Arguably, I did not have the coolest major in university. I was a political science major, with a focus on Canadian Politics. People’s eyes seemed to glaze over when I talked about what I was taking at university. I admit, compared to some of the sexier political fields like International Relations, Canadian Politics can seem a little ho-hum. But, to me, there was nothing more interesting than understanding how our political system affected the day-to-day lives of Canadians.
Before I took my first political science class, I wasn’t particularly politically engaged. I voted and I certainly had some opinions, but they weren’t particularly well informed. My naivety about the world of politics meant there were a lot of surprises in store. I was astounded to learn that there was so much research addressing problematic and oft-discussed topics like health and democratic reform. These ideas wouldn’t necessarily fix everything, but they were a great place to start. Unfortunately, these insights seemed to stay in the halls of academia, largely ignored by policy makers and unknown to the public.
I knew that I wanted to help bridge the gap between people and knowledge, and between research and government.
By the time I graduated, I knew that I wanted to help bridge the gap between people and knowledge, and between research and government. When I heard Rachel speak about Upstream at an event I attended last November, I was excited to hear about an organization doing just that. Upstream has an even broader scope, examining the health of our society rather than just our political system. Upstream is concerned with the social determinants of health (SDoH). The social determinants of health include income, employment, education, early childhood development, housing, nutrition and the wider environment. These factors have the largest impact on health outcomes and quality of life for Canadians.
As the new Communications Coordinator at Upstream, I am so excited to help build bridges. Whether that’s by helping our think tank experts distill their academic insights into accessible language, creating infographics for compelling facts and figures, or helping people experiencing poverty to share their stories, we can begin to understand each other better and connect more deeply.
People have been thinking upstream long before we were founded – but it is time to bring this conversation to the forefront of public dialogue. Let’s start talking about how housing affects our health. Let’s talk about how income and job security affects our health. Let’s talk about social inclusion (or exclusion) and how that affects our health, not only as individuals but as a society.
People have been thinking upstream long before we were founded – but it is time to bring this conversation to the forefront of public dialogue.
Since the age of 10, I’ve been staying up too late reading, lost in stories. I know that the stories of people in our community and across our country are just as compelling as those that kept me up late into the night. Let’s get to know each other. With a deeper knowledge of those around us, we can change the way we measure the health and success of our country, and demand policy ideas that are centred on both evidence and people’s lived experiences. Let’s begin a new narrative.
Elizabeth is the Communications Coordinator for Upstream. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To support Elizabeth's work at Upstream telling stories and bringing the social determinants of health into the public conversation, consider becoming an Upstream sustainer by making a one-time or monthly donation.