Better health for all

Addressing social and physical environments will boost wellness, says chief Provincial public health officer

Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, May / June 2016

Manitobans are living longer, healthier lives these days, thanks in large part to public policies designed to prevent disease and promote health.

But not everyone is benefitting from these improvements equally. In fact, too many Manitobans, particularly those in lower income groups, continue to experience relatively poor health compared to the rest of the population.

For example, rural dwellers in the lowest income group are 1.9 times more likely to die before the age of 75 than those in the highest income group. Meanwhile, urban residents in the lowest income group are 2.9 times more likely to die before the age of 75 than their higher income counterparts.

These challenges were outlined in a recently released report entitled Healthy Environments, Healthy People: 2015 Health Status of Manitobans.

Produced by the office of Dr. Michael Routledge, Manitoba's Chief Provincial Public Health Officer, the report suggests that differences in health status among Manitobans can be attributed in large part to social and economic inequities. The report points out that the health-care system accounts for only 25 per cent of the Canadian population's health outcomes. By comparison, about 50 per cent of health outcomes can be attributed to a variety of other socio-economic factors, including:

  • Income and social status
  • Education
  • Employment and working conditions
  • Social support
  • Physical environment
  • Health practices and coping skills
  • Biology and genetics
  • Healthy childhood development
  • Culture
  • Gender

Of all of these factors, income is the single most important determinant of health, according to the report. "Health status improves at each step up in the income and social hierarchy," it says. "Higher income affects living conditions such as safe housing and ability to buy sufficient goods."

Routledge says the report was designed to raise awareness about inequities in health outcomes and generate discussion in the community about how they can be addressed.

"We all want the same thing - good health for ourselves, our family, and our friends for as long as possible," says Routledge in a forward to the report. "The best way to do this is to address the determinants that support health. Find the barriers to health and wellness that exist where you live, work and play. Then talk to your family, friends, co-workers and community leaders about ways to address them so that we can make Manitoba the healthiest place in the world to live."

The graphic (PDF below) illustrates the connection between income and health status. The numbers, drawn from Healthy Environments, Healthy People: 2015 Health Status of Manitobans, show that people in lower income groups are more likely to have health issues than those in higher income groups, whether they are living in rural Manitoba or in urban centres.

The connection between income and health status

Wave: November / December 2015

About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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