Vote for a healthier Cape Bre­ton

Cape Breton Post - - HEALTH FOCUS - Monika Dutt Dr. Monika Dutt is the med­i­cal of­fi­cer of health for the Cape Bre­ton Dis­trict Health Au­thor­ity. Fol­low Monika on Twit­ter @Monika_Dutt. This col­umn is part of a lo­cally writ­ten se­ries on pop­u­la­tion health, which looks at fac­tors like in­come, ed

Arecent poll of Nova Sco­tians listed health as a prime con­cern. This of­ten leads to a fo­cus on the health-care sys­tem: doc­tors, nurses, hos­pi­tals and ERs. Yet when peo­ple say that health care is a top is­sue, they’re say­ing they care about their health. And the med­i­cal sys­tem is just one as­pect of peo­ple’s health.

Ex­pand­ing on what peo­ple care about — health — means look­ing at the many fac­tors that in­flu­ence health, which in­clude: in­come, ed­u­ca­tion, em­ploy­ment, early childhood de­vel­op­ment, food in­se­cu­rity, hous­ing, so­cial in­clu­sion, so­cial safety net, health ser­vices, abo­rig­i­nal sta­tus, gen­der, race and dis­abil­ity, ac­cord­ing to Den­nis Raphael in “So­cial Deter­mi­nants of Health: The Cana­dian Facts” 2010.

In sim­ple terms, that is who we are, and where we work, live and play.

This list is par­tic­u­larly rel­e­vant to pro­vin­cial elec­tions be­cause all of the ar­eas listed align with the typ­i­cal fo­cuses of gov­ern­ment min­istries. Health is po­lit­i­cal and po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sions mat­ter to our health.

So in this elec­tion, con­sider how your vote can in­flu­ence your health and po­ten­tially cre­ate a healthier so­ci­ety for Cape Bre­ton­ers and all Nova Sco­tians.

A healthier so­ci­ety is also a more pros­per­ous one; the other key elec­tion is­sue, the econ­omy, will be made stronger by hav­ing a ro­bust work­force.

In “A Healthy So­ci­ety: How a Fo­cus on Health can Re­vive Cana­dian Democ­racy,” Dr. Ryan Meili as­serts the ben­e­fit of us­ing health as a way to gauge po­lit­i­cal suc­cess. We can mea­sure health, it’s some­thing we all care about and we know gov­ern­ment de­ci­sions im­pact health.

So find out: What are your can­di­dates say­ing about each of the ar­eas that mat­ter to health?

For ex­am­ple, are they talk­ing about en­sur­ing we all earn a wage that lets us take care of ba­sic ne­ces­si­ties and even thrive? Are they talk­ing about how the lives of young chil­dren can be im­proved, such as through ac­cess to qual­ity day­care and other early years sup- port? Are they sup­port­ing in­fra­struc­ture that will en­cour­age phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity and busi­ness growth? Are they work­ing to en­sure all peo­ple can af­ford and have ac­cess to healthy food? Are they look­ing at why some peo­ple/groups have poorer health than oth­ers and what can be done about that? Are they try­ing to re­duce in­equal­ity be­tween the rich and the poor? And, yes, what are they say­ing about the health-care sys­tem con­cern­ing ar­eas that truly im­pact how we re­ceive care?

In the last pro­vin­cial elec­tion, voter turnout was about 60 per cent for Cape Bre­ton. This was a sig­nif­i­cant drop from the prior elec­tion, when turnout was about 65 per cent. Given that who we vote for can im­pact our health and the health of our com­mu­ni­ties in so many ways, the X that we mark on a bal­lot is im­por­tant. We should be talk­ing with our can­di­dates about what mat­ters to our health and how we can work with them to make all of us healthier.

There are also re­sources that pro­vide ex­cel­lent back­ground, such as the Springtide Col­lec­tive. They have a web­site ded­i­cated to the Nova Sco­tia elec­tion at www.votes­martns.ca.

Let’s change our po­lit­i­cal con­ver­sa­tion to fo­cus on health in a broad sense — our “phys­i­cal, men­tal and so­cial well-be­ing and not merely the ab­sence of disease,” as de­fined by the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Health is not all about gov­ern­ments — we all play a role at some level. Let’s work to­gether to cre­ate a sys­tem that will shape our health for the bet­ter for years to come.

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