What is Active Offer?

Active offer means to offer, in a proactive way, through the patient’s first point of contact, services in the patient’s official language of choice.

More specifically, it means that you enable patients to express themselves and to be served in the official language they feel most comfortable using.
Active offer of health services in French is the regular and permanent offer of services to the Francophone population.
The active offer of services:

  • respects the principles of equity;
  • strives for a quality of service comparable to that provided in English;
  • is linguistically and culturally appropriate to the needs and priorities of Francophones;
  • is inherent to the quality of services provided to individuals (patients, residents, beneficiaries) and an important contributing factor to their safety.

“Active Offer is the result of a rigorous and innovative process for planning and delivering services in French across the entire health care continuum. It is dependent on accountability at several levels and requires partners to exercise appropriate leadership with respect to health services in French. In concrete terms, it takes the form of a range of health services available in French and offered proactively, i.e. services are clearly advertised, visible and easily accessible at all times.”

The Joint Position Statement on the Active Offer of French Language Health Services in Ontario of the Regroupement des Entités de planification des services de santé de l’Ontario et l’Alliance des Réseaux ontariens de santé en français.

Why is Active Offer important?

“The active offer of health services in the patient’s preferred official language is essential if we want to provide secure, ethical, and good quality health care services to our official language communities. These services must be easily accessible, visible, timely, and of equal quality for both linguistic groups. This can be quite challenging at times, especially within Francophone minority communities where the historical lack of French-language health services gives the impression that such delivery is impossible. Everyone, from the decision-makers to health care professionals, must proactively offer services in the patient’s preferred official language.”

Source: Toolbox for the Active Offer from the Consortium national de formation en santé.

Why French language services?

The Francophone population in Ontario is made up of 622,415 people which represents 4.7% of Ontarians (Census 2016). Approximately 1.5 million Ontarians speak both French and English.

In Ontario, an Inclusive Definition of Francophone (IDF) was adopted in 2009. It recognizes people « whose mother tongue is French, plus those whose mother tongue is neither French nor English but have a particular knowledge of French as an Official Language and use French at home. »
Learn more.

Legal and Governmental expectations

The French Language Services Act, 1990 (FLSA) guarantees an individual’s right to receive services in French from the Government of Ontario ministries and agencies that provide services on its behalf in the 26 designated regions. How can an organization be identified or designated for French language services? Consult the page Can your organization qualify ?

The People’s Health Care Act, 2019 indicates that health service providers (HSPs) must meet the FLSA obligations.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) strengthened the role of all HSPs to increase capacity to provide health services in French and respond to the needs of a local Francophone communities.

The MOH expects that agencies will develop and implement a French Language Services (FLS) plan that outlines how they will address the needs of their local Francophone community.

The plan must include mechanisms and procedures based on the concept of Active Offer. It must also collect FLS data such as identification of Francophones and health services available in French in their catchment area or close enough to their area.

Negative impact of language barriers

The Ontario Public Health Standards recognize that language and culture are determinants of health.
Linguistic and cultural barriers reduce the quality of health services by:

  • Negatively affecting the quality of services received (due to miscommunication)
  • Reducing patient self-care (including preventive screening programs)
  • Increasing the use of high cost emergency department services
  • Preventing patients from seeking care for mental health problems
  • Increasing consultation visits, number of diagnostic tests ordered, and diagnostic and treatment errors
  • Reducing the probability of patient compliance with their treatment

Source: Bowen, S. (2001) Language Barriers in access to Health Care.

Positive impact of offering health care services in French

It makes it easier for French-speaking patients to ask for help, to describe their symptoms and conditions, to express their needs and preferences, and to take charge of their own health.
Health-care professionals able to communicate in French can convey critical health information, encourage clients to seek care and promote rehabilitation, and establish relationships to maintain good health over the long term.

Health-care agencies that offer FLHS contribute to improving accessibility, efficiency and effective use of health care services, safe and healthy outcomes. This will result in higher patient satisfaction.
Source: Réseau des services de santé en français de l’Est. The importance of French language health services. The importance of French language health services.

Implementation of Active Offer

Active Offer requires stakeholders to collaborate and share the responsibility together.

Active Offer requires the involvement of Policy makers, Health Services Providers, Health professionals and the Francophone community.

Some of the elements for implementing an active offer of French language services include:

  • Use of the ‘Hello-Bonjour’ in greetings (in person and over the phone).
  • Bilingual voice mail message in place.
  • Bilingual signage in place for patients.
  • French-speaking professionals who wear ‘Je parle français’ buttons.
  • Bilingual business cards are available to French-speaking employees.
  • Translation of some materials.

In summary Active Offer responds to both a legislative requirement and the population growth of Francophones. Entité 3 can help you implement a FLS plan. See our tools and documents.

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