Poverty is main factor for health

Yet another high profile report has emphasized the important fact that poverty is not only bad for our health, but is a social problem we need to do more to address.

The Canadian Medical Association recently published a report on the health of Canadians – Health Care in Canada: What makes us sick.

After holding town hall meetings in communities across the country and speaking with Canadians about the issues affecting their health, the CMA reports poverty is the top factor in determining the health of our citizens.

Poverty is the issue running beneath most of the social factors that affect our health. Inadequate housing and nutrition are two of the biggest and most obvious factors directly linked with poverty. Sub-optimal childhood experiences, lack of access to services and other environmental factors also come into play.

These are having a negative impact on the health status of many Canadians and if we want to improve health in this country, we need to address the issue of poverty and its attendant ills in addition to making improvements to our healthcare system.

In the report, the CMA makes 12 recommendations for moving forward. Some of these include increasing the amount of affordable housing available and expanding the housing first approach to chronic mental illness. The report also advocates the creation of national food security and prescription drug programs.

The CMA also suggested the government launch a pilot project to test the guaranteed annual income approach to poverty reduction.

All of these measures will cost the government money and require some foresight. They may not be popular in the short term and they may be difficult for many Canadians to get behind if they involve raising taxes or re-allocating funding from other places.

The reality is, our healthcare system is not equipped to continue operating the way it has been. A Fraser Institute report recently noted that healthcare already costs approximately $11,000 per year for an average family of four in our country. It is not free and the costs have been rising much faster than the average income.

If we do not take steps to address the issues that are placing a burden on the healthcare system, the costs will simply keep going up. Prevention of many healthcare expenses could be achieved by ensuring all Canadians have access to a safe, healthy and dignified life free from poverty.

This will cost something to implement, but the investment will be worth the dividend and we will pay less in the long run – not only in terms of healthcare costs, but also other poverty affected industries like criminal justice.

I hope our politicians and bureaucrats at all levels realize the importance of taking bold action on these issues.


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