increase our awareness
  • Consciously think about and collaborate with patients and their communities
  • Remove our preconceived notions, biases, and agendas
  • Become more comfortable discussing difficult topics
  • Listen to diverse groups and the experiences of community members
  • Connect and collaborate with community supports across sectors
  • Explore and inform policies and collective strategies for a healthier community

“We had learned so much about financial strain, the community, and also a process we can use in other areas to continually improve the care we provide. In the end, [do you ever have difficulty making ends meet?] is so much more than just another question.” — Brian’s story.

Clinics use the College of Family Physicians of Canada’s clinical screening and intervention tool to ask patients whether they ever have trouble making ends meet at the end of the month. Thisrequires listening and the ability to connect patients and their families to benefits, resources, and services.

Community teams alongside primary care utilize the Alberta Healthy Communities Approach (AHCA) to help create citizen engagement, multi-sectoral collaboration and resource development.

Reducing the impact of financial strain is a partnership between:

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FP Canada. (2021). Financial Stress Index.

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