If you work in the health care industry, you know how critical it is that everyone has access to a doctor for illnesses and preventive care for matters like cancer and heart disease. However, many health problems are influenced by our environment and personal living circumstances. Canadians need to stop thinking of health as something that just comes from the doctor’s office.
The conditions at home, at school and at work have a big impact on our health, long before we see a doctor. Not being able to afford the basics, cycles of violence and abuse, and poor education take their toll on young bodies and young minds. The effects of stressful adverse experiences can take years to show themselves, but when they do, they often show up as disease.
A person’s financial health can play a significant role on their overall well being. Growing up in poverty has been associated with increased adult illness and early death. Poverty must be addressed like other major health risks. 9 per cent of Manitobans and 31 per cent of single-parent families live in poverty, and the evidence shows poverty to be a health risk at least as challenging as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking. We know we have to devote significant energy and resources to treating these health issues.
It is time to treat poverty like any equivalent health condition and to do something about it. The Manitoba Poverty Tool is designed to help people access additional income they are eligible for – a small step in the right direction.