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  • Photograph by Elizabeth Roth

Canadians have one thing right: They care about health

In poll after poll Canadians rank our Healthcare system as one of our top policy priorities. Rightly so, Canadians care an awful lot about health: their own health, the health of their family and friends, and the health of their communities.

 

 

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Nothing captures misfortune quite as directly as poor health. People do not wish misfortune on themselves. Evolved feelings of empathy encourage us not to wish misfortune on others either. For centuries, religious and political leaders have made the case that a more moral world is a world committed to reducing misfortune---arguably, a healthier world is a more moral world.

But morality is only one justification for our concern with health.

Morality is only one justification for our concern with health.

Advanced industrialized economies like ours depend on more than just machines and resources for success. We also depend on innovation, and the source of all innovation is people. We can maximize our nation’s economic potential by ensuring health and well-being for the greatest possible number of Canadians.

Despite all that we get right by our concern with health, Canadians also get one thing wrong: Healthcare isn’t the primary source of our health.

Decades of research from around the world has shown that the types of medical services provided by Healthcare determine only a quarter or less of our overall health and well-being. Another set of determinants, the social determinants of health, determine the majority.

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 The social determinants of health include things like income and work prospects, education, connection to one’s community and one’s ethnic or gender status. While medical services can try to fix us once we’ve been broken, it is the social determinants of health that determine the quality of the lives we lead and whether we end up broken in the first place.

While medical services can try to fix us once we’ve been broken, it is the social determinants of health that determine the quality of the lives we lead and whether we end up broken in the first place.

Too much focus on Healthcare prevents us from identifying and investing in the kinds of policy solution that will have the greatest impact on our health.

The evidence around social determinants of health and related policy solutions is mounting by the day. This week we learned about the stubborn gap in employment outcomes between racialized and non-racialized Canadians. This year, we learned that it can cost as little or less to provide housing and support services to the homeless, than it does not to. We’ve also confirmed again and again that early-childhood education and care is essential to our long-term physical and mental health and worth the investment. The list goes on.

Our national failure to understand the true causes of our health is preventing us from fully realizing the moral and prosperous society that we aspire to.

Canadians as a whole need to do a better job of tuning in to the social determinants of health and experts have to do a better job of reaching out and communicating their research findings to as many people as possible.

Enter Upstream. We’re working every day to bridge the gap between Canadians and expert knowledge of the social determinants of health. We’re doing this by connecting engaged Canadians like you with experts that want to share their research. We’re providing the experts with the tools they need, like storytelling, to communicate their work.

As an engaged Canadian, you are an integral part of how Upstream is helping to change thinking around health in our country. By providing you with what you need to learn more about the social determinants of health, we are providing you with the tools you need to further engage your family, friends and colleagues around the social determinants of health and impact the national conversation around health.

Our national failure to understand the true causes of our health is preventing us from fully realizing the moral and prosperous society that we aspire to.

But if we all push, we can change the direction of the nation.

Things you can do now:

Continue to inform yourself about the social determinants of health in Canada. Check out Dr. Dennis Raphael’s fact sheet.

Sign up to stay engaged and receive regular updates about new research and events related to the social determinants of health in Canada.

You can also help Upstream help Canadians become the moral and prosperous society we truly aspire to by contributing as little as $5 a month.


Chuk is the Policy Director for Upstream. Chuk is working on his PhD at McGill University and is currently teaching a course at the University of Saskatchewan. He can be reached at charles.plante@thinkupstream.net.

To support Chuk's efforts to bring forward cutting edge research about the so
cial determinants of health, consider becoming an Upstream sustainer by making a one-time or monthly donation.

 

 

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