Vote for a healthier Cape Breton
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.