Poor people in Ontario pay for their low income with their health

So says the foreword of Health Quality Ontario’s recently released report devoted entirely to health equity – Income and Health: Opportunities for health equity in Ontario.  

Health equity in Ontario would allow all Ontarians to reach their full health potential. It would give everyone the same opportunity for good health.

Our health is intricately linked with income, education and our physical surroundings. The relationship between income and health risks and outcomes is known and is confirmed by the findings of the report.

Individuals and families with low incomes often can’t afford nutritious food ($8 cauliflower any one?) And low-income parents are often forced to surrender to picky eaters to minimize food waste.

Although a relatively healthy province, the latest report from Health Quality lays out the wide disparities between the poorest and the richest in Ontario.

Risk factor

Poorest Ontarians

Richest Ontarians

Smoking Rate

22.1%

14.4%

Inadequate fruit and vegetable intake

65.2%

56.7%

Physical inactivity rate

54.7%

32.1%

Multiple chronic conditions

23.5%

12.4%

All of these factors have a very real, very measurable impact. Men living in the poorest neighbourhoods in Ontario die, on average five years earlier that those living in the richest. For women, those living in the poorest neighbourhoods die, on average, more than two years earlier than those living in the wealthiest neighbourhoods.

But the good news is health inequities can be fixed. And it often doesn’t take much to have a lasting impact.

A study from the University of Manitoba founds that $81 a month given to low income women lead to a 21% reduction babies born at a low birth weight and 17.5% reduction in preterm births.

We can do better. The Health Quality Ontario report establishes our baseline. Let’s hope that by the time Health Quality Ontario releases its next report we can see some improvements.