When I started volunteering my time at GLITR, I was initially frustrated by the seeming lack of interest in this field. I constantly asked myself, “Why don’t more people care [about health inequalities]?” Upon reflection, I have come to realize a few things, 1) Many aren’t aware of the true meaning of the lofty term ‘health inequalities’ 2) There is a myriad of misconceptions out there 3) Many feel helpless; we often believe that these issues are too large for one person to tackle. I will try to tackle these issues sequentially:
What is it? Health inequalities refer to the difference in health outcomes among groups based on socioeconomic factors such as race, income and education.
Some Misconceptions: Most of us have a general understanding that a child born in Canada has a higher probability of living a longer, healthier life than a person in a low-income nation. For instance, a child born in Malawi has a life expectancy of 47 years while a Canadian child is expected to live for 81 years. This is not a misconception of course; the misconception comes in when we believe that these disparities are only present between countries and not within our own country and communities. Take, for example, the Code Red Report in Hamilton. A 21-year difference in life expectancy between the richest and poorest neighbourhood, within Hamilton, was found. Another study by the Government of Canada found a 9.8 year difference between Toronto’s richest and poorest citizens.
On Feeling Helpless: Some may try to rationalize the situation and think, “I can’t change, or help remedy, health inequalities here or abroad”. This is where I get to say – you’re wrong! There are complex issues at play within the realm of health inequalities , which need the attention of our government and policy makers. While change is hard - it is not impossible. Our own government has implemented many policy changes and initiatives, which have led to a reduction in health inequalities (some are discussed here by the NCCHP).
The first step to meaningful policy change or overcoming any these barriers is public appetite for change, that’s where you come in, that’s where you and I can help; we can use our collective voices to show we care!
Omar Trail’s interest in the social determinants of health, as well as the management of health care resources, led him to pursue a B.A in Health Studies and Political Science. He joined the GLITR team because he has a strong interest and passion for helping people lead healthier and happier lives. Omar is what some may describe as a “fitness nut” he enjoys living an active and healthy lifestyle. Omar also enjoys going to church, as he believes spiritual health is paramount.