Dr. Bob Gardner, the Wellesley ‘s Institute’s Director of Policy and Research and a leading authority on health equity, will give expert testimony to the Senate of Canada’s Subcommittee on Population Health starting at 10.45 am today – outlining a practical and pragmatic 12-point plan to reduce the gaps in health outcomes between upper and lower-income Canadians. The testimony will be webcast live on the Senate of Canada site and will also be archived for future viewing.
In December, the Wellesley Institute published the most current and definitive survey of income and health in Canada – Poverty is Making Us Sick – and followed in early February with a second report that focuses on income and health in Ontario – Sick and Tired . The reports demonstrate that lower-income people suffer a much higher burden of dozens of different illnesses (heart and respiratory, mental health, disabilities, etc.) than wealthier Canadians. The reports add to a growing body of epidemiological studies at the international, national and Toronto levels that show big disparities in health and premature death between different groups in our society.
While the bad news is that health disparities are affecting the lives of a large number of Canadians, the good news is that there are already successful practices – many of them at the local level – that bring together a variety of health service providers, governments, community groups and others in successful collaborations. Dr. Gardner and the Wellesley Institute have surveyed research literature at the international and national levels, and also identified a number of good practices that can be more widely adopted.
It’s critical that all the players work together effectively – leveraging the expertise of health service providers, municipal, provincial and federal governments to create successful practices. Dynamic and effective examples are already in place in many parts of Canada (such as Edmonton, Calgary and Toronto) and these can be replicated across the country. The overall goal is to build an equitable health system on top of an already strong foundation, says Dr. Gardner… and build it together.
“A crucial element of an effective strategy on health equity – and a key role for governments at all levels – is to enable and nurture this local innovation and action,” says Dr. Gardner. “We need to create forums and infrastructure where lessons learned from front-line interventions can be widely shared, where promising initiatives can be rigorously evaluated, where the most successful can be scaled up and adapted widely, and where we continually build a cycle of improvement and innovation. We need a different kind of research – more community-based and more applied –that can help identify programs, service, community engagement and other interventions that really work to reduce health disparities.”
“All of this requires a more expansive view of the potential of government investments and support of community initiatives: not just funding a one-time project here or there, but developing coordinated and coherent overall strategies that can effectively link up diverse programs and interventions; not just a series of research projects, but a comprehensive knowledge management and innovation strategy that will build on the enormous insights and solid networks that already exist; and not just isolated programs to deal with the symptoms of child poverty or poor health, but comprehensive strategies to tackle the roots of inequality and lay the foundations for equitable health and well-being for all.”
A copy of Dr. Gardner’s speaking notes are attached. For more information, and to arrange an interview, please contact Aerin Guy, the Wellesley Institute’s communications specialist, at email@example.com or by calling 416-972-1010, x226.