Canada: A land of missed opportunity for addressing the social determinants of health
The first 25 years of universal public health insurance in Canada saw major reductions in income-related health inequalities related to conditions most amenable to medical treatment. While equity issues related to health care coverage and access remain important, the social determinants of health (SDH) represent the next frontier for reducing health inequalities, a point reinforced by the work of the World Health Organization's Commission on Social Determinants of Health. In this regard, Canada's recent performance suggests a bleak prognosis. Canada's track record since the 1980s in five respects related to social determinants of health: (a) the overall redistributive impact of tax and transfer policies; (b) reduction of family and child poverty; (c) housing policy; (d) early childhood education and care; and (e) urban/metropolitan health policy have reduced Canada's capacity to reduce existing health inequalities. Reasons for this are explored and means of advancing this agenda are outlined.
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