What makes people sick? Infectious agents like bacteria and viruses and personal factors like smoking, eating poorly and living a sedentary lifestyle. But none of these compares to the way that poverty makes us sick.
As a medical student taking part in a Social Paediatrics course at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), I was recently immersed in the lives and healthcare needs of low-income families in Toronto. This experience reshaped the lens through which I now view healthcare and helped me recognize that societal factors greatly influence the emotional and physical wellbeing of children and their families.
UNICEF recently released a report card ranking child well-being in the 29 richest countries on earth. Canada came 17th, placing us in the bottom half of the pack on factors such as child poverty, emotional well-being and life satisfaction.
Does more healthcare create better outcomes? In other words, do more medications, tests and interventions necessarily result in healthier patients?
It turns out more care is, all too often, unnecessary care.
UNICEF’S most recent report on child well-being in rich countries ranked Canada 17 out of 29 countries assessed. Sadly, this isn’t news. The House of Commons resolved to eradicate child poverty in 1989, but in late 2013, Statistics Canada reported that 967,000 children in this country still lived in low-income homes.
Last month, it was reported that an Edmonton woman was badly beaten by her spouse. Though the attack put her in the hospital, the police offered a silver lining by stating that her unborn baby, at least, wasn’t harmed. Sadly, this claim underestimates the profound effect severe stress can have on children’s development in their first years of life, including while they’re still in the womb.