Rising inequalities mean that Canada’s much loved national health care system is increasingly failing in its fundamental goal of good health for all, reports the Canadian Medical Association, which has launched a national conference in Whitehorse. “There are real inequalities around the country,” says CMA President-elect Anna Reid in an interview with Globe and Mail health reporter Andre Picard. Dr Reid identifies two reasons for growing health inequality: the public health system “is covering just part of what needs to be covered”; and, health services are increasingly different in different parts of the country.
One big gap in Canada’s health care system is the lack of comprehensive coverage for prescription medication. A new CMA poll released in conjunction with their annual meeting reports that almost one-in-four poor Canadians either delayed or stopped buying prescription drugs. That same poll also reported that only 39% of the poorest Canadians report excellent or very good health, compared to 68% of the richest Canadians. The ongoing economic shocks from the last recession continues to have a powerful health impact: Fully 46% of poorer Canadians say that they are spending less time, energy and money on their health as the economic continues to stumble.
At its annual meeting, the CMA – which represents Canada’s doctors – is focusing on the social determinants of health; that is, the non-medical issues that affect the ability of Canadians to get healthy and stay healthy. The social determinants of health include good housing, a good job, good food, access to health care and other fundamentals. The Wellesley Institute’s research and policy work demonstrates that health equity, housing, jobs and social assistance, and healthy communities are all part of the complex mix that supports personal and population health. We are developing new tools, including the Wellesley Urban Health Model, to help understand the complex and dynamic connections between a number of social determinants of health.