Press Release: Ontario Poverty Reduction Strategy

Posted on September 9th, 2014 by kpdorman.

Health Providers Call for Immediate Targets and Action on Poverty in Ontario

September 9, 2014

TORONTO – Health Providers Against Poverty responded with disappointment to the release of the Ontario government’s second five-year Poverty Reduction strategy. Although the Strategy keeps poverty on the public agenda, and expands the focus to include homeless adults, members are concerned about the lack of specific targets and timelines. They also note a lack of appropriate new funding to reduce poverty.

“As front line health providers who treat people living in poverty daily, we see the existence of high levels of poverty in Ontario as a public health emergency. We are disappointed and very concerned that this government has used its second strategy to set out vague goals, without clear timelines, and without significant new funding,” said Dr. Jim Deutsch, a physician in Toronto. "I am particularly concerned about the long-term impact on the well-being of children and families."

Health Providers Against Poverty has called for an immediate 55% increase in social assistance rates, an increase to the minimum wage to $14 an hour, and investments in universal child care and pharmacare programs.  “An Ontario Association of Food Banks report estimated that poverty costs Ontario almost $3 billion in additional health care expenses alone. A strong investment in poverty reduction makes both economic and health sense, ” said Dr. Lucy Barker, a resident physician in Toronto. “We look forward to a significant infusion of funds and a bold commitment to major poverty reduction initiatives in the next budget”.

Health Providers Against Poverty is a coalition of nurses, doctors, other health care providers, and front line workers that works to reduce poverty as a powerful health intervention.

- 30 -

Contact:  hpagainstpoverty@gmail.com

Letter to Premier Wynne on Poverty Reduction

Posted on July 12th, 2014 by kpdorman.

July 11, 2014

Hon Kathleen Wynne, MPP
Premier of Ontario
kwynne.mpp@liberal.ola.org

Hon Eric Hoskins, MPP
Minister of Health and Long Term Care
ehoskins.mpp@liberal.ola.org

Hon Helena Jaczek, MPP
Minister of Community and Social Services
hjaczek.mpp@liberal.ola.org

Dear Premier Wynne, Minister Hoskins, and Minister Jaczek;

We were pleased that Premier Wynne’s Speech From The Throne announced plans for a new poverty reduction strategy for Ontario.

Health Providers Against Poverty is an Ontario-based collective of doctors, nurses, and other frontline healthcare professionals. As health care providers, we see daily the devastating impacts of low income on our patients’ health. Individuals at the lower end of the income spectrum are at greater risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and mental health illness. In the health system, individuals living in poverty are treated differently than those who are wealthy, with less access to specialist health services and lower uptake of many preventive measures. Illness in turn can deepen poverty, particularly through barriers to employment. To ensure a healthy population, we need to not simply treat illness but tackle the upstream causes of illness including poverty.

Your government has taken some steps to reduce poverty, but must act further:

  1. Ontario now has the highest minimum wage in Canada and we applaud the intention to index annual increases to inflation. However, those making a minimum wage will continue to live below the poverty line and your current plan will make this permanent. Along with many others across the province, we call on your government to immediately raise the minimum wage to $14 per hour.
  1. A living wage allows an individual to maintain a basic level of dignity within a community. We call on your government to encourage municipalities to pay city workers a living wage, and to study the impact of action or inaction by municipalities, including on wages, productivity and local economic growth.
  1. The Ontario Child Benefit launched by “Breaking the Cycle” reduced child poverty by 11%, and this is commendable. But this falls short of the goal established in 2008 of a 25% reduction. We encourage a commitment to this original benchmark in reducing poverty in some of Ontario’s most vulnerable. We call on your government to set a timetable for the elimination of child poverty in Ontario.
  1. People who are unable to work are not impacted by minimum wage increases and many of these Ontarians are not impacted at all by the creation of the Ontario Child Benefit. We call on your government to raise social assistance rates immediately by 40%.
  1. We applaud the commitment to expanding the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative and Investment in Affordable Housing Program. We call on your government to develop and publish a specific plan with a timeline to eliminate homelessness, through investments in proven strategies such as “Housing First”, and reduce by 50% the number of families on waiting lists for affordable housing over the next decade.
  1. We understand that you will face questions about how to pay for the expansion of social programs. We call on your government to raise taxes on the wealthiest members of society, including health professionals, and particularly focus on estate and capital gains taxes. As you are aware, the wealthiest have captured much of the wealth created over the past 30 years. Raising taxes can both reduce income inequality and fund essential social programs.
  1. We recognize your government is under significant pressure to limit your social agenda and to focus on economic growth. As health professionals, we encourage the adoption of more broad measures of societal growth such as the Canadian Index of Well-Being.

As concerned citizens and front-line healthcare workers, we know that this is a matter of life and death for thousands of people in the province. This urgency is compounded by the evidence that the health effects and vulnerabilities due to poverty are passed on to the next generation, portending massive social costs and lost potential over the longer term.

We know that you share this sense of urgency with us and we look forward to the unveiling of your new poverty reduction strategy.

Thank you,

Lucy Barker, MD; Mike Benusic, MD; Jim Deutsch, MD; Katie Dorman, MD; Anne Egger, NP; Andrea Perry, OT; Andrew Pinto, MD; Malika Sharma, MD; Fatima Uddin, MD

On behalf of Health Providers Against Poverty 

 

Health Providers Against Poverty Workshop June 2014

Posted on April 25th, 2014 by kpdorman.

The Prevent More To Treat Less joint conference between Public Health and Primary Care was held on June 4-5, 2014 in Toronto, Ontario. 

Health Providers Against Poverty members Kathy Hardill, Monika Dutt, and Katie Dorman hosted a 90-minute workshop on Lessons Learned From Nine Years of Education, Engagement, and Political Advocacy. They described the origins and upstream successes of our organization, provided a frank critique on what has worked and the challenges encountered, and lead an interactive session aimed to identify priority areas for work around poverty and health in Ontario.

Thirty members of the health care sector including health professional students, front-line providers, health centre board members, and representatives from professional organizations participated in the workshop. Priorities for future efforts were identified in a small group breakout session and were finalized by consensus through e-mail following the conference. 

The priorities identified were:

  1. Income Inequity
    1. Apply clinical interventions at the individual client level to optimize income
    2. Reduce income inequity through provincial and national policies such as increased social assistance and minimum wage, mandatory living wage, or a guaranteed annual income 
  2. Health of People Who Are Homeless or Precariously Housed
    1. Enhance access to primary care through service models that increase equity
    2. Increase access to safe and affordable housing, as well as shelter space as long as necessary
  3. Dental Care
    1. Increase access to dental services through advocacy for expanded coverage, i.e. universal dental coverage
  4. Medications
    1. Reduce cost barriers for medications through advocacy for a national Pharmacare program

The workshop presentation can be viewed here

 

Study: Millions of Canadians Struggle To Afford Food

Posted on February 13th, 2014 by kpdorman.

University of Toronto Report Finds That Millions of Canadians Still Struggle To Afford Food

An alarming publication by University of Toronto researchers has revealed that 4 million Canadians, including 1.15 million children, live in households that struggle to afford food.

University of Toronto Professor Valerie Tarasuk published the study in conjunction with PROOF, an interdisciplinary group of researchers working to identify policy options to reduce food insecurity. Building on a report they released last year, the team analyzed municipal data for the first time.

Nearly one in eight households in Canada is impacted by food insecurity, which is defined as inadequate access to food because of financial constraints. This has a detrimental impact on mental and physical effect, with lasting effects for children who grow up in food insecure households.

The team also revealed stark inequities in food security with 28% of black and Aboriginal households reporting some form of food insecurity - more than double the national average.

Further, it was found that 70% of households reliant on social assistance were food insecure in 2012, representing failure of these programs to address even basic necessities.

Find the full report here.

Letter: Premier Wynne Called On For $14 Min Wage

Posted on January 28th, 2014 by gbloch.

Premier Kathleen Wynne
Legislative Building, Queen’s Park
Toronto ON M7A 1A1

January 28, 2014

Re: Health Benefits Of Ensuring That Minimum Wage Is Always Above Poverty Line

Together with hundreds of healthcare providers represented in the Health Providers against Poverty network, many Community Health Centres, and Ontario nurses across Ontario, we call on your leadership to create a benchmark policy on minimum wage to ensure that minimum wage workers in Ontario (working full-time, full year) never have to live under poverty line.

We welcome the recommendation from the Minimum Wage Advisory Panel to increase minimum wage annually indexed to inflation. For this indexation to be effective, we need your bold leadership to sufficiently increase the current minimum wage so it is benchmarked to above-poverty line, effective immediately. Marginal and delayed increase will fail to provide a permanent solution.

As a follow up to our press conference at Queen’s Park on January 14th of this year, we are writing to draw your attention again to the tremendous health benefits in ensuring that all working people in Ontario are above the poverty line. There is now overwhelming Canadian evidence that poverty and low socio-economic status (SES) is the main cause of many health problems and deepening health inequity.

-  Health analysts at Statistics Canada (Cause Specific Mortality by Income Adequacy report) looked at age-standard mortality rate and found that people in the lowest SES had the worst mortality outcomes in terms of COPD, diabetes, HIV/AIDS and suicide.

-  CIHI researchers (Reducing Gaps in Health report) examined age-standardized hospitalization rates found that those in lowest SES had higher rates for 20 illnesses; the risk was highest for substance-related disorder, COPD, diabetes, mental health, and ambulatory care sensitive conditions (ACSC).

-  Epidemiologists at Toronto Public Health (The Unequal City report) found “health gradient” linked to income level for 12 indicators, with those in the lowest SES at highest risk for premature death, low birth weight, self-rated health, lung cancer, gonorrhea, and access barrier to dental visits.

The list goes on. In all studies, the risk decreased step-wise with increase in SES. Recent reports by Canadian Medical Association (What Makes us Sick?) and Ontario Medical Association (Why Poverty is a Medical Problem?) confirm these findings.

In addition to poverty linked illnesses, working poor face additional health risks through other pathways:

i) Below-poverty wage presses working poor to work excessive hours or juggle multiple jobs; research highlight damaging health impacts from this including heart diseases, ulcers and cancers.

ii) Studies have shown that low wage contributes to “effort-reward imbalance,” a known risk factor for acute stress, depression, and many heart related illnesses.

iii) Working poor tend to have reduced access to healthcare services and healthcare benefits (prescription medicine, dental care, eye care etc)

Women, recent immigrants and racialized people are more likely to be working minimum wage jobs and thus bear the brunt of these adverse health impacts. Many of these health impacts are inter-generational. Poverty and low wage among parents has been shown to acutely impact children including hindering cognitive growth and other developmental milestones, setting children up for failure for school and for life.

Below-poverty wage is making hard working Ontarians very sick with preventable chronic illnesses, all of which are top priorities for Ontario’s MOHLTC. As healthcare professionals, we see first-hand these damaging health impacts on working people. However, beyond addressing the symptoms, our hands are largely tied. We can’t tell our clients to eat better, find better housing, take time to relax or exercise more, because how will they afford the healthy food, running shoes, and time this will require.

In addition to reducing poverty, there is very strong evidence that raising the minimum wage has other spill-over economic benefits including promoting more stable jobs, better retention rates, and more investment in employee training. See definitive summary of evidence by Canadian economists Pierre Brochu and David Green (http://www.voxeu.org/article/minimum-wages-and-jobs-new-evidence).  Far from being a “blunt” instrument, raising the minimum wage is a benchmark policy solution for catalyzing a race to the top towards more stable, healthy jobs that is good for workers and for business. Negative employment effects (e.g. job loss/separation) are temporary and limited mostly to youth. This can be readily mitigated through corresponding job programs for youth and tax credits for small businesses. 

The benefits to health of Ontarians and cost savings to the provincial healthcare system can hardly be understated.  Economist Nathan Lurie estimated that raising the income of people in the lowest income quintile just to the second step up would save $2.8 billion in healthcare costs for Ontario (see report The Cost of Poverty). Similarly, economists from the University of Toronto (see report Bad Jobs are making us Sick) showed that increasing income of the poorest twenty percent just by $1,000 will lead to nearly 10,000 fewer chronic conditions, and 6,600 fewer disability days every two weeks. These are tangible health benefits and healthcare cost savings in support of creating a fair, above-poverty minimum wage rate.

Just as inadequate minimum wages force working Ontarians into legislated poverty, your governments can legislate low wage workers out of poverty, and into a situation in which they can protect their health, and their children’s health.  We thus join constituency groups from across Ontario to call on bold leadership from your government to introduce a progressive minimum wage rate policy in Ontario benchmarked to ensure that minimum wage workers are never below poverty line, effective immediately.

Sincerely,

Gary Bloch, Family Physician at St. Michael’s Hospital and a member of Health Providers Against Poverty
Lorraine Telford, Registered Nurse, & Manager of Clinical Programs at LAMP Community Health Centre
Axelle Janczur, Executive Director of Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services

Cc: Deb Mathews, Ontario Minister of Education
       Yasir Naqvi, Ontario Minister of Labour

Letter: Toronto City Budget 2014

Posted on January 27th, 2014 by kpdorman.

2014 City Budget: Toronto Community Organizations and Agencies Demand Action on Homelessness 

To: City of Toronto Council Members

Cc: Shelter Support and Housing Administration

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

We, the undersigned represent community agencies and organizations in the City of Toronto who are concerned with the ongoing homelessness crisis in our city.  We are writing to you to urge you to take action now.
 
As you are aware, City Council voted to bring shelter occupancy rates down to 90% more than 9 months ago, but have failed to keep their promise.  Capacity for all shelters remains well over 90% in almost all sectors, even with the use of the flex beds, and the overall overcrowding or worsening conditions have not been adequately addressed.
 
We call on you as City Councilors to support the motions and directions set at the December 4, 2013 Community Development and Recreation Committee. 


Everyone agrees that long term housing is preferable to shelter beds but it is necessary to recognize that we are operating in a context where social housing options are minimal and efforts to pit 'housing allowance' strategies against maintaining shelter spaces have only deepened the crisis of overcrowding within the hostel system.  Adequate shelter provision must be provided until real viable housing options reduce the need for it.  Therefore, we ask that City Council.

Ensure that the Housing Stabilization Fund (HSF) be maintained at 2013 funding levels in order to prevent homelessness and promote housing stability and restore the criteria around the provision of furniture and household items. As it stands right now, there is a proposed $4.3 million cut to HSF funding. This is unacceptable and must be voted against and full funding restored!
 
Include in the budget the necessary resources ($4.5 million according to Shelter Administration budget briefing note) to increase access to shelter beds so that shelter capacity does not exceed 90% in ANY category of shelter. New shelter space is needed immediately in order to decrease the capacity and crowding in the shelters.  

Support the continued funding for the new women’s shelter that has been opened recently and to increase the capacity in this sector.  Support the development and opening of LGBTQ youth focused shelter and transitional housing.  Ensure a moratorium on the closing of any further shelter.

Provide new funding for and immediately open 24 hour or after hour safe space for women in the downtown east and west ends.  These spaces should consider the unique access needs for women in these areas, should be low barrier and operate with a harm reduction approach.  This issue has been referred over to further reports and consultations, but we need action now.

Open 24 hour warming centres during the extreme cold weather alerts that are:

1) located in neighborhoods across the city where they are needed


2) that are accessible, low barrier with a harm reduction approach, and pet friendly


3) provide cots and blankets for people to rest (as were provided previously during the ice storm) and some sense of privacy


4) provide healthy, hot food


5) provide access to health care provision on site


Until the time that housing and adequate income is available and accessible to all, we require that the very basic need of safe space, shelter and food is met.  We call on the City of Toronto to implement the above recommendations in order to take the step towards this goal.  We hope to see your support for this critical issue at the next city council meeting.
 


Sincerely,

Angela Robertson, Executive Director of Central Toronto Community Health Centres
Bathurst United Church
Cathy Crowe, Street Nurse, co-founder Toronto Disaster Relief Committee 
Greater Toronto Workers Assembly
Health Providers Against Poverty 
Native Women’s Resource Centre of Toronto
ONA (Ontario Nurses Association) Local 054
Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
Parkdale Community Legal Services
Parkdale Activity Recreation Centre (PARC)
Regent Park Community Health Centre 
St. Clare's Multifaith Housing Society
Sanctuary 
Sistering
Social Planning Toronto
South Riverdale Community Health Centre
Street Health

OCAP Website

In The News: Campaign To Raise Minimum Wage

Posted on January 14th, 2014 by kpdorman.

Health Providers Against Poverty Calls On Province To Raise Minimum Wage To $14 Per Hour

Almost half a million people, representing 9% of Ontario's workforce, earn minimum wage that has been frozen at $10.25 per hour for four years. 

A recent report by the Canadian Medical Association concluded that poverty is the biggest barrier to good health. 

Individuals at the bottom of the income spectrum experience significantly higher rates of disease and premature mortality than those with higher incomes. 

Health Providers Against Poverty held a press conference today to ask Premier Kathleen Wynne to raise minimum wage to a minimum of $14 per hour. This is the latest in a province-wide campaign to raise the minimum wage.

Media Coverage

Minmum Wage Campaign Seeks Hike To $14 Per Hour In Ontario - CTV Toronto 
Minimum Wage A Health Issue, Group Says - CBC News
Doctors, Nurses Petition For $14 Minimum Wage - Global News Toronto
Ontario Health Workers Prescribe $14 Minimum Wage - The Toronto Star
Health Providers Call For 'Livable Minimum Wage' - CHCH News
Doctor's Orders: Raise The Minimum Wage - Huffington Post 

 

Press Release: Raise Ontario's Minimum Wage To $14

Posted on January 12th, 2014 by kpdorman.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Health Care Providers Join Growing Calls To Raise Ontario’s Minimum Wage

TORONTO – January 13, 2014 – As the Ontario government gears up for the next provincial budget Health Providers Against Poverty will hold a press conference.

Where: Queens Park Media Studio, Ontario Legislature.
When: Tuesday January 14th at 10.30 a.m.

The news conference will be the latest in a number of public comments by health providers on the impact of low income on health. The Ontario Medical Review recently published a series of articles detailing why poverty is a medical problem. This followed a report last year by the Canadian Medical Association, which concluded poverty is the biggest barrier to good health for Canadians.  Almost half a million people, representing 9% of the Ontario’s work force, earn minimum wage that has been frozen at $10.25 for four years.

Health service providers will speak about the impact they see of poverty and low wages on people’s health. Speakers include:

  • Dr. Gary Bloch, Health Providers Against Poverty; Physician, St Michael’s Hospital, Toronto
  • Axelle Janczur, Executive Director, Access Alliance Community Health Centre, and Lorraine Telford; Registered Nurse, Manager of Clinical Programs at LAMP Community Health Centre, Mississauga. These are two of Ontario’s 75 Community Health Centres, which are mandated to serve vulnerable populations. 

During the press conference Axelle Janczur will spotlight new research, which reveals the damaging health impacts on immigrant communities of low wage work.

Photo Opportunity:  The speakers will unveil their prescription to the Ontario government for a healthier Ontario.

Health Providers Against Poverty is a province wide alliance of physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, and other health providers committed to addressing poverty as a health issue. On January 14th community groups across Ontario will be calling Premier Wynne and MPPs asking for a $14 minimum wage for a healthy Ontario.

See http://raisetheminimumwage.ca/ for further details on the campaign.

-30-

For further information contact:
Jacquie Maund, Association of Ontario Health Centres, jacquie@aohc.org Tel 647-294-5724

On Twitter:
Join us in asking Premier Wynne @Kathleen_Wynne to raise the minimum wage to $14 using the hashtags #14now #raiseminwage #onpoli.

 

Poverty represents a serious but reversible threat to the health of Ontarians. As health providers we enjoy privilege and access to power which many others do not. As a high-impact health intervention, we will work to eliminate poverty.