With Occupy movements, born out of Occupy Wall Street, happening in Canada and around the world, social and economic inequality are on the agenda. More and better jobs, more equitable distribution of wealth, and greater corporate responsibility and accountability are important goals, and the Occupy movements have made great progress in making these issues mainstream.
One important element that needs to be built into public debate is health. We know that poorer people have worse health outcomes than richer people. In Toronto, men from the poorest income bracket have a life expectancy that is 4.5 years less than men from the richest income bracket. For women, the gap is two years. But health inequities don’t just affect mortality; they also affect quality of life. Over three times as many people in the lowest income group report their health to be only fair or poor compared to those in the highest income group. The routine activities of a quarter of low income people are limited by pain, twice that of high income people. The Wellesley Institute has funded a range of research on health inequities, including Sick and Tired and the Street Health Report.
These differences do not have to exist. Health inequities are differences in health outcomes that are avoidable, unfair and systematically related to social inequality and disadvantage. This means that with the right policies and priorities, built into a comprehensive strategy, health inequities can be eliminated.
The Wellesley Institute has a range of resources to help organizations to build equity into their planning and service delivery:
- a comprehensive equity strategy for Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network — Ontario’s regional health authorities;
- a toolkit of strategic frameworks, planning tools and other resources to implement health equity at regional and local levels;
- primers, workshops and other resources for Health Equity Impact Assessment;
- analyses of equity strategies developed for particular sectors or providers, such as networks of hospitals and community health centres, and issues, such as mental health;
- many presentations, research and policy papers on driving health equity into action.