Press Release: Toronto Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy

Posted on June 23rd, 2015 by kpdorman.

June 23, 2015

Health Providers Concerned That Toronto’s Twenty-Year Poverty Reduction Strategy Fails To Help Those In Immediate Need

TORONTO - Health Providers Against Poverty (HPAP) applauds the City of Toronto’s release of an Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy, however we remain apprehensive that this report will lead to real, measurable changes for our patients. While the Strategy identifies several immediate needs, it outlines a vague twenty-year vision. As front-line providers, we see daily the detrimental impact that poverty and income inequality has on our patients’ health and we strongly encourage the addition of bold timelines with measurable targets to the final Strategy.

We commend Deputy Mayor Pam McConnell for prioritizing inequality as one of the biggest threats to Torontonians. We concur with her statement that “systemic change will require embedding poverty reduction into the (entire) culture of the city’s DNA.” The 48-page Strategy, built with input from those impacted by poverty, identifies important values and directions. The report calls for an “inclusive strategy” and acknowledges that “policy choices have made Toronto the most unequal city in Canada”.

The Report cites Toronto’s 2014 success in the construction of 140 affordable rental-housing units, with 655 affordable homes built to date. But, as the report admits, 90,000 households are on the social housing waitlist and over 16,000 people used shelters last year. While Toronto was indeed a pioneer in adopting Housing First, to date only a few hundred individuals have received housing through this project. HPAP encourages the City to provide immediate concrete financial support to those who need affordable housing.

“I have encountered several individuals, this month alone, who are having to choose between buying food, paying for medications, and accessing other basic needs, because they are having to spend the majority of their income on substandard housing,” said Katie Dorman, a physician in Toronto. “Their health is deteriorating while they languish on a ten-year waiting list for subsidized housing in a city as prosperous as Toronto.”

The current degree of income inequality in Toronto represents a crisis that is harming the wellbeing of many members of our communities. HPAP supports the vision set forth in the Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy, but calls for inclusion of the following in the Final Strategy: 

1. Timelines for each priority set out in the report with specific implementation plans and measurable targets for immediate, short- and long-term goals.

2. A cost analysis for each priority and a plan to ensure ongoing funding.

3. A review process to ensure progress monitoring and accountability where targets are not met.

Last night, the Councillors of the City of Toronto and East York proved that in a 3-hour session they could change the face of their part of the city by limiting residential street speed limits. It was incredible to see the city band together to tackle this safety issue. We aspire to all city councillors replicating that fervor and execution on the Poverty Reduction Strategy.

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15 & Fairness Campaign

Posted on May 19th, 2015 by kpdorman.

HPAP members show their support for 15 & Fairness at the 2015 HPAP Annual General Meeting.

Join the fight for decent work here:


Press Release: Ontario Budget Fails People Living In Poverty

Posted on April 24th, 2015 by kpdorman.

2015 Ontario Budget Fails People Living In Poverty

Apr 24 2015

Toronto--Despite the Ontario government’s commitment towards its renewed Poverty Reduction Strategy, the 2015 Ontario Budget contains little that benefits people living in poverty.

“It’s encouraging that the government is not cutting back on prior investments in affordable housing, but we need much more to help the 1.7 million Ontarians living in poverty and the thousands of Ontarians without adequate housing” said Dr. Samantha Green, a family physician who works in Toronto’s downtown.

“I am happy to see the Government continue to explore the concept of Community Hubs, shared spaces for social services, education, and health services.  And I welcome the expanded Youth Action Plan for helping at-risk youth attain employment,” said Andrea Perry, an Occupational Therapist.  “I also commend the Government’s plan to index the Ontario Child Benefit to inflation and would like to see all social assistance indexed to inflation in this way.”

But the Budget does not include any target, timelines, or funding for the second Poverty Reduction Strategy.  There are no new investments towards ending homelessness, one of the Government’s key Poverty Reduction pillars.

The 2015 Budget also includes a hidden cut—an increase of just 1% in social assistance rates beginning in the fall of 2015, well below the rate of inflation.  “We know that poverty makes people sick, and current social assistance rates will only lead to further illness,” said Dr. Gary Bloch.

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HPAP AGM May 7 2015

Posted on April 15th, 2015 by kpdorman.
HPAP AGM May 7 2015.jpg



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.

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Letter: To Premier Wynne on Poverty Reduction

Posted on July 12th, 2014 by kpdorman.

July 11, 2014

Hon Kathleen Wynne, MPP
Premier of Ontario

Hon Eric Hoskins, MPP
Minister of Health and Long Term Care

Hon Helena Jaczek, MPP
Minister of Community and Social Services

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 14th, 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.

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.