Groups Gather to Find Solutions to Poverty and Poor Health


Last week 38 representatives of national health organizations, social justice groups, unions, First Nations and Inuit populations, and faith based organizations gathered in Ottawa to join Dignity for All: the campaign for a poverty-free Canada in crafting policy recommendations on health and poverty.   The summit, “Health as a Right and a Public Good” was the fourth in a series of events where campaign members and industry experts converge to work on the foundation of a campaign-drafted federal poverty plan.

With the connection between poverty and poor health well established the summit was broken down into six themes:  the social determinants of health, medicare, pharmacare, mental health, refugee health and the health of First Nations, Métis and Inuit populations.  To help bring the issues to light and offer direction on recommendations, the campaign was privileged to have various experts make presentations and join discussions:

  • Mark Ferdinand (Canadian Mental Health Association)
  • Doug Gruner (Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care)
  • Martha Jackman (University of Ottawa Faculty of Law)
  • Nuala Kenny (author of “What Good Is Health Care? Reflections on the Canadian Experience”)
  • Mike McBane (Canadian Health Coalition)
  • Steve Morgan ( and UBC Centre for Health Services and Policy Research)
  • Dennis Raphael (York University Faculty of Health and author of “Social determinants of health: The Canadian facts”)
  • Yvonne Boyer (Canada Research Chair in Aboriginal Health at Brandon University)

Recommendations from each presentation focused on what the federal government could do with regards so social policy and a pan-Canadian poverty plan.  Key themes that were expressed include:

  • Federal leadership is necessary to ensure health is recognized as a human right and equitable access to health care as well as health is acheived
  • Person-centered approaches and meaningful consultation are necessary when developing health policy
  • Consideration for the original intention of Canada’s medicare system should be taken into consideration, which was not meant to focus solely on acute care.
  • Health care does not stop when a person leaves the hospital and a pharmacare plan will help ensure all people in Canada have access to critical medication
  • Substantial savings can be found in the health care system when 1) assisting the low-income population and ensuring refugees have adequate access to health care; 2) a pharmacare strategy is in place which offers governments greater purchasing power
  • Health is as much about environmental factors as physical factors
  • Need to address stigma around mental health as well as history of discrimination against First Nation, Métis and Inuit populations in policymaking

Currently being the revised, the recommendations received input from all participants and will be posted on the Dignity for All Policy Recommendations webpage when edits have been made.  You will also be able to access the presentations of the various speakers on this page as well.

Next steps for the plan include one final policy summit on labour and employment in the spring, a review of all recommendations  from previous summits (childcare, housing, income and food security), and development of the campaign poverty plan.  The goal is to have the plan launched prior to January 2015 – a resource for political decision makers and the public that articulates the common vision and recommendations of Canada’s most credible voices on poverty-related issues.


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