TORONTO, Sept. 24, 2007 – With a provincial election underway that is dominated by discussions of education and the economy, a group of health-care professionals and anti-poverty advocates want to turn a spotlight onto an issue it says is critical to improving people’s health.
On Tuesday, Sept. 25, the Income Security Advocacy Centre, Health Providers Against Poverty and the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario are sponsoring an All Party Debate on Poverty and Health.
According to the latest figures, one in seven people in Ontario is living in poverty, including more than 232,000 people with disabilities and 345,000 children under the age of 18. The link between health and poverty is irrefutable, the organizers say, and without more attention focused in this area, the health of tens of thousands of Ontarians is at risk.
“Poverty is the single most preventable cause of poor health and early death. The reason we do not take this seriously as a society is that we conveniently distance ourselves from the poor and hold them responsible for their fate, when in fact, most of us are only a paycheque away from walking in their shoes,” says Anne Egger, a primary care nurse practitioner with Health Providers Against Poverty (HPAP), one of the groups hosting this forum.
“People living in poverty rarely get a chance to talk to politicians. This debate is for them. This is a chance to get commitments from each of the parties around the issues that matter – such as increasing social assistance rates, the minimum wage, affordable housing and child care,” says Mary Marrone, Legal Director of the Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC).
“We want voters to understand the underlying links between poverty and health and provide them with an opportunity to find out where the political parties stand on this crucial issue. How we treat our most vulnerable citizens is a test of political leadership. This forum will help inform our voting decisions,” says Mary Ferguson-Pare, president of RNAO.
The Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC) is a province-wide community legal clinic that works with low-income people throughout Ontario to fight poverty. Created in 2001, ISAC has used a combination of litigation, law reform and community organizing to challenge government rules and policies that create and perpetuate poverty.
Health Providers Against Poverty (HPAP) is a group of local physicians, nurses, dieticians, and other health providers who have joined forces with other community advocates. HPAP’s focus is on the growing gap between government promises to promote health for all Ontarians and the dire poverty in which our most vulnerable neighbours are forced to live.
The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association representing registered nurses wherever they practise in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has lobbied for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses’ contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve.