The new year is a time for resolutions. When it comes to urban health, Toronto’s pioneering Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Charles Hastings, laid down a strong challenge almost nine decades ago. In December of 1918, Dr. Hastings was elevated to President of the American Public Health Association. It was not only a great honour, but well-deserved recognition of his work as Toronto’s first-ever Medical Officer of Health in making dramatic health advances. The key to his success was in tackling the fundamentals of good health – such as safe food and affordable homes.
Dr. Hastings delivered his inaugural address as people around the globe were sighing with relief at the end of the first world war: “Our nations have for the past four years been pouring out the best of their blood… The war has demonstrated, as never before, the value of man power, whether in war and peace. Every nation has been expecting every man to do his duty, and now that the war is over, every man will expect every nation to do its duty…”
“Every nation that permits people to remain under the fetters of preventable disease, and permits social conditions to exist that make it impossible for them to be properly fed, clothed and housed, so as to maintain a high degree of resistance and physical fitness, and that endorses a wage that does not afford sufficient revenue for the home, a revenue that will make possible the development of a sound mind and body, is trampling a primary principle of democracy under its feet.”
“Will any of the democracies of today stand the test?”
Well, how about it: Toronto, Ontario and Canada? Will 2008 be the year when elected officials, working with community and business leaders, finally take the pledge to create healthy and strong communities?