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Canada's health policies failing its most vulnerable, researchers find

Canada's health policies failing its most vulnerable, researchers find

Dennis Raphael, a professor in York’s School of Health Policy & Management in the Faculty of Health was quoted in the Aurora Banner's May 8 issue about his report, released April 29, that offers Canadians the opportunity to learn how their living conditions will determine whether they stay healthy or become ill:

We’re products of our environment and our living conditions determine if we stay healthy or become ill, a York University study says.

“Health and poverty are directly linked,” Vaughan Community Health Centre executive director Isabel Araya said in response to Social Determinants of Health: The Canadian Facts. “The poorer you are, the sicker you are.”

The report, co-authored by Dennis Raphael, a professor in York’s School of Health Policy & Management in the Faculty of Health, and visiting scholar Juha Mikkonen, finds conditions are deteriorating, with serious ramifications for the quality and longevity of Canadians’ lives, particularly the poor.

The study profiles how our health is shaped by how much income and wealth we have, if we’re employed and, if so, the working conditions we experience. The researchers pull together a range of data to show how health is powerfully influenced by our ability to obtain quality education, food and housing, among other factors.

The complete article is available on

Metro News Calgary also published an article on the report May 11:

Dennis Raphael knows who gets sick and why. But to make it better he needs you to know, too.

So the professor at York’s School of Health Policy & Management teamed up with visiting scholar Juha Mikkonen to produce a free public primer. Social Determinants of Health: The Canadian Facts is a 62-page report suggesting the primary factors shaping the health of Canadians are not medical treatments or lifestyle choices, but living conditions.

“We’ve been trying for years to put out something for the public,” says Raphael, “because the average person doesn’t go to Health Canada’s website or the Canadian Public Health Association website.”

Raphael credits his tech-savvy co-author in helping to get the message out. “With Juha visiting from Finland, I came across someone who not only had the content expertise, but was also able to master the desktop publishing and setting up of the website. Now when someone asks what it’s all about, instead of directing them to a World Health Organization report of 300 pages or my textbook of 600 pages, they can be directed to an accessible document.”

Since its launch on April the 28, has had more than 5,000 visitors, says Raphael.

Income, housing and social exclusion are three of the 14 social determinants of health the report identifies and seeks to improve. The notion that living conditions affect health is not new, but for some reason Canada has been slow to implement it into public policy, according to Raphael.

“I’m not making this up. If you were to type in social determinants of health you’d see that for 30 years Health Canada has been putting this stuff out. So this is really commonplace accepted information, but it’s been more acted upon in Europe and Australia at this point.” also covered the study April 28:

A York University study has found enormous gaps in the quality of life and health among Canadians, and those lines are largely drawn along income and wealth.

The 62-page report found that while Canada is among the richest countries in the world, it’s more than willing to let its poorest citizens fend for themselves when hard times strike.

Noting that an average person’s health can be determined by a number of factors, including housing, food security, social exclusion and income, the report claims Canada’s safety net isn’t sufficient.

The cumulative effect of these inequalities, the report says, is inferior public health, increased expenditure on front-line health care and increased mortality.

The complete article is available on CHealth's Web site.

Posted by Elizabeth Monier-Williams, with files courtesy of YFile– York University’s daily e-bulletin.