Poverty the Greatest Barrier to Good Health, Canadians tell CMA Consultation

OTTAWA, July 30, 2013 /CNW/ – Poverty kills. That’s the key message in What Makes us Sick, a report released today by the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) based on what Canadians said during a series of town hall meetings and an online consultation held earlier this year. The national dialogue with Canadians asked them about their experiences with the social determinants of health – the factors that cause people to suffer poor health in the first place.

“Many factors outside the health care system affect a person’s health, from inadequate housing to a lack of healthy food to sub-optimal early childhood experiences,” said Dr. Anna Reid, CMA president. “What Canadians told us is that poverty is the recurring theme that underpins most of these social determinants of health.”

The CMA report included recommendations for action, again, based on what Canadians said. However, Dr. Reid stressed that the report does not lay blame.

“We aren’t pointing fingers,” she said. “We listened to Canadians and what we heard was that they want sincere, legitimate and real action. As a country we can do better in tackling issues around poverty, housing, early childhood development, food security and culture that can hinder a person’s chances to be healthy. There is no one sector responsible for making this happen. It has to be a joint effort, involving health care providers, governments, patients and Canadians from all backgrounds.”

The Winnipeg town hall, and many comments across the country, focused on Aboriginal health. Dr. Reid noted that poverty and education for Aboriginal peoples, whose health outcomes fall far short compared to the rest of the Canadian population, were among the issues discussed by Canada’s premiers at their summer meeting last week in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

“As one of the panelists said, we talk about success in life in terms of working hard and going up the ladder. With Aboriginal children, many won’t even reach the bottom rung.”

Dr. Reid also said physicians have a responsibility to be proactive. “Some people have asked me what poverty, housing and so on have to do with physicians. While we certainly are not the experts on these areas, we are experts in caring for our patients and we see every day how the social determinants of health affect them.”

The national dialogue was part of the CMA’s ongoing efforts in advocating for Health Care Transformation, a broad-ranging initiative to modernize and improve Canada’s health care system. The town halls took place in Calgary, Winnipeg, Hamilton, Montreal, Charlottetown and St. John’s. Maclean’s, CPAC and L’actualit√© were partners with the CMA in the undertaking.

An electronic copy of What Makes us Sick can be found at http://www.cma.ca/advocacy/cma-media-centre.

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is the national voice of Canadian physicians. Founded in 1867, the CMA is a voluntary professional organization representing more than 77,000 of Canada’s physicians and comprising 12 provincial and territorial medical associations and 51 national medical organizations. CMA’s mission is to serve and unite the physicians of Canada and be the national advocate, in partnership with the people of Canada, for the highest standards of health and health care.

SOURCE Canadian Medical Association

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