Bridging the healthcare gap for young adults

2020-02-10 11:21:29 AM

For young adults living with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), turning 18 is about more than graduating high school and leaving home for the first time – it also means transitioning out of pediatric care. At this time in their lives, young adults are beginning to take ownership over their own health and are expected to understand their condition and treatment plan. But for many, making the shift to adult care can be overwhelming to navigate.

To help ensure patients and their families are supported during this transition, Women’s College Hospital established the JIA Transition Clinic – the first of its kind in Ontario. Seeing patients from 18–25 years of age, the clinic is designed to help young adults develop the skills they need to confidently navigate the healthcare system and manage their health independently.

“There is a lot of evidence and literature that points to the importance of supporting this specific age range,” says Dr. Evelyn Rozenblyum, pediatric rheumatologist at Women’s College Hospital and co-lead  of the JIA clinic. “Young adults are often facing significant transitions in their lives that can be stressful and can exacerbate their condition. Supporting them at this age ensures they have the tools they need to manage their condition and set them up for future success with their health.”

The clinic’s launch was made possible through a generous gift from Gilda and Harold Niman, who were moved by its focus on supporting young adults and their families during times of transition. “I was a teacher for 35 years so children have been a major part of my life, and it hurts me to see a child suffer,” says Gilda. “We’re very fortunate to have had the opportunity to support Dr. Rozenblyum and the work of the JIA Transition Clinic. We feel reassured knowing that these young people aren’t on their own and there is somewhere they can turn during their transition in care.”

Since its launch in fall 2019, there has been tremendous interest in the clinic’s model of care from specialists across the province and beyond. The clinic is a collaboration between Women’s College Hospital Adult Rheumatology Department, Sickkids Hospital Department of Pediatric Rheumatology and The Arthritis Society.

The clinic involves a multidisciplinary team that includes Dr Rozenblyum, Dr Natasha Gakhal, adult rheumatologist and co- lead of the JIA Clinic, and Danielle McCormack, an advanced physiotherapist from The Arthritis Society. It is a unique model of care in Canada  where all three specialists see the patients as a team and bring their expertise together to enhance and improve care for young adults with JIA.  The clinical team is looking forward to expanding the program to provide support for young JIA patients within the community and build a network for patients to connect with one another, spreading and scaling the impact well beyond the walls of Women’s College Hospital.

“Working with these young adults is as much about in-person treatment and care as it is about instilling confidence in them as advocates of their own health and making sure they can successfully navigate the network of care that is available to them,” says Dr. Rozenblyum. “We’re so grateful to Gilda and Harold for seeing the value in this important work.”