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Learning from Practice: Building Community Power for Health Equity- Nail Technicians in Greater Toronto

Cette ressource est également disponible en français.

This case-study, cowritten by the NCCDH and Parkdale Queen West Community Health Center (CHC), highlights how the CHC invested resources and effort to support community engagement, community organizing and coalition building in the nail technician community of the Greater Toronto Area in order to improve and enhance occupational health and safety in the industry. This case-study is unique, as it showcases community power building as a main public health and health promotion strategy to improve conditions in a complex sector sitting at the intersection of many health and safety jurisdictions. Building community power transcends jurisdictional issues by putting the people affected by inequities at the center of the efforts and by lifting and amplifying their realities and voices.

"Centring the workers themselves — the issues and solutions they identify, their voices — forces us to address the artificial silos and boundaries we have created in our health systems. Nail technicians do not distinguish between whether their problems fall under occupational health, environmental health, public health, primary care or, more broadly, labour law."

The case study starts with an overview of the situation and health conditions affecting the nail technicians. It then provides an explanation of the forms of support that the CHC provided and promoted. Finally, the last sections of the document explore how the initiatives were grounded in sharing and building power with the nail technician community and the necessary ingredients of a power-building approach.

Public health can use this case-study for inspiration to add community power building and community organizing as public health interventions to advance equity, and to start envisioning how this may function for the issues and contexts they are facing.

Use this resource to: 

  • integrate a shift of power and community organizing into health equity strategies and interventions;
  • support a conversation in your organization on power shifting approaches — including supporting community organizing — to advance health equity;
  • engage in discussions with community and worker organizing groups about the benefits of collaboration.


Related Resources:

Let's Talk: Redistributing power to advance health equity

Building community power for health equity: A curated list

Determining Health: Decent work issue brief

Let’s Talk Intersectionality


See other resources related to power and health equity.

See other case studies from the 'Learning from Practice' series.


National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health. (2023). Learning from Practice: Building community power for health equity - A case study of nail technicians in Greater Toronto. Antigonish, NS: NCCDH, St. Francis Xavier University

Tags: Community engagement, Structural determinants, Power, Partner with other sectors, Community Organization, Document, Case Study, Learning from Practice