Tag Archives: social determinants of health

Jumping into the fire

The last few days appear to suggest the brave new world of health reform is not unfolding as it theoretically should.

The news is all around us: another violent death in a nursing home; another frail senior discharged early from hospital without support; another community upset about losing a key hospital service; and a fresh report to suggest we are losing the battle to tackle the social determinants of health.

To make matters worse, a leaked report over the weekend from the Tories suggests that the next election may revolve around further assaulting the standard of living for working people by significantly undermining their unions. Does anybody believe a declining standard of living is going to improve anything, let alone population health in Ontario?

If you were Sandy Bullock lost in space, would you really want to struggle that hard to come back to earth?

Given how much stock the government has placed on moving patients out of hospital and into community, the entire agenda may implode once Ontarians discover for themselves how threadbare is the alternative.

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Social Determinants: Poll indicates widespread support for indexing minimum wage

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce likely surprised everyone when they suggested in September the best way to adjust the minimum wage is to automatically link it to the cost of living.

Many anti-poverty groups have been advocating for such a policy as well as demanding Ontario play catch-up for the three years in which the minimum wage has been frozen at $10.25 an hour. Ontario is one of three jurisdictions in Canada that has no mechanism for increasing the minimum wage.

While the Chamber is no fan of having to pay workers more, they argue that by linking the minimum wage to the cost of living it would be predictable, transparent and fair.

A recent poll suggests most Canadians agree. The September Vector Poll* indicated 53 per cent of Canadians “strongly” supported increasing the minimum wage every year by the cost of living. Another 36 per cent were “somewhat” supportive.

That’s about as close to consensus as you are going to get in Canada.

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Scarborough: The first and last VP of Patient Experience

John Wright, The Scarborough Hospital’s (TSH) former CEO once proudly told staff that they were among the first in Canada to have a Vice-President of Patient Experience. While there is much rhetoric around patient-centered care, it appears the Scarborough Hospital was at least trying to walk the talk.

TSH may have been among the first in Ontario to establish such a position. It is also among the first to eliminate such a position.

One of the first projects that VP undertook was a revamping of the food served to patients at the hospital. As we reported last week, the TSH had engaged a consulting chef and invested in equipment to be able to serve patients fresh local foods. Now that project, like the former VP who spawned it, appears to be on the way out according to a discussion paper generated by a merger committee between the TSH and Rouge Valley Health System.

We get it that money is tight.

The two hospitals admit that together they need to find $28 million next year to weather an ongoing freeze in base funding to hospitals. This is not a one-time event, but a long road of deliberate fiscal restraint. The amount needed could be even higher should the two hospitals decide to make a recommendation to formally merge. Mergers generally do not save money. They cost more.

TSH has gone through recent community battles over potential changes to services. It is one of the reason merger discussions are leaving out any issues around location of service delivery, however, that “elephant in the room” is getting increasingly difficult to avoid as working committees try to determine what a merged or “integrated” hospital might look like.

The demographics around such a merger are particularly sensitive. It is one of the most diverse multicultural areas in the GTA. It is where many new immigrants first arrive – the 2006 Census indicated 57 per cent of the area’s residents were born in another country. Poverty in Toronto is also moving east. Eight of 13 priority Toronto neighborhoods identified by the United Way are in Scarborough.

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Social Determinants: Where did 55,000 Ontario households go?

What happened to 55,000 low-income rental households in Ontario? Between the late 1990s and the early 2000s they simply disappeared from the census.

A new report from the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association and the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada suggests that more than enough people to populate Kingston or Guelph simply retreated into shared or non-traditional housing arrangements in the face of unaffordable rents.

That could mean renting a room, a basement, moving in with relatives, or sharing a dwelling with more than one family. For a few, that could also mean homelessness.

The period coincides with severe cuts to social assistance by the Harris government.

Crowded and insecure living arrangements are an important factor in the social determinants of health. The cheapest accommodation often means an unhealthy building desperately in need of repair.

Households that remain in more traditional units are forced to make the choice to pay rent over food and other basics.

“The longer households remain in unaffordable housing, the harder it is on their health, their long-term career prospects, their children’s education, and our province’s future,” the report states.

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CPP reform: Pensions and population health objectives should be linked

There are two accepted axioms in health care:

1. The older you get, the more health care you use.
2. Wealth is closely linked to health, or what policy wonks like to talk about as the “social determinants of health.”

It is therefore curious that the Federal government is stalling on reforms to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), a situation that would improve the economic outcome of seniors and presumably also have an impact on their use of the health system in retirement years.

We know that most Canadians are without supplemental private pension plans.

It is estimated that even with maximum CPP earnings at $12,500 per year, the average senior would face a shortfall of $6,200 to meet their basic needs.

This demographic bulge in baby-boom seniors would also be contributing less to the economy in the future on such limited pension income.

Therefore, it is logical to improve the Canada Pension Plan – a defined benefit pension plan – to raise the bar for most seniors so they don’t have to live out their “golden” years in poverty.

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Economic downturn taking toll on health of Canadians – CMA report card

The economic downturn is taking a toll on the health of Canadians according to the Canadian Medical Association’s annual report card.

The report card represents a poll of Canadians conducted in July by Ipsos Read Public Affairs.

According to the report:

• More than one in four Ontarians (27%) say they agree the economic downturn has impacted their health – 7 per cent say they agree strongly. Nearly one in three Quebecers (32%) say their health has been impacted.

• More than one in three Canadians (34%) say that they feel stressed and/or overwhelmed as a result of financial concerns. The number rises to close to half (46%) among those who earn less than $30,000 per year.

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Hearings begin on Ford complaint against anti-poverty doctor

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford thinks doctors and others in the “medical field” should not be advocates for the poor, even though the social determinants of health are a key factor in an individual’s wellness.

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