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October 19, 2009
Public Health Champion Awards recipients named
Toronto’s Board of Health today announced the recipients of the 2009 Public Health Champion Awards. The awards recognize one individual and one agency for making outstanding contributions to protecting and promoting the health of Toronto’s residents.

The recipient in the individual category is Lillie Johnson, founding and current board member of the Sickle Cell Association of Ontario (SCAO). Ms. Johnson is a retired 86-year-old registered nurse and educator who has worked tirelessly to promote awareness of sickle cell anemia and its disproportionate impact on racialized populations.

Sickle cell anemia is an inherited blood disorder that predominantly affects people of African, South Asian, Mediterranean and South American heritage. It is a life-threatening condition characterized by severe, unpredictable pain episodes and complications that can limit daily activities and cause disability.

Ms. Johnson was instrumental in the founding of the SCAO in 1981 as a volunteer advocacy and support group that in its early days operated largely out of her home. She personally provided counselling and support to many individuals and led advocacy efforts to engage government and health administration officials in adopting co-ordinated strategies to address the needs of people with sickle cell anemia. Following the receipt by the SCAO of a multi-year funding grant in 2003 from the Trillium Foundation, one of its most significant achievements was the recent inclusion of sickle cell disease to the Ontario newborn screening program.

The recipient in the agency category is Community Matters Toronto (CMT), a dynamic, grassroots organization of St. James Town residents whose motto is “Neighbours helping neighbours” and whose work helps people speak for themselves, develop skills and help others. CMT was founded 10 years ago to provide a local voice on common issues among residents and provide support to families around housing, finances, employment, citizenship, language and parenting.

Recent achievements include improving crosswalk access at a local school and preventing the closure of a school pool. Programs are run with a Community Assistant Model, where residents gain skills by becoming actively involved in programming that benefits the whole community. St. James Town is a densely populated and culturally diverse neighborhood in downtown Toronto.

The Public Health Champion Award recipients will be honoured November 3 at the 2009 Charles Hastings Lecture in Public Health, to be presented at the Marriott Eaton Centre Hotel in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Ontario Public Health Association. The Charles Hastings Lecture will be presented by Angela Robertson, Director of Equity and Community Engagement at Women’s College Hospital.

Toronto is Canada's largest city and sixth largest government, and home to a diverse population of about 2.6 million people. It is the economic engine of Canada and one of the greenest and most creative cities in North America. Toronto has won numerous awards for quality, innovation and efficiency in delivering public services. 2009 marks the 175th anniversary of Toronto's incorporation as a city. Toronto's government is dedicated to prosperity, opportunity and liveability for all its residents.

Rishma Govani
Media Relations Coordinator
Toronto Public Health
Tel: 416-338-7974



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