Throughout the winter and spring of 2013, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) conducted wide-ranging consultations to gather input on Canadians’ views on the social determinants of health. Public town hall meetings were held in Winnipeg, Hamilton, Charlottetown, Calgary, Montréal and St. John’s and were accompanied by an online consultation.
Several themes from the town hall meetings were summarized by CMA President Dr. Anna Reid:
- Poverty is the most important issue and must be addressed.
- Poverty can cause multiple morbidities and even influence early childhood neurologic development.
- Mental health issues remain “the elephant in the room” and underlie many of the social determinants of health.
- Governments need to be pressured to take action, but there is a clear role for citizens, physicians and communities to help deal with the problems.
- The capacity of non-profit organizations to help is reaching the breaking point.
- There is a link between a healthy society and a healthy economy.
- Social initiatives need specific funding and should be viewed as investments.
- There is a need to look at why society is willing to accept disparities.
- Social inequities are a major cause of stress and insecurity.
- The medical profession has the authority and voice to take leadership on these issues.
- Canadian society has suffered from a lack of imagination, will and leadership to address social inequities.
- The guaranteed annual income is a compelling concept and can have a positive impact on health outcomes.
- Structural racism keeps Aboriginal people in poverty; this must be addressed to improve health outcomes for these communities.
- The cost of doing nothing is very large, so reallocation of existing spending is important.