Meet Rahat Hossain!
Rahat is a resident physician at the University of Toronto. A trainer and facilitator at the Institute for Change Leaders, he founded HEART (“Health and Equity through Advocacy, Research, and Transformation”), a program which transforms stories gathered from people experiencing marginalization into participatory, research-based theatre as a platform for policymaking. Through HEART, Rahat has been establishing the basis for “health policy by the homeless,” seeking to disrupt how policy is shaped to centre those with lived experience. He also plans and teaches a yearly session on health advocacy for medical students at McMaster University, conducts research in medical education using lived experience and theatre, and is undertaking health services and policy research to enhance knowledge and practice in health care for people experiencing homelessness.
Hear in Rahat's own words, his own story and what led to the creation of HEART!
HEART (Health and Equity through Advocacy, Research, and Theatre) was a community-oriented, participatory action research program which used research-based theatre as a platform to engage communities in re-imagining and revolutionizing their experiences and access to health care. Through HEART, we interviewed people experiencing homelessness to learn about their challenges accessing health care in the Niagara region. We listened to their stories, and worked with a theatre company to translate it into a research-based theatre play depicting a story of an individual with mental health issues and a lived experience of homelessness attempting to access care in a walk-in clinic, a psychiatrist's office, and the emergency department. This production was staged for audiences of health care providers, medical and nursing students, and people experiencing homelessness, and audience members could ask to stop the play, replace an actor in any scene, and attempt to solve the real-world problems on stage. From this process of audience improv and interventions emerged several ideas to improve the health care system for people experiencing homelessness, one of which went on to be implemented, called Niagara HELPS.Niagara HELPS (Niagara Homelessness Emergency Liaison and Peer Support) is a program that employs people with lived experience of homelessness as peer support navigators in Niagara emergency departments. The peer support navigators offer support, advocacy, and resources to people presenting to the emergency department with lived experience of homelessness, mental health, and other overlapping marginalization. This program employs four peer support navigators and has served hundreds of people with lived experience of homelessness across the Niagara region. It has led to a sea change in how this vulnerable population is treated and how they are able to receive care in emergency departments, and has been highly and widely valued by patients, the community, and health care providers. This program emerged from the results of the HEART program, where we focused on listening to people's stories, putting them on stage for a wider community, and inviting action to make real change.