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Health Equity

Take action for a healthier community!

Our health is primarily affected by the conditions in which we live, learn, work and play. Social and economic conditions like income, housing, access to nutritious food and our sense of social connectedness are powerful determinants of health.

Health equity means that all people can reach their full health potential and are not disadvantaged from attaining it because of their race, gender, age, socioeconomic status or other socially determined circumstances.

Learn more about the social determinants of health in this video “Making the Connections: Our City, Our Society, Our Health” by the Wellesley Institute and this one “Health Inequalities in Canada” by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Income and Health:

Income often has the most impact on health as it influences our living conditions and affects our overall quality of life and general well-being.

What does poverty look like in the County and City of Peterborough? Here’s what the statistics tell us:

  • There are approximately 20,265 people, or 15% of all households, living with low-incomes in Peterborough, (2015).
  • An even higher percentage, 22%, or 1,690 children 0-5 years, live in low income.
  • Over half (52%) of renters (8,045 households) spend more than 30% of their income on shelter costs, which is considered unaffordable. (Low Income and its Impact on Health, 2017)
  • One in six households (16.5%) experience food insecurity.(Nutritious Food Basket Report, 2017).
  • Among people with the lowest income, only 59% of people visit the dentist at least once a year, and only 52% have dental insurance.

In Peterborough, poverty and its impact on health is a major concern.

Research has shown that people who live with the lowest incomes have a lower life expectancy, and higher rates for cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and respiratory diseases. Children living in poverty are more likely to have poorer developmental outcomes, to drop out of school sooner, and to suffer from asthma and chronic diseases.

It has been suggested that over 20% of health care spending in Canada is due to income disparities. Policies and programs which reduce social and economic inequities can reduce the burden on the health care system.

Take action now!

Here are some things you can do right now to create communities where everyone is able to afford the basics of life and has a fair chance to be healthy:

Educate yourself.

  • Gain an understanding about what it’s like to live in poverty. Spend time with people who experience it every day.
  • Learn more about the root causes of poverty and find out more about the impact of various social determinants of health.

Advocate for change. Speak up.  Your voice can make a difference.

  • Write or speak to your municipal council member, local MPP or MP. Consider what improved social assistance rates, increased minimum wage, affordable housing, childcare and public transit, or a national drug plan would mean for people in our community. Consider income and health when you vote.
  • Work with others to take action. Join a group or coalition working on issues related to poverty.

There are many active and effective groups in Peterborough, including Work Groups of the Peterborough Poverty Reduction Network focused on food, housing, employment, income and basic needs as well as the Basic Income Peterborough Network.

Contribute Locally.

  • Support local programs and services which are working to meet people’s immediate needs and providing skill-building opportunities. This might include volunteering, donating or helping with fundraising, while work continues on longer-term strategies. (ie.; or visit and search to identify services or organizations)

Resources: Health Equity and the Social Determinants of Health

For more information about local social determinants of health and efforts to address them, see these resources:

Low Income and its Impact on Health in Peterborough City and County (2017)

Limited Incomes: A Recipe for Food Insecurity (2017)

A Roof Over My Head: Homelessness Count (2018)

Housing is Fundamental (2017)

Precarious Employment Research Initiative (2018)

For more information on health equity and what’s happening at the provincial, national and international levels in poverty reduction, look at these helpful resources and web sites:

Ontario’s Poverty Reduction Strategy

Canada’s First Poverty Reduction Strategy

Improving the Odds: Championing Health Equity in Ontario

National Collaborating Centre for the Determinants of Health

World Health Organization “Closing the Gap in a Generation”