Toronto’s 35-year income polarization trend is not only dividing the city into rich and poor neighbourhoods, but it is also triggering a city-wide health crisis. The latest Three Cities research from Prof David Hulchanski of the University of Toronto’s Cities Centre paints a devastating picture of growing segregation across the city. The report notes that two-thirds of Torontonians had average incomes in 1970, 7% of the city had very high incomes and only 1% of the city had very low incomes. Tracking the actual changes every five years since then, and projecting the numbers to 2025, Dr Hulchanski predicts that by 2025, the middle income will shrink to 9% of the city, while the poorest neighbourhoods will grow to 60% of the city.
The growing income divide between rich and poor is triggering a major health crisis. Toronto Public Health’s Unequal City report from 2008 analyzes the division of Toronto into rich and poor neighbourhoods and its impact on about 40 leading health indicators. The report concludes, among other factors, that lung cancer is 150% higher among the poor than the rich in Toronto. It also notes that income and health inequality is contributing to 1,100 premature deaths and 1,300 low birth weight babies.
Reseach from the Wellesley Institute also confirms the links between income inequality and poor health. Poverty Is Making Us Sick looks at a long list of health indicators and offers a series of devastating conclusions, including the finding that poor Canadians suffer more than double the rate of diabetes and heart disease as rich Canadians. Sick and Tired sets out a similar survey of the health status of Ontario’s poor population. The first chapter of the Wellesley Institute’s Precarious Housing in Canada 2010 draws the links between poverty, poor housing and poor health.
The Wellesley Institute’s health equity practice draws together resources on policies and social changes needed to reduce health disparities and increase health equity for all.
The latest round of powerful Three Cities research has drawn front page coverage in The Globe and Mail. The Wellesley Institute’s Michael Shapcott is quoted in The Toronto Star as stating that the new research should be a ‘wake-up call’ for Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.