The role and influence of money in the political process has long been antagonistic to a fully democratic electoral system. Political parties must raise money from party supporters to maintain an organization, promote various messages and compete in elections, but it matters where that money comes from and how it is raised.
Climate change is no longer a suspected diagnosis. It's a health emergency that is already causing systemic damage to the health and well-being of many around the world. Consequences reach beyond borders: climate-related drought and crop failure has been implicated as an exacerbating factor in the conflict in Syria. So what does it mean for Canada?
One of the biggest factors that determines whether people will stay healthy or wind up needing emergency or chronic medical care is where they live. People without access to stable housing are at higher risk of illness, and their likelihood of recovering well from that illness is greatly diminished.
When a government builds a bridge or a hospital, it's recognized that the benefits of that investment are spread out over decades, so the costs can be spread out over that same extended period. However, when it comes to social investments, no such option is available.
Living in crowded, unsafe housing. The inability to afford a diabetic diet. Not filling a necessary prescription. Missing out on opportunities for early childhood learning and higher education. These and many other challenges related to poverty and low wages can result in poor health outcomes for kids now and into their adult lives.
Extra-billing in Ontario, private MRIs in Saskatchewan and user fees in Quebec: violations of the Canada Health Act are on the rise across the country. Canadian doctors are concerned about the impact of this trend not only on their patients, but on our public health care system as well.
The recent Saskatchewan leaders' debate has been criticized as a great deal of shouting with very little substance. This is disappointing, as elections are exciting moments to consider important ideas in the light of what matters most: our health and well-being.
With the exception of Prince Edward Island, no province or territory guarantees a minimum number of paid sick days for employees. Across the country, young people, seniors and low-wage workers are the hardest hit. Less than half of young and older employees work in jobs that provide paid sick days. The lower an employee's pay, the less likely they are to be covered by a voluntary sick days policy. This needs to change.
A start-up company is looking to establish a new business model in Saskatchewan. In worsening economic times, that might seem like great news. But if their business model is one that takes advantage of people's poverty and may undermine voluntary blood donations, then the prospect is far less appealing.
If Canada did need to collect more blood, opening for-profit clinics is not the way to do it.
In his letter to the minister, Prime Minister Trudeau tasked Health Minister Philpott with "engaging provinces and territories in the development of a new, multi-year Health Accord with long-term funding agreement." As the health ministers meet in Vancouver, how can they bend the curve toward a less costly and more effective health care system? How can they ensure the funds invested this time around will buy real improvements in health?
An interview with Clive Weighill - Saskatoon Police Chief and President of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police: Some politicians talk about getting tough on crime. I'm saying you don't just want to get tough on crime, you have to get tough on the issues of poverty, poor housing, disadvantage. People are products of their environment, and if we can't solve those social issues, we're not going to solve the big picture in the end. I firmly believe that we have to work on poverty.
Medicare is a defining program and a source of enduring commitment from coast to coast, and all political parties claim to support the Canada Health Act. Why are we not hearing resounding denouncement of Minister Barrette's plan to "normalize" user fees from our federal politicians?
National drug coverage has long been a priority for the more than one in five Canadian households that can't afford to buy needed prescription medicines. But in spite of decades of calls for a new program, the idea seemed not ready for primetime. The cost of national pharmacare was seen to be too great in a time of low political appetite for new universal benefits. But it turns out that pharmacare isn't a money sucker -- it's a money saver.
Despite a strong economy, Saskatchewan has a deficit in access to safe and affordable housing. The Saskatoon Housing Initiatives Partnership performed a "point-in-time" count of people without a home on a given night and found 405 people. The number from these counts has steadily increased. What's especially disturbing is that 45 of the homeless individuals in this year's count were children. Across Canada, an estimated 235,000 people will experience homelessness in the course of a year, with 35,000 homeless on any given night. Beyond those who are homeless, many Canadians struggle to maintain the housing they have.
What makes people sick? Infectious agents like bacteria and viruses and personal factors like smoking, eating poorly and living a sedentary lifestyle. But none of these compares to the way that poverty makes us sick. Prescribing medications and lifestyle changes for our patients who suffer from income deficiency isn't enough; we need to start prescribing healthy incomes. The upstream factors that affect health -- such as income, education, employment, housing, and food security -- have a far greater impact on whether we will be ill or well. Of these, income has the most powerful influence, as it shapes access to the other health determinants.
Beloved Canadian children's singer Raffi is touring Canada with a new album after having taken time away to focus on and develop the Centre for Child Honouring. While he was in Saskatoon, we sat down to discuss music and the making of a healthy society.
The people who have been relocated in Saskatchewan come from Northern communities with higher rates of poverty than the rest of the province. This is the predicted pattern of the repercussions from climate change, as remote communities with less infrastructure are more prone to its effects.
In the runoff vote ending this week on June 18, the physicians of British Columbia need to do more than elect a new president, they must also decide which values should guide the profession -- individual profit or the public good.
Recently, I was fortunate to attend the Global Symposium on the Role of Physicians and National Medical Associations in Addressing Health Equity and the Social Determinants of Health held in London, England. I sat down with Dr. Simpson to explore the stories, the evidence and the politics that come into play when doctors are actors for social change.