Dr. Ryan Meili has received considerable attention for his short 2012 book A Healthy Society: How a Focus on Health can Revive Canadian Democracy. Little did we know that the book would become a manifesto for a new institute dedicated to change how we think about politics.
The central theme of the book is based around a parable. In it a bystander leaps into a river when he or she sees a young child struggling in the current. After bringing the child safely to the shore, another child appears in the river. The bystander leaps in again to repeat the rescue. And then another child, and another. As a crowd develops to witness this spectacle, a wise person suggests that maybe they should look upstream to see who is chucking children into the river.
The parable is of course about our health system. Increasingly we are struggling to meet demand that results from changes in our society, including the widening gap between rich and poor. But are we really addressing the root causes of that spike in demand?
In his book Meili suggests that poverty alone is costing Canadians $7.6 billion in health care costs, $13 billion in lost income taxes and more than $35 billion in decreased productivity.