Thursday, October 14, 2010

Social Justice is Good for Our Hearts

Latest estimates are that 23% of premature years of life lost prior to age 75 in Canada
can be attributed to income differences. That is, 23% of all of the premature years of life
lost to Canadians is accounted for by the differences that exists among wealthy, middleincome,
and low income Canadians. The disease most related to income differences is
cardiovascular disease. Twenty-two percent of all years lost that can be attributed to
income differences are caused by cardiovascular disease.

In addition, it is estimated that income differences account for a 24% excess in
premature deaths prior to 75 years from cardiovascular disease among Canadians. Were
all Canadians’ rates of death from cardiovascular disease equal to those living in the
wealthiest quintile of neighbourhoods, there would be 6,366 fewer deaths each year from
cardiovascular disease. An estimate of the annual costs to Canada of these incomerelated
cardiovascular disease effects is $4 billion.

This report outlines the role that income and its distribution play in the incidence of
cardiovascular disease. There is particular focus on how living on low income -- combined
with government policies that limit access to basic needs and resources required for health
-- contributes to the process of social exclusion by which individuals are denied full
participation in Canadian life. This exploration of the role of income on cardiovascular
health is particularly timely as the distribution of income is becoming less equitable in

Societal changes that increase the numbers of Canadians living on low incomes and
foster social exclusion are considered in relation to what is known about the societal
determinants of cardiovascular disease. Means are presented for addressing these issues
in order to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease in Canada. These include
recommendations for reducing the number of Canadians living on low incomes, reducing
the social exclusion of citizens from participation in Canadian society, and ways by which
the social safety nets that support population health can be restored.

Side effects of a lifestyle emphasis are discussed as are reasons for resistance to
thinking in new ways about the causes and means of preventing cardiovascular disease.
Finally, community activities that will support heart health that are consistent with the best
principles of health promotion are presented.

From - Social Justice is Good for Our Hearts

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