A Healthy Society


Read the book that launched Upstream: 

A Healthy Society: How a Focus on Health can Revive Canadian Democracy (Purich, 2012), by Dr. Ryan Meili.

Drawing on his experiences as a family physician in the inner city of Saskatoon, Mozambique, and rural Saskatchewan, Dr. Meili argues that health delivery too often focuses on treatment of immediate causes and ignores more fundamental conditions that lead to poor health. Income, education, employment, housing, the wider environment, and social supports: far more than the actions of physicians, nurses, and other health care providers, it is these conditions that make the greatest difference in our health. Brought to life by patient stories, A Healthy Society explores a number of specific health determinants, and ends in a discussion of democratic reforms that could help reshape the way we organize ourselves to create a truly healthy society.

"A Healthy Society offers an inspiring means to fix what is broken in Canadian politics."

– Roy Romanow, former Premier of Saskatchewan

Through a mix of scholarship and story, the author proposes a new approach to politics. The use of human health as a measure of our success as a society, and the application of the ideas of the social determinants of health to public policy, appeals beyond political lines to common values. By synthesizing diverse ideas into a plan for action based in the lived experiences of practitioners and patients, A Healthy Society breaks important ground in the renewal of politics toward the goal of better lives for all Canadians. 

Get the book:

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Praise for A Healthy Society:

"An eloquent cry from the heart and a rational appeal to the mind. With meticulous research, dramatic personal histories and precise analysis Dr. Meili shows why our wealthy society is far from a healthy one."

Gabor Maté M.D., author of In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction

"A clarion call to all Canadians. We will not have a healthy society until we put social justice and universal social security for all back at the top of our political agenda."

–Maude Barlow, National Chairperson, Council of Canadians.

"For those who seek the renewal of politics and public health in Canada, Dr Meili has a vision for both. This work makes an important contribution to progressive dialogue in Canada."

–Hon. Lorne Calvert, former Premier of Saskatchewan

"Ryan challenges us to do better, together, for the health of our communities by building capacity in all the areas that make us human. What could be more important?"

Danielle Martin, MD, CCFP, past Chair, Canadian Doctors for Medicare

"Dr. Meili makes a powerful argument: better health is a central narrative of our lives, our society, and our democratic institutions; so what's stopping us from walking the talk? A doctor's analytic eye diagnoses the problem:  too much focus on treatment, not enough on preventing what makes us sick; too much focus on spurring economic development, not enough taking care of what we've got. A natural born story-teller, the good doctor's prairie wisdom, tough and fair, peppers his cure."

Armine Yalnizyan, Senior economist, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

"Anyone interested in making a truly healthy society will benefit greatly from reading this outstanding work."

Gordon Guyatt, MD, MSc, FRCPC, Professor, Department of Clinical Epidemiology & Biostatistics, McMaster University and co-founder of the Medical Reform Group

"This book should be required reading for every decision-maker in Canada."

–Gregory P. Marchildon, Ph.D., Canada Research Chair in Public Policy and Economic History, Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy

The author is donating 50% of royalties from this book to SWITCH: Student Wellness Initiative Toward Community Health.


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