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Strengthen Your Poverty Reduction Work - Engaging with the Health Sector

Submitted by Natasha Pei on February 20, 2018 - 6:30am

Over the past decade, we have seen an exciting convergence of the work of health providers and anti-poverty organizers. This has come about thanks to a renewed interest in the impact of the Social Determinants of Health on the wellbeing of individuals and communities.

Increasingly, the health sector is recognizing that they will not be able to achieve goals of improving health outcomes without tackling the social inequities that underlie many of their most vulnerable clients’ health challenges. Similarly, the anti-poverty sector is realizing that health providers offer a unique and powerful perspective on the lived experience of their socially marginalized clients, as well as a powerful and respected voice in calls to end poverty and income inequality.

In this webinar, Gary Bloch and Trish Garner will share insights from their years of experience in working to improve health outcomes and the social structures that threaten our wellbeing; in particular, they will highlight specific actions that health providers can take to address the Social Determinants of Health, and critical contributions they can bring to collaborative poverty reduction efforts.

Watch the Recording

After the webinar, we followed up with Trish Garner to answer more of your webinar questions:

Q. One of the challenges we are facing at our poverty reduction roundtable is that Social Services and Public Health are working in silos with almost no integration. What do you suggest a first step should be so that we work together to address poverty?

 A. Invite everyone to the table to learn from each other and figure out how to collaborate with each other. Find ways to define the value of both fields using the upstream/downstream story and then work together on a shared advocacy goal using the strength of both perspectives. Identify Public Health as an asset to Social Services in defining and supporting their advocacy role. 

Q. What would a provincial health approach to poverty reduction strategies for young children 0 - 6 look like from your point of view? What major outcome indicators would you consider? What partnerships could you see between health, social, and educational domains on a provincial level?

A. It would contain multiple elements to support families and their children, including:

  • Universal child care, free for those earning less than $40,000
  • Adequate, affordable housing 
  • Strong child benefit
  • Targeted policies to avoid unnecessary apprehension of indigenous children and other child welfare issues- higher income assistance and minimum wages
  • Expanded health provision for dental, optical, prescription drugs

There are multiple health, social and educational outcome indicators that could be tracked, including number of families lifted out of poverty and reduced food insecurity. This should be a cross-ministry approach at the provincial level. 

Q. To what extent do either/both of you draw upon human rights obligations of Canada and the provinces/territories to the right to health  (which encompasses both access to health services but also to the SDoH) and the array of inextricable human rights such as a decent standard of living, non-discrimination, housing, water, etc.?

A. The BC Poverty Reduction Coalition is grounded in a human rights foundation. We always highlight this in our work within BC and also partner with Canada Without Poverty to intervene at the United Nations when there are opportunities, such as the Universal Periodic Review of Canada. We are advocating for this approach to be included in the poverty reduction legislation currently being developed in BC. This is important to our work because it foregrounds people in poverty as leaders and represents them as rights bearers not simply recipients of charity. It is a way to shift the dialogue from charity to social justice in order to make the necessary upstream actions.

Still have questions? Email Dr. Gary Bloch or Trish Garner


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