Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

Leo Glavine: Meet the social determinants of health

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I had another post scheduled for today but then I read this article and got all fired-up. Just to cement the fact that I’m never going to be able to get a job working in public health in this province – you know, a master’s degree is far more important than actual experience in this province – I have to say: I am appalled that our provincial minister of Health and Wellness would write such an ignorant column.

To boil it down, the minister, Leo Glavine, states that to earn healthcare Nova Scotians must first prove that they’re taking care of their own health. This seems to particularly apply to those with lower-income levels as they are the ones who would be applying for financial assistance. This is so backwards!

I find it highly disturbing that Glavine appears to be unaware that income is the number one determinant of health. A whole other raft of issues go hand-in-hand with insufficient income; lack of time (how does one find the time to exercise, grocery shop, cook healthy meals, etc. when one is working a couple of part-time minimum wage jobs in an effort to pay the bills?), lack of access to programs and services (part-time work means no benefits which means no access to dietitians – let’s not get into the fact that we are woefully under covered by the majority of health care plans anyway, fitness facilities and equipment – some might argue that no equipment is necessary, everyone can walk, walking is great but not sufficient for optimal health and besides, many people who are living in poverty may live in dangerous areas and places without sidewalks and even in the city, the state of sidewalk clearing has been abysmal this winter, other healthcare providers – with the current lack of family doctors many of us don’t have a primary healthcare practitioner regardless of income or benefits). You get the point.

Aside from the fact that the social determinants of health undermine what Glavine is saying, isn’t it the government’s job to improve population health? This is done by implementing programs and policies which are designed to improve the health of all Nova Scotians. To tell us that we should be making more of an effort to improve our own health is tantamount to victim blaming. Yes, there will always be people who are not going to exercise or eat enough vegetables. Is that reason to stop encouraging¬†everyone to lead healthier lives. The burden of proof should not be placed on the individual. We should not be being asked to “improve our attitudes” by the minister. Our government should instead be looking inward and asking themselves why we, as a population are unhealthy, and what they can do to change that.

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Author: Diana

I'm a registered dietitian from Nova Scotia, living and working in Ontario, Canada. My goal is to help people relearn how to have a healthy relationship with food.

5 thoughts on “Leo Glavine: Meet the social determinants of health

  1. Well spoken. Let’s give the Minister the benefit of the doubt and hope that he will quickly get up to speed on this important issue. The attitude you describe reminds me more of a certain other government of a different party in this country, and makes me feel very uncomfortable that the disease appears to be spreading.

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  2. Sounds like he’d fit in with the Australian Government. Last year they cut benefits to single parents to “encourage” them to work. Too bad we have record unemployment and most of the parents were already working at least part-time or casual but not enough to live on without assistance. Apparently the magic way to get a job these days is for someone to just tell you to “get a job”. Here I thought you had to apply and be the best candidate and survive the interview to beat out the other 400 (I asked) candidates.

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    • Sad isn’t it. I find it even more frustrating that many people I’ve talked to about this actually agree with Glavine! Once I explain to them about the SDOH and the importance of creating an environment that makes being healthy the easy option they usually come around a bit but it’s a battle. Unfortunately, we just got the news today that the federal government is cutting our provincial health care funding next year so it looks like things are just going to get worse. So much for our great model of “free” health care.

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  3. Pingback: Stephen McNeil gets a failing grade for his response to Nova Scotia’s poor health report card | bite my words

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