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A home for paediatricians. A voice for children and youth.

Social paediatrics Hub meets children and families where they live

Posted on June 5, 2018 by the Canadian Paediatric Society | Permalink

Topic(s): Advocacy

When people ask me how it’s going at the clinic, I say, you mean the Hub?” said Dr. Sue Bennett when CPS staff arrived at the Social Pediatric Hub for a tour.

She’s right. As a child and youth health and well-being space, the Social Pediatric Hub, located in the Ottawa neighbourhood of Vanier, definitely has a different feel to it. There are comfortable couches in the waiting area, and a kitchen where parents can grab a coffee and kids can get a snack. The Social Pediatric Hub provides bilingual, comprehensive, integrated health and social services to children and youth who live or attend school in this diverse, high needs and underserved community.

The Hub staffs paediatricians and social workers, a nurse practitioner, mental health professionals, lawyers and a coordinator to serve the various health and social related needs of local children and youth and their families.

This integrated team meets with children, their parents and any other important people in their lives around a kitchen table. There are healthy snacks in the middle of the table and a play area just a few steps away, should a child find it too stressful or uninteresting sitting with the adults. “People are going to be much more willing to tell their story if they’re comfortable and feeling safe,” said Dr. Bennett. “If they trust us, we can work with them to help them reach their goals and indeed their dreams.”

Inspiration for the Hub came in 2009 when Dr. Bennett visited the newly opened Centre de Pédiatrie Sociale de Gatineau. “I said, we have to have this incredible model of care for children in Ontario,” said Dr. Bennett. In 2015, the Hub co-medical directors Dr. Bennett & Dr. Leigh Fraser-Roberts applied for funding through the Ontario Poverty Reduction Strategy Fund. They were successful and the Vanier Social Pediatric Hub opened its doors in August 2017 as a three-year pilot program.

Based on the model developed by Dr. Gilles Julien, considered the father of social paediatrics in Canada, the Vanier Hub is based on the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and designed to consider the holistic needs of the child living within their family and community. Staff members work with the child and family to create a tailor-made health and social service plan, and then help implement the plan by coordinating services and advocating for children and families as needed.

By addressing needs such as housing, employment, immigration issues, food shortage, safety and school-related issues, the plan often helps parents and families as much as it does the kids. “Our plan is very different from a traditional medical plan,” said Dr. Fraser-Roberts. “We’re all about empowering children and their families to optimize the child’s potential. When you empower and support them, you serve their best interests.”

In addition to providing integrated health & social services, the centre really is a hub for the community with health promoting activities. The space hosts a dance program, a music program called Orkidstra and a day care and education centre, amongst other programs. It also works with other community based organizations and associations to bring their services to this single site, thereby reducing access barriers.

These additional activities are important, says Dr. Fraser-Roberts, because the model is intended to consider the holistic needs of the child, and to be successful, it also needs to be community-driven.

Dr. Bennett agrees, adding, “Here we’re seeing the whole child, situated within the family within the community. There are health inequities that we are able to address here, that we might not be able to address in a medical service model.”

The Vanier Hub is the only social paediatrics clinic in Ontario following Dr. Julien’s model, but Drs. Bennett and Fraser-Roberts hope it won’t be the last. “We’d like to see more of these centres in the Ottawa region and beyond,” said Dr. Fraser-Roberts. “We would like to have a sense at the end of our pilot how a model would work in Ontario, a model that could work in other provinces.”

For more information on Vanier’s Social Pediatric Hub, visit


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Last updated: Jun 8, 2018