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The built environment and health

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy11063
Last Reviewed
2018-03-03
Date
2013-12-07
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Policy document
Last Reviewed
2018-03-03
Date
2013-12-07
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
The Built Environment is part of the overall ecosystem of our earth. It encompasses all the buildings, spaces and products that are created, or at least significantly modified by people. It includes our homes, schools and workplaces, parks, business areas and roads. It extends overhead in the form of electric transmission lines, underground in the form of waste disposal sites and subway trains and across the country in the form of highways (Health Canada, 1997)." The built environment affects every one of us every day, and mounting evidence suggests that it can play a significant role in our state of health and well-being. This policy statement provides the perspective of the Canadian Medical Association on how the built environment can influence health, and what all sectors in society might do to ensure that community design and development takes the health of residents into consideration. Background In the 19th century, the industrial revolution attracted hordes of people into cities. Congestion, squalid living conditions, and lack of clean water, clean air, and proper sewage systems led to outbreaks of diseases such as cholera and tuberculosis. These events, coupled with the development of the germ theory, served as a catalyst for public and professional awareness of how the built environment has direct health impacts; clean water, fresh air, uncongested living conditions, and proper housing were all recognized as constituents of good health. During the past three decades, the 'Healthy Cities' movement has brought a renewed interest to the health implications of the built environment by focusing on disease prevention through community design. Over the years this idea has proliferated, and a body of literature has grown revealing the large scope of health risk factors that may be influenced by the built environment. The literature indicates that the following connections between the built environment and public health are possible: o Decreased physical activity o Increased prevalence of obesity o Increased prevalence of asthma and other respiratory diseases o Injuries and unintended fatalities o Heat exposure. (Frank , Kavage S, & Devlin A, 2012) (Franks, Kavage & Devlin, 2012; Health Canada 2013) There is also mounting evidence that these factors may be compounded for vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly, and those living in poverty. Smart Growth is an urban planning and transportation theory that became popular almost two decades ago. Though different organizations may differ slightly in their view of what smart growth means, its general aims are to build compact accessible cities that avoid urban sprawl and mitigate auto-dependence. The 'Smart Growth' movement contains tenets that research supports in creating healthy built environments such as mixed land uses, providing transportation alternatives like walking and bicycle infrastructure and public transit, and creating walkable neighbourhoods. (Smart Growth BC, 2012)(See definitions) What the Research Is Telling Us Physical Activity Canada's physical activity guidelines recommend that children from 5 to 11 should be active for at least 60 minutes a day; those 18 and over should be active for at least 150 minutes per week. (Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology, 2011). Participation in regular physical activity bestows substantial health benefits; it can lengthen and improve quality of life and reduce the risk for many physical and mental health conditions. Physical activity can improve overall fitness, lower risk for heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure, lower risk for non-insulin dependent diabetes and the risk of overweight. (Dannenberg, Frumkin, & Jackson, 2011) Physical activity includes more than exercise and leisure time activity, it also includes active transportation such as walking to school, work or errands as part of daily living. One of the most important determinants of physical activity is a person's neighbourhood. (Jackson & Kochtotzky) Research shows that urban sprawl, access to parks and recreation/fitness facilities, and neighbourhood walkability all may have an impact on physical activity levels (Cutts, Darby, Boone, & Brewis, 2009; Ewing, Schmid, Killingsworth, Zlot, & Raudenbush, 2003). Individuals living in walkable neighbourhood with a mix of land uses and interconnected street networks were found to be 2-4 times more likely to achieve 30 minutes moderate physical activity a day. Urban design characteristics associated with higher physical activity rates include pedestrian-oriented street and site design, parks, trails, playgrounds and other recreational facilities within walking distance and sidewalks. (Frank , Kavage S, & Devlin A, 2012) A barrier to physical activity can be the perception of the lack of a safe place to be active. Safety concerns keep 1 in 5 Canadians from walking or bicycling. Urban design that encourages walking and cycling can improve perceived neighbourhood safety. (Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, 2011) There are unique barriers to active modes of transportation in rural communities. Rural environments often lack pedestrian facilities and bike lanes; stores, schools, jobs, and services are sometimes located far apart from homes; and parks and recreation facilities are rare. Understanding these barriers is the first step towards finding opportunities to remove them. (Active Living Research and the Public Health Institute, 2013) CMA' policy on Active Transportation recommends that all sectors (government, business and the public) work together, as a matter of priority, to create a culture in their communities that supports and encourages active transportation and physical activity. Increased prevalence of obesity Obesity has almost doubled in the past 3 decades; in 1978 the measured obesity rate was 13.8% and in 2008 the measured obesity rate was 25.4% (PHAC/CIHI, 2011). Obesity is associated with high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease, which are among the leading causes of disability and death (Statistics Canada, 2008). Mental health conditions, type II diabetes, several types of cancer, among many other diseases, are also linked to obesity (Guh, Zhang, Bansback, Amarsi, Birmingham, & Anis, 2009). The combined cost of obesity and these related conditions was estimated to be $4.3 billion dollars in 2005 (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2012). There are many factors involved in this increase, but a causal indicator is the decline in physical activity among Canadians: In 2005, 47% of Canadians were reported as being 'inactive' (Human Resource and Skills Development Canada, 2006). Urban design that encourages sedentary living habits such as work, home, school and shopping separated by distances that discourage walking, parking lots built as close as possible to final destinations not only discourage walking but encourage automobile usage. (Jackson, Kochtitzky, CDC) Less walkable, auto dependent built environments have been correlated with higher body weights and obesity. (Frank , Kavage S, & Devlin A, 2012) Furthermore, research indicates that the food environment that we live in, and the amount of healthy food choices we have access to, can affect the chance of becoming obese as well. For example, neighbourhoods with a high density of fast food restaurants or neighbourhoods with poor access to grocery stores (food deserts) have both been correlated with obesity (Larsen & Gilliland, 2008; Cummins & Macintyre, 2006; Frank L. D., 2009). Increased prevalence of asthma and other respiratory diseases In August 2008, the CMA released a report estimating that the effects of air pollution would result in 11,000 hospital admissions and 21,000 deaths Canada wide, totaling a financial cost of close to $8.1 billion dollar (Canadian Medical Association, 2008). Carbon monoxide, sulfur and nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, ozone, and lead, among other toxins, are emitted into the air every day from industrial processes and car exhaust. These air-borne chemicals are associated with heart disease, cancer, acute respiratory illness, and the aggravation of other respiratory illnesses such as asthma (Frank L. D., 2009). While the built environment does not directly produce these chemicals, it has a role to play in where those chemicals are emitted, where they are concentrated, and, in the case of vehicles, how much of them are produced. Urban sprawl has been tied to longer commute times and higher total vehicle miles traveled per person. Neighbourhood design and walkability have been identified as factors that can affect number of vehicle trips taken and transportation mode choice, and increased mixed land use has been identified as a factor that could further decrease emission rates (Newman & Kenworthy, 1989; Frank, Sallis, Conway, Chapman, Saelens, & Bachman, 2006). Injuries and unintentional fatalities Transport-related injuries accounted for a total of $3.7 billion dollars in healthcare costs in Canada in 2009 (SmartRisk, 2009). The majority of this financial burden was related to motor vehicle, pedestrian, and cycling accidents. Death and injuries from these types of incidents typically happen at a younger age which both increases the years of life lost due to death or disability and the financial burden of continuing care (SmartRisk, 2009). The built environment perhaps has the most identifiable and direct correlation to this category of impacts. Designs of auto-oriented environments that promote high traffic volume, high traffic speed, and low accessibility for pedestrians and cyclists lead to increased incidence of injuries and fatalities (Surface Transportation Policy Partnership, 2002). Increased prevalence of illness and death related to heat exposure The 'urban heat island effect' is a phenomenon correlated with urban environments that are primarily asphalt and concrete and lack vegetation and green space. Such environments have been estimated to have anywhere from 1oC to 12oC higher surface level temperatures in comparison to rural areas (United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2012). This can be especially dangerous for elderly individuals in the summertime and studies have demonstrated increased mortality amongst these populations during hot summers (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2009). This is not only an issue of building materials and the balance of green space but has to do with isolation as well: If elderly residents have poor access to public transportation they may not be able to reach air-conditioned facilities. Noise Exposure Noise - be it from transport, industry, neighbours, or construction - is a prominent feature of the urban environment. Prolonged exposure to environmental noise has been directly linked to physical and psychosocial health outcomes, including hypertension, high blood pressure and heart disease, hearing impairment, stress levels, and sleep. There is some evidence linking noise to reduced ability to concentrate and more aggressive behavior. (Stansfeld SA, 2003) In general, denser neighbourhoods have higher levels of ambient noise through the concentration of more people, traffic, and activities. However, as with air pollution, noise exposure is extremely site-specific and not necessarily exclusive to walkable or auto-oriented neighbourhoods. (Frank , Kavage S, & Devlin A, 2012) Canadian noise mapping data would assist researchers in assessing how environmental noise affects health and assist communities to proactively manage noise pollution. Vulnerable populations The research shows that certain built environment characteristics may affect specific populations such as children, the elderly, low-income populations. Children: Overweight and obesity is an issue for Canadians nationwide, but particularly so for children. Between 1978 to 2004 there was a 70% increase in overweight and obese children aged 12-17 (Statistics Canada, 2006). Obesity in children can lead to health issues such as hypertension, glucose intolerance, and orthopedic complications (Statistics Canada, 2006). Furthermore obesity in childhood has a high likelihood of carrying over into adulthood and may result in further health problems such as diabetes and heart disease (Statistics Canada, 2006). With this in mind, environments that promote physical activity are especially important for this segment of the population. Living in mixed use communities with walkable destinations, parks and recreational facilities is related to greater physical activity. (Dannenburg, Frumkin & Jackson, 2011) Elderly: The elderly population is generally less physically robust and more prone to chronic illnesses, which make them especially vulnerable to air pollution and heat exposure. Physical activity is an important aspect of daily life for this age group as it has been shown to reduce the negative health impacts of aging (Vogel, Brechat, Lepetre, Kaltenbach, Berthel, & Lonsdorfer, 2009). Being physically active however, requires accessible and safe streets that cater to the needs of individuals with mobility issues. Special consideration is required when constructing the built environment to ensure the needs of this growing population. CMA's policy on Health and Health Care Principles for an Aging Population recommends that communities take the needs and potential limitations of older Canadians into account when designing buildings, walkways, transportation systems or other aspects of the built environment. Low Income Populations: Low income populations are at higher risk for chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure and diabetes, and have a lower overall survivability for major heart attacks (Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Control. , 2002; Statistics Canada, 1996-97). They are also more likely to smoke, be overweight or obese, and are less likely to be physically active (Creatore, Gozdyra, Booth, & Glazier, 2007). Many of these factors may be due to limited access to stable housing, housing location (normally close to highways or industrial zones with high pollution exposure), neighbourhood safety, and lack of access to or affordability of healthy food options. Recommendations Planning and public health combined efforts in the 19th century to improve living conditions. Today there is a need for health care practitioners, particularly those in the public health field, and community planners to work together, to share their expertise and efforts, to improve the health and well-being of Canadians. By designing communities that encourage and support healthy living - physical activity, healthy weights, access to healthy foods - we can address some of the risk factors for many chronic diseases and create supportive, active communities. Health Care Associations can: o Advocate for health supportive environments by increasing the public and policy makers' understanding of the impact of the built environment on health. o Advocate for the contribution that public health professionals can make to urban planning and development to ensure that population health impacts are recognized and mitigated. o Provide community planners with strong public health arguments and health data to support healthy communities. Health Care Professionals can: o Incorporate an awareness of a patient's built environment (such as housing, access to transportation and healthy foods) into treatment programs and health counseling. o Encourage your community to adopt policies and design principles that build healthy supportive environments. Federal, Provincial and Local Governments can: o Integrate concepts of population health into urban planning. o Promote multidisciplinary planning teams, including professionals in medicine, public health and community design to ensure that all stakeholders take health impacts into account. o Incorporate health impact assessments into community planning and development initiatives in the public sector. o Encourage the private sector to provide infrastructure and amenities in developments that promote healthy living. The Public can: o Learn more about the connection between the built environment and health and advocate for positive change. o Become involved in public consultations regarding local community planning and development. Further Research o Develop research projects at the Federal level on the impact of the built environment on health to inform and help coordinate programs and initiatives at the provincial and local levels. o Focus on creating a standardized set of health indicators that can be uniformly applied to assess the status of a community's built environment. o Research into the effectiveness of policy options on various communities (urban, suburban, rural). Conclusion It is important that we acknowledge how our surroundings can affect our lives and health, and work together to create positive change. The CMA is willing to work with other people and organizations to ensure that the influence of the built environment on health receives the attention that it warrants with the ultimate goal of building or re-inventing healthy communities for all Canadians. Definitions In order of appearance Inactive: "Respondents are classified as active, moderately active or inactive based on an index of average daily physical activity over the past 3 months. For each leisure time physical activity engaged in by the respondent, an average daily energy expenditure is calculated by multiplying the number of times the activity was performed by the average duration of the activity by the energy cost (kilocalories per kilogram of body weight per hour) of the activity. The index is calculated as the sum of the average daily energy expenditures of all activities. Respondents are classified as follows: 3.0 kcal/kg/day or more = physically active; 1.5 to 2.9 kcal/kg/day = moderately active; less than 1.5 kcal/kg/day = inactive". (Human Resource and Skills Development Canada, 2006). Urban Sprawl: "A particular type of suburban development characterized by very low-density settlements, both residential and non-residential; dominance of movement by use of private automobiles, unlimited outward expansion of new subdivisions and leap-frog developments of these subdivisions; and segregation of land uses by activity." (United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, 1999) Walkability: Walkability refers to the ease with which pedestrians can move within and between environments. The literature gives varied definitions but the main variable to consider are the following: mixed land use (defined below), proximity to destinations (accessibility and convenience), pedestrian facilities (sidewalks, urban furniture etc...), street connectivity (short block lengths, availability of multiple alternate routes etc...), aesthetics (landscape, vegetation, architecture), presences of public spaces (parks, plazas, etc...), presence of traffic calming measures (lower speed limits, street narrowing, speed bumps etc...), and access to transit. (Shay, Spoon, & Khattak, 2003) Transportation Mode Choice: Transportation mode choice refers to an individuals decision regarding how to get from one destination to another. The theory behind mode choice is complex and involves characteristics of the built environment, socio-demographic and socioeconomic variables, benefit-cost analysis, and personal preference. (Cervero, Built Environments and Mode Choice: Toward a Normative Framework, 2002) Mixed Land Use: "Land use mix is the composition of uses within a given geographic area." (Cervero, Land Use Mixing and Suburban Mobility, 1998) The uses referred to can be restaurants, offices, studios, shops, or any variety of business, institution, natural space, or recreation site. In the literature there are various indices and equations used to measure the degree of 'mixed land use' in an area. Urban Heat Island Effect: The urban heat island effect occurs when the sun significantly heats urban surfaces (concrete, asphalt, etc...) to significantly higher temperatures than the surroundings air (can be upwards of 27-50oC). Comparatively shaded or more moist regions (such as rural areas with lots of vegetation) stay much closer to the surrounding air temperature. This heat imbalance between urban surfaces and surrounding air causes heat to transfer from those surfaces to the air, elevated the temperature above what it normally would be. This happens both at a surface and an atmospheric level. (United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2012) Smart Growth: Smart Growth is an urban planning and transportation theory that became popular almost two decades ago. Though different organization's may differ slightly in their view of what smart growth means, it's general aims are to build compact accessible cities that avoid urban sprawl and mitigate auto-dependence. Some of the principles of this movement are as follows: 1). Incorporate mixed land uses into community designs 2). Build compact, accessible neighbourhoods close to jobs and amenities 3). Provide alternative modes of public transportation 4). Diversify housing to meet the needs of people from all socioeconomic classes 5). Maintain and protect natural open spaces 6). Build within existing communities instead of developing beyond community boundaries 7). Preserve agricultural land 8). Use new, sustainable technology in infrastructure and buildings 9). Develop community identity 10). Encourage active citizens to remain engaged in their communities (Smart Growth BC, 2012) Bibliography Human Resource and Skills Development Canada. (2006). Retrieved July 15, 2012, from Indicators of Well-Being in Canada: Physical Activity: http://www4.hrsdc.gc.ca/.3ndic.1t.4r@-eng.jsp?iid=8 Active Living Research and the Public Health Institute. (2013). Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Promoting Active Transportation in Rural Areas.. Retrieved September 2013, from Active Living Research : http://activelivingresearch.org/where-rubber-meets-road-promoting-active-transportation-rural-areas Canadian Medical Association. (2008). No Breathing Room: National Illness Cost of Air Pollution. Ottawa: CMA. Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology. (2011). Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines. Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009, May 31). Extreme Heat: A Prevention Guide to Promote Your Personal Health and Safety. Retrieved July 15, 2012, from CDC: http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/heat_guide.asp Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Control. . (2002). Diabetes in Canada, 2nd Edition. Ottawa: Health Canada. Cervero, R. (1998). Land Use Mixing and Suburban Mobility. Transportation Quarterly, 42(3). Cervero, R. (2002). Built Environments and Mode Choice: Toward a Normative Framework. Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment , 7(4), 265-284. Creatore, M., Gozdyra, P., Booth, G., & Glazier, R. (2007). Chapter 1: Setting the Context. In M. Creatore, P. Gozdyra, G. Booth, R. Glazier, & M. Tynan, Neighbourhood Environments and Resources for Healthy Living - A Focus on Diabetes in Toronto: ICES Atlas. Toronto: Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences. Cummins, S., & Macintyre, S. (2006). Food Environments and Obesity - Neighbourhood or Nation. International Journal of Epidemiology, 35(1), 100-104. Cutts, B., Darby, K., Boone, C., & Brewis, A. (2009). City Structure, Obesity, and Environmental Justice: An Integrated Analysis of Physical and Social Barriers to Walkable Streets and Park Access. Social Science and Medicine, 69(9), 1314-1322. Dennenberg, A. L., Howard, F., & J, J. R. (Eds.). (2011). Making Healthy Places Designing and Building for Health, Well-being and Sustainability . Washington: Island Press. Department of Health and Human Resources. (2004, August 20). National Institute of Health. Retrieved July 30, 2012, from Obesity and the Built Environment: http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/rfa-files/rfa-es-04-003.html Ewing, R., Schmid, T., Killingsworth, R., Zlot, A., & Raudenbush, S. (2003). Relationship Between Urban Sprawl and Physical Activity, Obesity, and Morbidity. The Science of Health Promotion, 18(1), 47-57. Frank , L., Kavage S, & Devlin A. (2012). Health and the Built Environment: A Review. World Medical Association. Frank, L. D. (2009, January). Final Report on Health Assessment Tool Development for Peel Region by Larry Frank. Retrieved July 15, 2012, from Peel Region: http://www.peelregion.ca/health/urban/pdf/Peel-Lit-Review-Final-11072008-submitted.pdf Frank, L., Sallis, J., Conway, T., Chapman, J., Saelens, B., & Bachman, W. (2006). Many Pathways from Land Use to Health: Associations Between Neighborhood Walkability and Active Tranportation, Body Mass Index, and Air Quality. Journal of the American Planning Association, 72(1), 75-87. Guh, D., Zhang, W., Bansback, N., Amarsi, Z., Birmingham, C., & Anis, A. (2009). The Incidence of Co-morbidities Related to Obesity and Overweight: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Public Health, 9(88), 1-20. Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. (2011). Position Statements: Community Design,Physical Activity, Heart Disease and Stroke. Retrieved June 2012, from Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada: http://www.heartandstroke.com/site/c.iklQLcMWJtE/b.3820627/ Jackson, R. J., & Kochtotzky, C. (n.d.). Creating a Healthy Enviroment: The Impact of the Built Environment on Public Health. Retrieved April 2012, from Sprawl Watch Clearinghouse Monograph Series: http://www.sprawlwatch.org/health.pdf Larsen, K., & Gilliland, J. (2008). Mapping the Evolution of 'Food Deserts" in a Canadian City: Supermarket Accessibility in London, Ontario, 1961-2005. International Journal of Health Geographics, 7(16), 1-16. Newman, P., & Kenworthy, J. (1989). Gasoline Consumption and Cities. Journal of the American Planning Association , 55(1), 24-37. PHAC/CIHI. (2011). Obesity in Canada. Ottawa: Public Health Agency of Canada. Public Health Agency of Canada. (2012, July 18). Obestiy in Canada: Snapshot. Retrieved July 29, 2012, from Public Health Agency of Canada: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/publicat/2009/oc/index-eng.php Shay, E., Spoon, S., & Khattak, A. (2003). Walkable Environments and Walking Activity. Carolina Transportation Program, Department of City and Regional Planning. North Carolina: Carolina Transportation Program. Smart Growth BC. (2012). 10 Smart Growth Principles. Retrieved 30 July, 2012, from Smart Growth BC: http://www.smartgrowth.bc.ca/Default.aspx?tabid=133 SmartRisk. (2009). The Economic Burden of Injury in Canada. Toronto: SmartRisk. Stansfeld SA, M. M. (2003). Noise pollution: non-auditory effects on health. . British Medical Bulletin,, 68, 243-257. Statistics Canada. (1996-97, May 29). National Population Health Survey, Cycle 2. Canada: The Daily. Statistics Canada. (2006, June 28). Childhood Obesity: A Troubling Situation. Retrieved July 15, 2012, from StatsCan: http://www41.statcan.ca/2006/2966/ceb2966_004-eng.htm Statistics Canada. (2008). Mortality, Summary List of Causes. Health Statistics Division . Ottawa: Statistics Canada. Surface Transportation Policy Partnership. (2002). Mean Streets 2002. Washington, DC: STPP. United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. (1999). The State of the cities 1999: Third Annual Report. Washington, DC: USHUD. United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2012, July 13). Heat Island Effect. Retrieved July 29, 2012, from United States Environmental Protection Agency: http://www.epa.gov/hiri/ United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2012, June 21). Heat Island Effect: Basic Information. Retrieved July 15, 2012, from United States Environmental Protection Agency: http://www.epa.gov/hiri/resources/pdf/BasicsCompendium.pdf Vogel, T., Brechat, P., Lepetre, P., Kaltenbach, G., Berthel, M., & Lonsdorfer, J. (2009). Health Benefits of Physical Activity in Older Patients: A Review. The International Journal of Clinical Practice, 63(2), 303-320.
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Ensuring equitable access to health care: Strategies for governments, health system planners, and the medical profession

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy11062
Last Reviewed
2018-03-03
Date
2013-12-07
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Policy document
Last Reviewed
2018-03-03
Date
2013-12-07
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
Ensuring equitable access to effective and appropriate health care services is one strategy which can help to mitigate health inequities resulting from differences in the social and economic conditions of Canadians. Equitable access can be defined as the opportunity of patients to obtain appropriate health care services based on their perceived need for care. This necessitates consideration of not only availability of services but quality of care as well.1 There is far ranging evidence indicating that access to care is not equitable in Canada. Those with higher socio-economic status have increased access for almost every health service available, despite having a generally higher health status and therefore a decreased need for health care. This includes insured services (such as surgery), as well as un-insured services such as pharmaceuticals and long-term care. Those from disadvantaged groups are less likely to receive appropriate health care even if access to the system is available. They are more likely to report trouble getting appointments, less testing and monitoring of chronic health conditions, and more hospitalizations for conditions that could be avoided with appropriate primary care. There is a financial cost to this disparity in equitable care. Reducing the differences in avoidable hospitalizations alone could save the system millions of dollars. Barriers to equitable access occur on both the patient and health care system or supply side. Common barriers include: (see pdf for correct display of table) Demand Side or Patient Barriers Supply Side or System Barriers Health literacy Services not located in areas of need Cultural beliefs and norms Patients lack family physicians Language Lack of management of chronic disease Cost of transportation Long waits for service Time off work for appointments Payment models which don't account for complexity of patients Access to child care Coordination between primary care and speciality care and between health care and community services Payment for medications or other medical devices/treatments Standardization of referral and access to specialists and social services Immobility- due to physical disabilities, and/or mental health barriers Lack of needs based planning to ensure that population has necessary services Cognitive issues, ie. Dementia, that adversely affect ability to access and comply with care Attitudes of health care workers To tackle barriers on the patient side there is a need to reduce barriers such as transportation and the prohibitive cost of some medically necessary services. Further, there is a need to increase the health literacy of patients and their families/caregivers as well as providing support to health care providers to ensure that all patients are able to be active participants in the management of their care. On the system side the strategies for action fall into four main categories: patient-centred primary care which focuses on chronic disease management; better care coordination and access to necessary medical services along the continuum of care; quality improvement initiatives which incorporate considerations of equity as part of their mandate; and health system planning and assessment which prioritizes equitable access to care. Recommendations are provided for CMA and national level initiatives; health care planners; and physicians in practice. Despite a commitment to equal access to health care for all Canadians there are differences in access and quality of care for many groups. By removing barriers on both the patient and system side it is hoped that greater access to appropriate care will follow. Introduction: In Canada as in many countries around the world there are major inequities in health status across the population. Those lower on the socio-economic scale face higher burdens of disease, greater disability and even shorter life expectancies.2 Many of these disparities are caused by differences in social and economic factors such as income and education known as the social determinants of health.3,1 While many of these factors are outside of the direct control of the health care system, ensuring equitable access to effective and appropriate health care services can help to mitigate some of these disparities. The alternative can also be true. In health systems where access to care and appropriateness are unequal and skewed in favour of those of higher socio-economic status, the health system itself can create further inequities and add greater burden to those already at an increased risk of poor health. Physicians as leaders in the health care system can play a role in ensuring equitable access to care for all Canadians. Equitable Access to Health Care in Canada: Equitable access can be defined as the opportunity for patients to obtain appropriate health care services based on their perceived need for care. This necessitates consideration of not only availability of services but quality of care as well.4 Due to burden of disease and therefore need, those with lower socio-economic status should be utilizing more services along the continuum.5 That, however, is not the case. Individuals living in lower income neighbourhoods, younger adults and men are less likely to have primary care physicians than their counterparts.6 Primary care physicians deliver the majority of mental illness treatment and they are the main source of referrals to psychiatrists or other specialists. However, much of the care for people with mental illnesses, especially on the lower socio-economic end of the scale, is delivered in emergency rooms, which is both costly and episodic. This is due not only to a lack of primary care access but to a lack of community mental health services.7 Those with higher socio-economic status are much more likely to have access to and utilize specialist services.8 Examples include greater likelihood of catheterization and shorter waits for angiography for patients with myocardial infarction9; and greater access to in-hospital physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and speech language therapy for those hospitalized with acute stroke10. Low income men and women with diabetes were just as likely to visit a specialist for treatment as high income individuals despite a significantly greater need for care.11 There is a correlation between higher income and access to day surgery.12 A Toronto study found that inpatient surgery patients were of much higher income than medical inpatients.13 Additionally, utilization of diagnostic imaging services is greater among those in higher socio-economic groups.14 Access to preventive and screening programs such as pap smears and mammography are lower among disadvantaged groups.15 Geography can cause barriers to access. In general rural Canadians have higher health care needs but less access to care.16 People in northern and rural communities typically have to travel great distances to obtain health services as many, especially specialist services, cannot be obtained in their home community.17 Those living in the most rural communities in Canada are the least likely to have a regular family doctor, or to have had a specialist physician visit.18 According to data from the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada, 21% of the Canadian population is rural while only 9.4% of family physicians and 3% of specialists are considered rural.19 This lack of access to specialists and other medically necessary services can lead to delays in treatment and harm to health including unnecessary pain and permanent disability.20 Further, travel for necessary treatment often comes with a significant financial cost.21 It is not just access to insured services that is a problem in Canada. Many Canadians do not have access to needed pharmaceuticals. Researchers have reported that those in the lowest income groups are three times less likely to fill prescriptions, and 60% less able to get needed tests because of cost.22 The use of appropriate diabetes preventative services, medication, and blood glucose testing, has been shown to be dependent on out of pocket expenditures.23 Rehabilitation services are difficult for some Canadians to access as well. Services such as physiotherapy and occupational therapy are often not covered unless they are provided in-hospital or to people on certain disability support programs. This leads to long wait times for services that are covered or no access at all.24 Adding to these inequities is the fact that different programs are covered in different provinces and territories.25 Access to mental health services is a major challenge for Canadians. According to data from Statistics Canada, more than half a million Canadians who had a perceived need for mental health care services, reported that their needs were unmet. Access to counselling services was the most frequent unmet need reported.26 A number of important mental health professionals - notably psychologists and counsellors - are not funded through provincial health budgets, or are funded only on a very limited basis. Access to psychologists is largely limited to people who can pay for them, through private insurance or out of their own pockets.27,2 Access to subsidized residential care, long-term care, home care and end-of-life care is problematic as well. Those with means can access high quality long-term care services within their community, while those with inadequate resources are placed in lower quality facilities sometimes hours away from family and friends.28 Even with expansions promised by governments, home care will not be able to meet the needs of underserved groups such as those living in rural and remote areas.29 Finally, only a fraction of patients have access to or receive palliative and end-of-life care. Those living in rural or remote areas or living with disabilities have severely limited access to formal palliative care.30 Difficulties in access are particularly acute for Canada's Aboriginal peoples. Many live in communities with limited access to health care services, sometimes having to travel hundreds of miles to access care.31 Additionally, there are jurisdictional challenges; many fall through the cracks between the provincial and federal health systems. While geography is a significant barrier for Aboriginal peoples, it is not the only one. Aboriginals living in Canada's urban centres also face difficulties. Poverty, social exclusion and discrimination can be barriers to needed health care. Of all federal spending on Aboriginal programs and services only 10% is allocated to urban Aboriginals. This means that Aboriginals living in urban areas are unable to access programs such as Aboriginal head start, or alcohol and drug services, which would be available if they were living on reserve.32 Further, even when care is available it may not be culturally appropriate. Finally, Canada's Aboriginal peoples tend to be over-represented in populations most at risk and with the greatest need for care, making the lack of access a much greater issue for their health status.33 However, these examples are only part of the story as accessing care which is inappropriate cannot be considered equitable access.34 Those of lower socio-economic status are more likely to use inpatient services; show an increased use of family physician services once initial contact is made;35 and have consistently higher hospitalization rates; 36 This could be due to the higher burden of need or could demonstrate that the services that are received are not addressing the health care needs of those lower on the socio-economic scale.37 Women and men from low-income neighbourhoods are more likely to report difficulties making appointments with their family doctors for urgent non-emergent health problems. They were also more likely to report unmet health care needs.38 In terms of hospitalizations, people with lower socio-economic status were much more likely to be hospitalized for ambulatory care sensitive conditions (ACSC) and mental health39; admissions which could potentially be avoided with appropriate primary care.40 They were also found to have on average longer lengths of stay.41 According to a study of hospitals in the Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network, patients considered to be Alternate Level of Care were more likely to have a low-income profile.42 Further, people with ACSC in low-income groups, those living in rural areas, or those with multiple chronic conditions were twice as likely to report the use of emergency department services for care that could have been provided by a primary care provider.43 There is a financial cost to this disparity. According to a 2011 report, low-income residents in Saskatoon alone consume an additional $179 million in health care costs than middle income earners.44 A 2010 study by CIHI found increased costs for avoidable hospitalizations for ambulatory care sensitive conditions were $89 million for males and $71 million for females with an additional $248 million in extra costs related to excess hospitalizations for mental health reasons.45 Areas for Action: As the background suggests, equitable access is about more than just utilization of services. There are patient characteristics as well as complex factors within the health system which determine whether equitable access is achieved. Recent work has categorized access as having considerations on the supply of services and demand of patients for care. On the demand or patient side we must consider: ability to perceive; ability to seek, ability to reach, ability to pay, and ability to engage. On the supply side or health system considerations include: approachability; acceptability, availability and accommodation, affordability, and appropriateness. 46 The following table highlights some of the current barriers to equitable access. (See PDF for correct display of table) Demand Side or Patient Barriers Supply Side or System Barriers Health literacy Services not located in areas of need Cultural beliefs and norms Patients lack family physicians Language Lack of management of chronic disease Cost of transportation Long waits for service Time off work for appointments Payment models which don't account for complexity of patients Access to child care Coordination between primary care and speciality care and between health care and community services Payment for medications or other medical devices/treatments Standardization of referral and access to specialists and social services Immobility- due to physical disabilities, and/or mental health barriers Lack of needs based planning to ensure that population has necessary services Cognitive issues, ie. Dementia, that adversely affect ability to access and comply with care Attitudes of health care workers Patient based actions for improving equitable access: Low health literacy can lead to difficulties for some Canadians in perceiving a need for care.47 Evidence suggests that more than half of Canadian adults (60%), lack the capacity to obtain, understand and act upon health information and services in order to make health decisions on their own.48 Many physicians are undertaking strategies to minimize this lack of health literacy among their patients. Examples include plain language resources as well as teach-back exercises which allow physicians to determine whether patients have fully understood the information provided.49 These efforts should continue to be supported. Understanding how the health system works and where to access services can be a problem for some individuals.50 Beliefs about the need and value for certain services can also undermine the ability of patients in seeking care.51 Work needs to be done to ensure that disadvantaged groups are aware of the services that are available to them and the benefits of taking preventative steps in their health. Low-income Canadians are ten times more likely to report unmet needs of health care due to the cost of transportation.52 Other barriers include a lack of child care, and ability to get time off work to attend necessary health appointments.53 Strategies that provide patients with transportation to appointments or subsidies for such travel have seen some success. Extended office hours and evening appointments can increase access for those unable to take time off work. Additionally, programs that provide patients with home visits from health care providers can help to eliminate this barrier. Further support and expansion of these programs should be explored. There is also the inability to pay for services not covered by provincial plans such as pharmaceuticals, physiotherapy and other rehabilitation services.54 According to a 2005 report on diabetes in Canada, affordability and access to medical supplies was the biggest challenge for those Canadians living with diabetes.55 Access to services such as mental health counselling, subsidized residential care, and long-term care are also hindered by the inability to pay. Even if patients are able to obtain care they may not be able to fully engage. Language difficulties, low health literacy, cognitive challenges (ie. Dementia), cultural mores and norms, and discrimination or insensitivity of health care workers, may all act as barriers to full participation in care.56 Efforts should be made to develop teaching methods to improve engagement of patients and their families/caregivers from disadvantaged groups.57 Strategies to remove or minimize the barriers created by a lack of health literacy should be developed and shared with physicians and other health care providers. Further, programs which facilitate access to services including interpretation and translation of key health information should be supported.58 Finally, an understanding of a patient's cultural and social context is important. The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada have developed training modules for physicians who will be working with Canada's Aboriginal peoples.59 Similar programs have been developed by the Canadian Paediatric Society, and the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada. More of this training is needed and should focus on groups who are likely to experience disadvantage in health care access and appropriateness. Recommendations for action: CMA and National Level Initiatives The CMA recommends that: 1. Governments develop a national strategy for improving the health literacy of Canadians which takes into account the special needs of different cultures. 2. Governments provide accessible and affordable transportation options for patients requiring medical services when such services are unavailable locally. 3. Governments, in consultation with the life and health insurance industry and the public, establish a program of comprehensive prescription drug coverage to be administered through reimbursement of provincial/territorial and private prescription drug plans to ensure that all Canadians have access to medically necessary drug therapies. 4. Governments examine methods to ensure that low-income and other disadvantaged Canadians have greater access to needed medical interventions such as rehabilitation services, mental health, home care, and end-of-life care. 5. Governments explore options to provide funding for long-term care services for all Canadians. 6. Governments ensure that necessary interpretation and translation services are provided at all points of care. Physicians in Practice The CMA recommends that 7. Physicians be supported in addressing the health literacy of their patients and their families/caregivers. 8. Physician education programs continue to emphasize the important cultural and social contexts in which their patients live. System based actions for improving equitable access: On the system side there are two main areas that need to be addressed: making sure that people can access the services that they need (approachability, availability and accommodation, and affordability); and ensuring that once they have accessed the system that services are appropriate for their health needs (acceptability and appropriateness). Strategies for action include: patient-centred primary care which focuses on chronic disease management; better care coordination and greater access to necessary medical services along the continuum; quality improvement initiatives which incorporate equity as part of their mandate; and health system planning and assessment which prioritizes equitable access to care. 1. Patient-centred primary care which focuses on chronic disease management and which includes programs to increase access to those most at need. Comprehensive primary care offers the biggest possibility for increasing equitable access and reducing health disparities. Data from a large population study in Ontario indicates that inequities in access to primary care and appropriate chronic disease management are much larger than inequities in the treatment of acute conditions.60 Currently many primary care services are located outside of the neighbourhoods with the greatest need for care. While some are accessible through public transportation, there is still a need for more convenient access for these communities. Community health centres (CHC) offer a good model for addressing this challenge through location in disadvantaged neighbourhoods and the provision of culturally appropriate care.61 Additionally, CHCs offer a number of different health, and sometimes social services, under one roof making access to many different types of care more convenient for patients. More work needs to be done to to reduce barriers in access to Canadians living in rural and remote communities. Telemedicine is one strategy that has increased access for rural Canadians. The Ontario Telemedicine Network is one example of this innovative approach. Patients in rural communities can have access to specialists in urban centres through their local health providers. Examples include cardiac rehab follow-up, tele-homecare to support lifestyle changes, and psychiatric or mental health consultations.62 Programs which encourage recruitment and training of health professionals from rural and disadvantaged populations have been found to increase access as these individuals are more likely to return to their home communities to practice.63 Medical schools have been attempting to increase the diversity in their schools for a number of years. However, work still needs to be done. Data from the 2012 student component of the National Physician Survey shows that 278 of the 2000 students who responded to the survey (13.9%) come from families considered to be in the top 1% of earners in Canada. This is compared to only 46 (2.3%) of students whose family incomes place them in the bottom quintile of earners. 64 One of the suggested strategies for increasing diversity in medical schools is increasing the knowledge about the medical profession among rural and disadvantaged young people. An innovative program in Alberta called Mini Docs allows children between the ages of six and 12 to learn about being a doctor and how to stay healthy. The children get to wear medical scrubs for the day and use harmless medical tools such as stethoscopes and bandages. The day long program is run by medical students.65 Strategies to remove financial barriers to access, such as scholarships, should be expanded. Further, there is a need to modify the admissions process to recognize the differences in access to programs such as MCAT preps and overseas volunteer experiences based on the availability of financial resources as well as the necessity of employment for some students while in medical school. This necessary employment may limit the time available for volunteer and community service.66 Another strategy that can be effective in increasing access is programs that seek to link primary care providers with unattached and underserved patients. Programs such as Health Care Connect in Ontario and the GP and Me program in British Columbia actively seek to link sometimes hard to serve patients to appropriate primary care. The College of Family Physicians of Canada has developed a blueprint for comprehensive primary care for Canadians. The concept, a 'patient's medical home' seeks to link Canadians with a comprehensive health care team led by a family physician. These medical homes will take many forms but will be designed to increase both access and the patient-centredness of care.67 Another barrier to access is timeliness of service. Many patients are forced to use walk in clinics or emergency departments as they cannot receive the required care from their primary care providers. Use of walk-in clinics or emergency departments for primary care may lead to lost opportunities for prevention and health promotion.68 Advanced access programs can help to improve equitable access to care by facilitating timely appointments for all patients.69 The AIM (Access improvement measures) program in Alberta uses a system designed by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement to redesign practice to focus on same day appointments and elimination of unnecessary delays.70 Primary care which prioritizes chronic disease management offers the greatest potential for increasing appropriateness of care and reducing system costs. Those most likely to have chronic diseases are also those who face the biggest barriers to equitable access.71 Currently many people with ACSC do not receive the appropriate tests to monitor their conditions, management of their medications, or supports to self-manage their disease.72 Some programs do exist to encourage more effective management of chronic disease. The Champlain Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) in Ontario has developed a cardiovascular disease prevention network to improve care through the use of evidence based practices and better integration between all areas of the health care continuum.73 Primary Care networks in Alberta have similar goals designed to connect multiple physicians, clinics and regions together to support the health needs of the population.74 Further work is necessary to expand these types of programs and to provide appropriate compensation models for complex patients. Payment models in some jurisdictions undermine access by failing to take morbidity and co-morbidity into consideration in designing rates such as equal capitation.75 Finally, there is a need to encourage greater self-management of disease. Practice support programs in British Columbia are providing training to support physicians in increasing patient self-management and health literacy.76 Additional programs of this nature are necessary in all jurisdictions. 2. Better care coordination and greater access to necessary medical services along the continuum of care. Patient-centred care which integrates care across the continuum and which includes community services will be necessary to ensure not only greater access but greater acceptability of care.77 Innovative programs focused on increasing the coordination in terms of transition from hospital to home have shown some success in preventing readmissions particularly when vulnerable populations are targeted.78 Health Links in Ontario aims to reduce costs, based on the assumption that much of the utilization of high cost services, such as emergency department visits, could be prevented with better coordinated care. One of the pilot sites in Guelph aims to assign one person in primary care, likely a doctor or a nurse, to be the primary contact for patients deemed high need and to intervene on behalf of these patients to ensure better care coordination.79 Further work is needed to ensure greater coordination in speciality care. As the evidence demonstrates, access to specialist services are skewed in favour of high-income patients. To reduce this inequity it may be necessary to standardize the referral process and facilitate the coordination of care from the primary care providers' perspective.80 A new program in British Columbia is designed to reduce some of these barriers by providing funding and support to rapid access programs which allow family physicians to access specialist care through a designated hotline. If no specialist is available immediately there is a commitment that the call will be returned within two hours. Specialists available through this program include cardiology, endocrinology, nephrology, psychiatry, and internal medicine among others.81 Similar programs in other jurisdictions could help to increase coordination between primary and speciality care. Care coordination is only part of the problem, however. There is also a need to increase the access to services that are medically necessary across the care continuum. These include a lifetime prevention schedule82, diagnostic testing, specialty services, and access to appropriate rehabilitation services, mental health, long-term care and end of life care. 3. Quality improvement initiatives which incorporate considerations of equity as part of their mandate. Equity has become a key component of many quality improvement initiatives around the world. The Health Quality Council Ontario identified nine attributes of a high-performing health system: safe, effective, patient-centred, accessible, efficient, equitable, integrated, appropriately resourced, and focused on population health.83 The POWER study, a large study of Ontario residents found that where there were targeted programs for quality improvement fewer inequities were observed. In particular they referred to the actions of Cancer Care Ontario and the Ontario Stroke Network. Both of these groups had undergone large quality improvement initiatives to standardize care and increase coordination of services through evidence-based guidelines and ongoing performance measurement. Considerations of accessibility and equity were specifically included. As a result of these efforts, the POWER study found that acute cancer and stroke care in Ontario were quite equitable.84 Similar efforts are underway in other jurisdictions. The Towards Optimized Practice initiative in Alberta supports efforts in medical offices to increase the use of clinical practice guidelines for care as well as quality improvement initiatives.85 Encouraging more health services and programs to undertake such quality improvement initiatives could help to reduce the inequities in access for all Canadians. 4. Health system planning and assessment which prioritizes equitable access to care Considerations of equity must be built specifically into all planning considerations. Too often services are designed without adequate consideration of the specific needs of disadvantaged groups. Planners need to do a better job of understanding their practice populations and tailoring programs to those most in need of care.86 This planning should be done in consultation with other sectors that play a role in influencing the health of their practice populations. Further, assessments of the equity and use of services is also needed. Some services may be designed in a way that is more appropriate for some than others, resulting in higher utilization among some groups and a lack of access for others.87 Innovative work is taking place in the Saskatoon Health Region to try and understand these barriers. Health care services are undergoing specific health equity assessments to ensure that all services meet the needs of diverse populations. This includes looking at the full spectrum of services from preventative care and education programs to tertiary level care such as dialysis. In Ontario, the local health integration networks (LHIN) have now been tasked with developing equity plans for their services. Clear goals and performance measurements are part of this work.88 One of the tools available to support this work is a health equity impact assessment tool developed by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. This tool is intended for use by organizations within the health system as well as those outside the system who will impact on the health of Ontarians. The main focus of the tool is to reduce inequities that result from barriers in access to quality health services. Additionally, it is designed to identify unintended health impacts, both positive and negative, before a program or policy is implemented.89 Further work is needed to ensure that equity is included in the deliverables and performance management of health care organizations and provider groups across the country.90 To support these planning programs appropriate data will need to be collected. This data needs to be comprehensive for all services and needs to include specific data points which will allow planners as well as providers to understand the composition of their populations as well as measure and report on considerations of equity.91 Recommendations for action: CMA and National Level Initiatives The CMA recommends that: 9. Governments continue efforts to ensure that all Canadians have access to a family physician. 10. Appropriate compensation and incentive programs be established in all jurisdictions to support better management of chronic disease for all Canadians. 11. Governments provide funding and support to programs which facilitate greater integration between primary and speciality care. 12. With support from government, national medical organizations develop programs to increase standardization of care and the use of appropriate clinical practice guidelines. 13. Appropriate data collection and performance measurement systems be put in place to monitor equitable distribution of health services and greater appropriateness of care. Health System Planners The CMA recommends that: 14. Needs based planning be mandated for all health regions and health system planning. Equity impact assessment should be part of this planning to ensure that services meet the needs of all Canadians. 15. Chronic disease management and other supportive strategies for vulnerable patients at risk of frequent readmission to the acute care system be prioritized in all health systems. 16. Quality improvement initiatives be mandated in all care programs. These programs should include a specific focus on standardization of care and continuous quality improvement and should include equity of access as part of their mandate. Physicians in Practice The CMA recommends that: 17. Physicians be supported in efforts to offer timely access in primary care settings. 18. Physicians be supported in continued efforts to include all patients in decisions about their care and management of their illnesses. 19. Physicians be supported in continued efforts to standardize care and utilize evidence based clinical practice guidelines with a particular emphasis on the management of chronic disease. 20. Physicians be encouraged and adequately supported to participate in community-based interventions that target the social determinants of health. Conclusion: Despite a commitment to equal access to health care for all Canadians there are differences in access and quality of care for many groups. For those that are most vulnerable, this lack of access can serve to further exacerbate their already increased burden of illness and disease. The strategies discussed above offer some opportunities for the health sector and the medical profession to intervene and mitigate this inequity. By removing barriers on both the patient and system side it is hoped that greater access to appropriate care will follow. While these strategies offer some hope, these actions alone will not be sufficient to increase the overall health of the Canadian population. Action is still required to tackle the underlying social and economic factors which lead to the disparities in the health of Canadians. References: 1 This paper represents a focus on equitable access to care. For a more general policy statement on the role of physicians in addressing the social determinants of health please see: Canadian Medical Association. Health Equity and the Social Determinants of Health: A Role for the Medical Profession. Ottawa, ON; 2012. Available: http://policybase.cma.ca/dbtw-wpd/Policypdf/PD13-03.pdf 2 The Canadian Medical Association is currently developing a policy paper on access to mental health services in Canada. It is anticipated that this policy statement will be completed in 2014. 1 Levesque JF, Harris M, Russell G. Patient-centred access to health care: conceptualising access at the interface of health systems and populations. Int J Equity Health 2013. Available: http://www.equityhealthj.com/content/12/1/18 (accessed 2013Mar 12) 2 Mikkonen J, Raphael D. Social Determinants of Health: The Canadian Facts. Toronto (ON); 2010. Available: http://www.thecanadianfacts.org/The_Canadian_Facts.pdf (accessed 2011 Jan 14). 3 Commission on the Social Determinants of Health. Closing the gap in a generation: Health equity through action on the social determinants of health: Executive Summary. 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Hamilton (ON) Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Program; 2007. Available: http://catalogue.iugm.qc.ca/GEIDEFile/23002.PDF?Archive=102297992047&File=23002_PDF (accessed 2013 Feb 14). 42 Murphy K, Glazier R, Wang X, et al. Hospital Care for All... 43 Canadian Institute for Health Research. Disparities in Primary Health Care Experiences Among Canadians With Ambulatory Care Sensitive Conditions. Ottawa(ON); 2012. Available: https://secure.cihi.ca/free_products/PHC_Experiences_AiB2012_E.pdf (accessed 2013 Feb 14). 44 Saskatoon Poverty Reduction Partnership. From poverty to possibility...and prosperity: A Preview to the Saskatoon Community Action Plan to Reduce Poverty. Saskatoon (SK): Saskatoon Poverty Reduction Partnership; 2011.Available: http://www.saskatoonpoverty2possibility.ca/pdf/SPRP%20Possibilities%20Doc_Nov%202011.pdf (accessed 2012 Mar 13) 45 Canadian Institute for Health Information. Hospitalization Disparities... 46 Levesque JF, Harris M, Russell G. Patient-centred access to health care... 47 Bowen, S. Access to Health Services for Underserved Populations... 48 Canadian Council on Learning. Health Literacy in Canada: Initial Results for the International Adult Literacy and Skills Survey. Ottawa (ON); 2007. Available: http://www.ccl-cca.ca/pdfs/HealthLiteracy/HealthLiteracyinCanada.pdf (accessed 2013 Apr 19). 49 Parnell TA, Turner J. IHI 14th Annual International Summit. Health Literacy: Partnering for Patient-Centred Care. April 9, 2013. 50 Bowen, S. Access to Health Services for Underserved Populations... 51 Bierman A, Angus J, Ahmad F, et al. Ontario Women's Health Equity Report : Access to Health Care Services : Chapter 7.... 52 Williamson DL, Stewart MJ, Hayward K. Low-income Canadians' experiences... 53 Bierman A, Angus J, Ahmad F, et al. Ontario Women's Health Equity Report : Access to Health Care Services : Chapter 7...; Williamson DL, Stewart MJ, Hayward K. Low-income Canadians' experiences... 54 Williamson DL, Stewart MJ, Hayward K. Low-income Canadians' experiences... 55 Chiu S, Hwang SW. Barriers to healthcare among homeless people with diabetes. Diabetes Voice 2006; 51(4): 9-12. Available: http://www.idf.org/sites/default/files/attachments/article_473_en.pdf (2011 Feb 20), 56 Bierman A, Angus J, Ahmad F, et al. Ontario Women's Health Equity Report : Access to Health Care Services : Chapter 7.... Willems S, De Maesschalck S, Deveugele M, et al. Socio-economic status of the patient and doctor-patient communication: does it make a difference? Patient Educ Couns 2004; 56: 139-146; Williamson DL, Stewart MJ, Hayward K. Low-income Canadians' experiences... 57 Willems S, De Maesschalck S, Deveugele M, et al. Socio-economic status of the patient... 58 Bierman A, Angus J, Ahmad F, et al. Ontario Women's Health Equity Report : Access to Health Care Services : Chapter 7... 59 Indigenous Physicians of Canada and the Association of Faculties of Medicine Canada, "First Nations, Inuit, Métis Health, Core Competencies: A Curriculum Framework for Undergraduate Medical Education" Updated April 2009, online: http://www.afmc.ca/pdf/CoreCompetenciesEng.pdf (accessed October 20, 2010). 60 Bierman AS, Shack AR, Johns A. Ontario Women's Health Equity Report : Achieving Health Equity in Ontario: Opportunities for Intervention and Improvement: Chapter 13. Toronto (ON) Project for and Ontario Women's Health Evidence-Based Report; 2012.Available: http://powerstudy.ca/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2012/10/Chapter13-AchievingHealthEquityinOntario.pdf (accessed 2013 Feb 6). 61 Bierman AS, Angus J, Ahmad F, et al. Ontario Women's Health Equity Report : Access to Health Care Services : Chapter 7... ;Bowen, S. Access to Health Services for Underserved Populations..... 62 Williams, R. Telemedicine in Ontario: Fact not Fiction: How to enhance your practice and enrich the patient experience. Ontario Telemedicine Network: Toronto, ON; 2013. Available: http://otn.ca/sites/default/files/telemedicine_in_ontario-_fact_not_fiction_02-26.pdf (accessed 2013 Sep 19). 63 Bowen, S. Access to Health Services for Underserved Populations... 64 National Physician Survey- 2012 student component 65 Alberta Medical Association. Mini Docs. Edmonton (AB); 2012. Available: https://www.albertadoctors.org/about/awards/health-promo-grant/2011-12-recipients/mini-docs (accessed 2013 Apr 18). 66 Dhalla IA, Kwong JC, Streiner DL et al. Characteristics of first-year students in Canadian... 67 The College of Family Physicians of Canada . A Vision for Canada: Family Practice: The Patient's Medical Home. Toronto, ON; 2011. Available: http://www.cfpc.ca/uploadedFiles/Resources/Resource_Items/PMH_A_Vision_for_Canada.pdf (accessed 2012 Mar 15). 68 Bierman A, Angus J, Ahmad F, et al. Ontario Women's Health Equity Report : Access to Health Care Services : Chapter 7... 69 Ibid 70 Access Improvement Measures. Edmonton (AB): Alberta Primary Care Initiative. Available at: http://www.albertapci.ca/AboutPCI/RelatedPrograms/AIM/Pages/default.aspx (accessed 2013 Mar 12). 71 Bierman A, Angus J, Ahmad F, et al. Ontario Women's Health Equity Report : Access to Health Care Services : Chapter 7... 72 Canadian Institute for Health Research. Disparities in Primary Health Care Experiences... 73 Bierman AS, Shack AR, Johns A. Ontario Women's Health Equity Report : Achieving Health Equity in Ontario: Opportunities for Intervention and Improvement: Chapter 13... 74 About Primary Care Networks. Edmonton (AB): Alberta Primary Care Initiative. Available at: http://www.albertapci.ca/AboutPCNs/Pages/default.aspx (accessed 2013 Mar 12). 75 Glazier RH. Balancing Equity Issues in Health Systems: Perspectives of Primary Healthcare. Healthcare Papers 2007; 8(Sp):35-45. 76 General Practice Services Committee. Learning Modules-Practice Management. Vancouver (BC): Government of British Columbia & British Columbia Medical Association. Available: http://www.gpscbc.ca/psp/learning/practice-management (accessed 2013 Mar 12). 77 Bierman A, Angus J, Ahmad F, et al. Ontario Women's Health Equity Report : Access to Health Care Services : Chapter 7... 78 Bierman AS, Shack AR, Johns A. Ontario Women's Health Equity Report : Achieving Health Equity in Ontario: Opportunities for Intervention and Improvement: Chapter 13... 79 Improving Care for High-Needs Patients: McGuinty Government Linking Health Providers, Offering Patients More Co-ordinated Care. Toronto (ON) Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care; December 6, 2012. Available: http://news.ontario.ca/mohltc/en/2012/12/improving-care-for-high-needs-patients.html (accessed 2012 Dec 10). 80 Curtis LJ, MacMinn WJ. Health-Care Utilization in Canada: 25 Years of Evidence... 81 Shared Care Partners in Care Annual Report 2011/12. Vancouver (BC): Government of British Columbia & British Columbia Medical Association. Available: https://www.bcma.org/files/SC_annual_report_2011-12.pdf (accessed 2013 Mar 12). 82 British Columbia Medical Association. Partners in Prevention: Implementing a Lifetime Prevention Plan. Vancouver, BC; 2010. Available: https://www.bcma.org/files/Prevention_Jun2010.pdf (accessed 2013 Sep 18). 83 Bierman AS, Shack AR, Johns A. Ontario Women's Health Equity Report : Achieving Health Equity in Ontario: Opportunities for Intervention and Improvement: Chapter 13... 84 Ibid. 85 Toward Optimized Practice. Edmonton (AB). Available at: http://www.topalbertadoctors.org/index.php (accessed 2013 Mar 12). 86 Ali A, Wright N, Rae M ed. Addressing Health Inequalities: A guide for general practitioners. London (UK); 2008. Available: http://www.rcgp.org.uk/policy/rcgp-policy-areas/~/media/Files/Policy/A-Z%20policy/Health%20Inequalities%20Text%20FINAL.ashx (accessed 2012 Jan 16); Gardner, B. Health Equity Road Map Overview. Toronto (ON): Wellesley Institute, 2012. Available: http://www.wellesleyinstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/HER_Systemic-Health-Inequities_Aug_2012.pdf (accessed 2013 Feb 6). 87 Bowen, S. Access to Health Services for Underserved Populations... 88 Gardner B. Health Equity Into Action: Planning and Other Resources for LHINs. Toronto(ON) Wellesley Institute; 2010. Available: http://www.wellesleyinstitute.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/Health_Equity_Resources_for_LHINs_1.pdf (accessed 2013 Feb 6). 89 Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. Health Equity Impact Assessment (HEIA) Workbook. Toronto, ON; 2012. Available: http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/pro/programs/heia/docs/workbook.pdf (accessed 2013 Sep 30). 90 Bierman AS, Johns A, Hyndman B, et al. Ontario Women's Health Equity Report: Social Determinants of Health & Populations at Risk: Chapter 12...; Gardner, B. Health Equity Road Map...; Glazier RH. Balancing Equity Issues in Health Systems... 91 Bierman AS, Shack AR, Johns A. Ontario Women's Health Equity Report : Achieving Health Equity in Ontario: Opportunities for Intervention and Improvement: Chapter 13...
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Health equity and the social determinants of health: A role for the medical profession

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy10672
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2012-12-08
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Policy document
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2012-12-08
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
Health equity is created when individuals have the opportunity to achieve their full health potential; equity is undermined when preventable and avoidable systematic conditions constrain life choices.1 These conditions are known as the social determinants of health. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines the social determinants of health as the circumstances in which people are born, develop, live and age.2 In 2002, researchers and policy experts at a York University conference identified the following list: income and income distribution; early life; education; housing; food security; employment and working conditions; unemployment and job security; social safety net; social inclusion/exclusion; and health services. 3 Research suggests that 15% of population health is determined by biology and genetics, 10% by physical environments, 25% by the actions of the health care system, with 50% being determined by our social and economic environment.4 Any actions to improve health and tackle health inequity must address the social determinants and their impact on daily life.5 THE SOCIAL DETERMINANTS OF HEALTH AND HEALTH STATUS Social status is one of the strongest predictors of health at the population level. There is a social gradient of health such that those with higher social status experience greater health than those with lower social status. The social gradient is evident not only when comparing the most disadvantaged to the most advantaged; within each strata, even among those holding stable middle-class jobs, those at the lowest end fare less well than those at the higher end. The Whitehall study of civil servants in the United Kingdom found that lower ranking staff have a greater disease burden and shorter life expectancy than higher-ranking staff.6 Differences in medical care did not account for the differences in mortality.7 This gradient has been demonstrated for just about any health condition.8 Hundreds of research papers have confirmed that people in the lowest socio-economic groups carry the greatest burden of illness.9 In 2001, people in the neighbourhoods with the highest 20% income lived about three years longer than those in the poorest 20% neighbourhoods (four years for men; two years for women).10 Dietary deficiencies, common in food insecure households, can lead to an increased chance of chronic disease and greater difficulty in disease management. It is estimated that about 1.1 million households in Canada experience food insecurity, with the risk increasing in single-parent households and in families on social assistance.11 Studies suggest that adverse socio-economic conditions in childhood can be a greater predictor of cardiovascular disease and diabetes in adults than later life circumstances and behavioural choices.12 Effective early childhood development offers the best opportunity to reduce the social gradient and improve the social determinants of health,13 and offers the greatest return on investment.14 Low income contributes not only to material deprivation but social isolation as well. Without financial resources, it is more difficult for individuals to participate in cultural, educational and recreational activities or to benefit from tax incentives. Suicide rates in the lowest income neighbourhoods are almost twice as high as in the wealthiest neighbourhoods.15 This social isolation and its effects are most striking in Canada's homeless population. Being homeless is correlated with higher rates of physical and mental illness. In Canada, premature death is eight to 10 times higher among the homeless.16 The gradient in other social determinants can have an adverse impact as well. A study conducted in the Netherlands estimated that average morbidity and mortality in the overall population could be reduced 25-50% if men with lower levels of education had the same mortality and morbidity levels as those men with a university education.17 Employment status also follows this gradient, such that having a job is better than being unemployed. 18 Unemployment is correlated with increased blood pressure, self-reported ill health, drug abuse, and reductions in normal activity due to illness or injury.19 Unemployment is associated with increases in domestic violence, family breakups and crime. Finally, job security is relevant.20 Mortality rates are higher among temporary rather than permanent workers.21 Canada's Aboriginal people face the greatest health consequences as a result of the social determinants of health. Poverty, inadequate or substandard housing, unemployment, lack of access to health services, and low levels of education characterize a disproportionately large number of Aboriginal peoples.22 The crude mortality rate for First Nations is higher and life expectancy lower than the Canadian average.23 Aboriginal peoples experience higher rates of chronic disease, addictions, mental illness and childhood abuse.24 Aboriginal peoples have higher rates of suicide, with suicide being the leading cause of potential years of life lost in both the First Nations and Inuit populations.25 THE SOCIAL DETERMINANTS OF HEALTH AND CANADA'S HEALTH SYSTEM These differences in health outcomes have an impact on the health care system. Most major diseases including heart disease and mental illness follow a social gradient with those in lowest socio-economic groups having the greatest burden of illness.26 Those within the lowest socio-economic status are 1.4 times more likely to have a chronic disease, and 1.9 times more likely to be hospitalized for care of that disease.27 Chronic diseases such as diabetes account for 67% of direct health care costs and 60% indirect costs.28 Research has shown that Canadians with low incomes are higher users of general practitioner, mental health, and hospital services.29 People in the lowest income group were almost twice as likely as those in the highest income group to visit the emergency department for treatment. 30 Part of this may be caused by differences in access to care. Low-income Canadians are more likely to report that they have not received needed health care in the past 12 months.31 Those in the lowest income groups are 50% less likely than those in the highest income group to see a specialist or get care in the evenings or on weekends, and 40% more likely to wait more than five days for a doctor's appointment.32 Barriers to health care access are not the only issue. Research in the U.K.33 and U.S.34 has found that compliance with medical treatment tends to be lower in disadvantaged groups, leading to pain, missed appointments, increased use of family practice services and increased emergency department visits, and corresponding increases in cost. In the U.S., non-adherence has been attributed to 100,000 deaths annually.35 Researchers have reported that those in the lowest income groups are three times less likely to fill prescriptions, and 60% less able to get needed tests because of cost.36 These differences have financial costs. In Manitoba for example, research conducted in 1994 showed that those in the lowest income decile used services totaling $216 million (12.2%). In the same year, those in the highest income decile consumed $97 million (5.5%) of expenditures. If expenditures for the bottom half of the population by income had been the same as the median, Manitoba would have saved $319 million or 23.1% of their health care budget. 37 According to a 2011 report, low-income residents in Saskatoon consume an additional $179 million in health care costs than middle income earners.38 To reduce the burden of illness and therefore system costs, Canada needs to improve the underlying social and economic determinants of health of Canadians. However, until these changes have time to improve the health status of the population, there will still be a large burden of illness correlated to these underlying deficiencies. As a result, the health system will need to be adequately resourced to address the consequences of the social determinants of health. AREAS FOR ACTION The WHO Commission on the Social Determinants of Health identified four categories through which actions on social determinants can be taken. These include: * reducing social stratification by reducing inequalities in power, prestige, and income linked to socio-economic position; * decreasing the exposure of individuals and populations to the health-damaging factors they may face; * reducing the vulnerability of people to the health damaging conditions they face; and * intervening through health care to reduce the consequences of ill health caused by the underlying determinants.39 All of these areas offer possibilities for action by the physician community. The following section provides suggestions for action by the medical profession through: CMA and national level initiatives; medical education; leadership and research; and clinical practice. CMA and national level initiatives Despite the strong relationship between the social determinants of health and health, little in the way of effective action has resulted. CMA and its partners can and should, advocate for research and push for informed healthy public policy, including health impact assessments for government policies. Additionally, targeted population health programs aimed at addressing the underlying determinants should be supported. All Canadians need a better understanding of the health trends and the impacts of various social and economic indicators. Information about the differences in specific health indicators, collected over time,40 is essential to the task of describing underlying health trends and the impacts of social and economic interventions. Data within primary care practices could be assembled into (anonymous) community-wide health information databases, to address this need. CMA recommends that: 1. The federal government recognize the relationship of the social determinants of health on the demands of the health care system and that it implement a requirement for all cabinet decision-making to include a Health Impact Assessment. 2. Options be examined for minimizing financial barriers to necessary medical care including pharmaceuticals and medical devices necessary for health. 3. Federal and provincial/territorial governments examine ways to improve the social and economic circumstances of all Canadians. 4. Efforts be made to educate the public about the effect of social determinants on individual and population health. 5. Appropriate data be collected and reported on annually. This data should be locally usable, nationally comparable and based on milestones across the life course. Medical education Medical education is an effective means to provide physicians with the information and tools they require to understand the impact of social determinants on the health of their patients and deal with them accordingly.41 In 2001, Health Canada published a report in which they stated that the primary goal of medical education should be the preparation of graduates who know how to reduce the burden of illness and improve the health of the communities in which they practice.42 Among the report's recommendations was a call for greater integration of the social determinants in medical curricula.43 Although the CanMEDS framework has been a part of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada's accreditation process since 2005, challenges to the integration of these competencies remain.44 The report called for a greater emphasis on providing medical students with firsthand experiences in the community and with distinct populations (service learning),45 which addresses the difficulties in teaching the social aspects of medicine within a traditional classroom or hospital setting.46 Many such programs exist across the country.47 However, these programs are still limited and there is a need to increase the availability of longitudinal programs which allow students to build on the skills they develop throughout medical school. Increasingly residency programs which focus on the social determinants of health are being offered.48 These programs are a means of providing physicians with the proper tools to communicate with patients from diverse backgrounds49 and reduce behaviours that marginalized patients have identified as barriers to health services.50 It also provides residents with physician role models who are active in the community. However, medical residents note a lack of opportunities to participate in advocacy during residency.51 Further, while experiential programs are effective in helping to reduce barriers between physicians and patients from disadvantaged backgrounds, greater recruitment of medical students from these marginalized populations should also be explored and encouraged. Finally, physicians in practice need to be kept up to date on new literature and interventions regarding the social determinants. Innovations which help address health equity in practice should be shared with interested physicians. In particular, there is a need for accredited continuing medical education (CME) and a means to encourage uptake.52 CMA recommends that: 6. Greater integration of information on the social determinants and health inequity be provided in medical school to support the CanMEDS health advocate role 7. All medical schools and residency programs offer service learning programs, to provide students with an opportunity to work with diverse populations in inner city, rural and remote settings, and to improve their skills in managing the impact of the social determinants on their patients. 8. CME on the social determinants of health and the physician role in health equity be offered and incentivized for practising physicians. Leadership and research Within many communities in Canada, there are physicians who are working to address social determinants and health equity within the patient populations they serve. This is done in many cases through collaboration with partners within and outside of the health care system. Providing these local physician leaders with the tools they need to build these partnerships, and influence the policies and programs that affect their communities is a strategy that needs to be explored. Evidence-based research about health equity, the clinical setting and the role of physicians is underdeveloped. Interested physicians may wish to participate in research about practice level innovations, as a means of contributing to the evidence base for 'health equity' interventions or simply to share best practices with interested colleagues. Further, physicians can provide the medical support to encourage the adoption of early childhood development practices for example, which support later adult health. In time, research will contribute to training, continuing medical education and potentially to clinical practice guidelines. Physicians can provide leadership in health impact assessments and equity audits within the health care system as well. Data is essential to identify health equity challenges within a program, to propose and test measures that address the issues underlying the disparities. Formal audits and good measurement are essential to develop evidence-based policy improvements.53 Innovative programs such as those within the Saskatoon Health Region and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto are examples of using these tools to improve access and reduce inequities. CMA recommends that: 9. Physicians who undertake leadership and advocacy roles should be protected from repercussions in the workplace, e.g., the loss of hospital privileges. 10. Physician leaders explore opportunities to strengthen the primary care public health interface within their communities by working with existing agencies and community resources. 11. Physician leaders work with their local health organizations and systems to conduct health equity impact assessments in order to identify challenges and find solutions to improve access and quality of care. 12. Physicians be encouraged to participate in or support research on best practices for the social determinants of health and health equity. Once identified, information sharing should be established in Canada and internationally. Clinical practice In consultation with identified health equity physician champions, a number of clinical interventions have been identified which are being undertaken by physicians across the country. These interventions could be undertaken in many practice settings given the right supports, and could be carried out by various members of the collaborative care team.1 First, a comprehensive social history is essential to understand how to provide care for each patient in the context of their life.54 There are a number of tools that can be used for such a consultation and more are in development.55 However, consolidation of the best ideas into a tool that is suitable for the majority of health care settings is needed. There is some concern that asking these questions is outside of the physician role. The CanMEDS health advocate role clearly sees these types of activities as part of the physician role.56 The 'Four Principles of Family Medicine' defined by the College of Family Physicians of Canada, affirms this role for physicians as well.57 Community knowledge was identified as a strategy for helping patients. Physicians who were aware of community programs and services were able to refer patients if/when social issues arose.58 Many communities and some health providers have developed community resource guides.59 For some physicians, developing a network of community resources was the best way to understand the supports available. As a corollary, physicians noted their work in helping their patients become aware of and apply for the various social programs to which they are entitled. The programs vary by community and province/territory, and include disability, nutritional supports and many others. Most if not all of these programs require physicians to complete a form in order for the individual to qualify. Resources are available for some of these programs,60 but more centralized supports for physicians regardless of practice location or province/territory are needed. Physicians advocate on behalf of their patients by writing letters confirming the medical limitations of various health conditions or the medical harm of certain exposures.61 For example, a letter confirming the role of mold in triggering asthma may lead to improvements in the community housing of an asthmatic. Additionally, letters might help patients get the health care services and referrals that they require. As identified leaders within the community, support from a physician may be a 'game-changer' for patients. Finally, the design of the clinic, such as hours of operation or location, will influence the ability of people to reach care.62 CMA recommends that: 13. Tools be provided for physicians to assess their patients for social and economic causes of ill health and to determine the impact of these factors on treatment design. 14. Local databases of community services and programs (health and social) be developed and provided to physicians. Where possible, targeted guides should be developed for the health sector. 15. Collaborative team-based practice be supported and encouraged. 16. Resources or services be made available to physicians so that they can help their patients identify the provincial/territorial and federal programs for which they may qualify. 17. Physicians be cognizant of equity considerations when considering their practice design and patient resources. 18. All patients be treated equitably and have reasonable access to appropriate care, regardless of the funding model of their physician. CONCLUSION Socio-economic factors play a larger role in creating (or damaging) health than either biological factors or the health care system. Health equity is increasingly recognized as a necessary means by which we will make gains in the health status of all Canadians and retain a sustainable publicly funded health care system. Addressing inequalities in health is a pillar of CMA's Health Care Transformation initiative. Physicians as clinicians, learners, teachers, leaders and as a profession can take steps to address the problems on behalf of their patients. REFERENCES 1 A full review of the consultations is provided in the companion paper The Physician and Health Equity: Opportunities in Practice. 1 Khalema, N. Ernest (2005) Who's Healthy? Who's Not? A Social Justice Perspective on Health Inequities. Available at: http://www.uofaweb.ualberta.ca/chps/crosslinks_march05.cfm 2 World Health Organization (2008) Closing the gap in a generation: Health equity through action on the social determinants of health: Executive Summary. Available at: http://whqlibdoc.who.int/hq/2008/WHO_IER_CSDH_08.1_eng.pdf 3 Public Health Agency of Canada (N.D.) The Social Determinants of Health: An Overview of the Implications for Policy and the Role of the Health Sector. Available at: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/ph-sp/oi-ar/pdf/01_overview_e.pdf 4 Keon, Wilbert J. & Lucie Pépin (2008) Population Health Policy: Issues and Options. Available at: http://www.parl.gc.ca/Content/SEN/Committee/392/soci/rep/rep10apr08-e.pdf 5 Friel, Sharon (2009) Health equity in Australia: A policy framework based on action on the social determinants of obesity, alcohol and tobacco. The National Preventative Health Taskforce. Available at: http://www.health.gov.au/internet/preventativehealth/publishing.nsf/Content/0FBE203C1C547A82CA257529000231BF/$File/commpaper-hlth-equity-friel.pdf 6 Wilkinson, Richard & Michael Marmot eds. (2003) Social Determinants of Health: The Solid Facts: Second Edition. World Health Organization. Available at: http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/98438/e81384.pdf 7 Khalema, N. Ernest (2005) Who's Healthy?... 8 Dunn, James R. (2002) The Health Determinants Partnership Making Connections Project: Are Widening Income Inequalities Making Canada Less Healthy? Available at: http://www.opha.on.ca/our_voice/collaborations/makeconnxn/HDP-proj-full.pdf 9 Ibid 10 Wilkins, Russ; Berthelot, Jean-Marie; and Ng E. [2002]. Trends in Mortality by Neighbourhood Income in Urban Canada from 1971 to 1996. Health Reports 13 [Supplement]: pp. 45-71 11 Mikkonen, Juha & Dennis Raphael (2010) Social Determinants of Health: The Canadian Facts. Available at: http://www.thecanadianfacts.org/The_Canadian_Facts.pdf 12 Raphael, Dennis (2003) "Addressing The Social Determinants of Health In Canada: Bridging The Gap Between Research Findings and Public Policy." Policy Options. March 2003 pp.35-40. 13 World Health Organization (2008) Closing the gap in a generation... 14 Hay, David I. (2006) Economic Arguments for Action on the Social Determinants of Health. Canadian Policy Research Networks. Available at: http://www.cprn.org/documents/46128_en.pdf 15 Mikkonen, Juha & Dennis Raphael (2010) Social Determinants of Health... 16 Ibid. 17 Whitehead, Margaret & Goran Dahlgren (2006) Concepts and principles for tackling social inequities in health: Levelling up Part 1. World Health Organization Europe. Available at: http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/74737/E89383.pdf 18 Wilkinson, Richard & Michael Marmot eds. (2003) "Social Determinants of Health... 19 Ferrie, Jane E. (1999) "Health consequences of job insecurity." In Labour Market Changes and Job Security: A Challenge for Social Welfare and Health Promotion. World Health Organization. Available at: http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/98411/E66205.pdf 20 Marmot, Michael (2010) Fair Society Healthy Lives: The Marmot Review: Executive Summary. Available at: http://www.marmotreview.org/AssetLibrary/pdfs/Reports/FairSocietyHealthyLivesExecSummary.pdf 21 World Health Organization (2008) Closing the gap in a generation... 22 Aboriginal Healing Foundation, Frequently Asked Questions (Ottawa: Canadian Government Publishing Directorate, 2009) Available at: http://www.ahf.ca/faq 23Health Council of Canada, "The Health Status Of Canada's First Nations, Métis And Inuit Peoples", 2005, Available at:http://healthcouncilcanada.ca.c9.previewyoursite.com/docs/papers/2005/BkgrdHealthyCdnsENG.pdf 24 Mikkonen, Juha & Dennis Raphael (2010) Social Determinants of Health... 25Health Council of Canada, (2005)"The Health Status Of Canada's First Nations, Métis And Inuit Peoples... 26 Dunn, James R. (2002) The Health Determinants Partnership... 27 CIHI/CPHI (2012) Disparities in Primary Health Care Experiences Among Canadians with Ambulatory Care Sensitive Conditions. http://secure.cihi.ca/cihiweb/products/PHC_Experiences_AiB2012_E.pdf 28 Munro, Daniel (2008) "Healthy People, Healthy Performance, Healthy Profits: The Case for Business Action on the Socio-Economic Determinants of Health." The Conference Board of Canada. Available at: http://www.conferenceboard.ca/Libraries/NETWORK_PUBLIC/dec2008_report_healthypeople.sflb 29 Williamson, Deanna L. et.al. (2006) "Low-income Canadians' experiences with health-related services: Implications for health care reform." Health Policy. 76(2006) pp. 106-121. 30 CIHI/CPHI (2012) Disparities in Primary Health Care Experiences Among Canadians... 31 Williamson, Deanna L. et.al. (2006) "Low-income Canadians'... 32 Mikkonen, Juha & Dennis Raphael (2010) Social Determinants of Health... 33 Neal, Richard D. et.al. (2001) "Missed appointments in general practice: retrospective data analysis from four practices." British Journal of General Practice. 51 pp.830-832. 34 Kennedy, Jae & Christopher Erb (2002) "Prescription Noncompliance due to Cost Among Adults with Disabilities in the United States." American Journal of Public Health. Vol.92 No.7 pp. 1120-1124. 35 Bibbins-Domingo, Kirsten & M. Robin DiMatteo. Chapter 8: Assessing and Promoting Medication Adherence. pp. 81-90 in King, Talmadge E, Jr. & Margaret B. Wheeler ed. (2007) Medical Management of Vulnerable and Underserved Patients... 36 Mikkonen, Juha & Dennis Raphael (2010) Social Determinants of Health... 37 Dunn, James R. (2002) The Health Determinants Partnership... 38 Saskatoon Poverty Reduction Partnership (2011) from poverty to possibility...and prosperity: A Preview to the Saskatoon Community Action Plan to Reduce Poverty. Available at: http://www.saskatoonpoverty2possibility.ca/pdf/SPRP%20Possibilities%20Doc_Nov%202011.pdf 39 World Health Organization (2005) Action On The Social Determinants Of Health: Learning From Previous Experiences. Available at: http://www.who.int/social_determinants/resources/action_sd.pdf 40 Braveman, Paula (2003) "Monitoring Equity in Health and Healthcare: A Conceptual Framework."Journal of Health, Population and Nutrition. Sep;21(3):181-192. 41 Royal College of Physicians (2010) How doctors can close the gap: Tackling the social determinants of health through culture change, advocacy and education. Available at: http://www.marmotreview.org/AssetLibrary/resources/new%20external%20reports/RCP-report-how-doctors-can-close-the-gap.pdf 42 Health Canada (2001) Social Accountability: A Vision for Canadian Medical Schools. Available at: http://www.medicine.usask.ca/leadership/social-accountability/pdfs%20and%20powerpoint/SA%20-%20A%20vision%20for%20Canadian%20Medical%20Schools%20-%20Health%20Canada.pdf 43 Ibid. 44 Dharamsi, Shafik; Ho, Anita; Spadafora, Salvatore; and Robert Woollard (2011) "The Physician as Health Advocate: Translating the Quest for Social Responsibility into Medical Education and Practice." Academic Medicine. Vol.86 No.9 pp.1108-1113. 45 Health Canada (2001) Social Accountability: A Vision for Canadian Medical Schools... 46 Meili, Ryan; Fuller, Daniel; & Jessica Lydiate. (2011) "Teaching social accountability by making the links: Qualitative evaluation of student experiences in a service-learning project." Medical Teacher. 33; 659-666. 47 Ford-Jones, Lee; Levin, Leo; Schneider, Rayfel; & Denis Daneman (2012) "A New Social Pediatrics Elective-A Tool for Moving to Life Course Developmental Health." The Journal of Pediatrics. V.160 Iss. 3 pp.357-358; Meili, Ryan; Ganem-Cuenca, Alejandra; Wing-sea Leung, Jannie; & Donna Zaleschuk (2011) "The CARE Model of Social Accountability: Promoting Cultural Change." Academic Medicine. Vol.86 No.9 pp.1114-1119. 48 Cuthbertson, Lana "U of A helps doctors understand way of life in the inner city." Edmonton Journal Dec 22, 2010. Available at: http://www2.canada.com/edmontonjournal/news/cityplus/story.html?id=943d7dc3-927b-4429-878b-09b6e00595e1 49 Willems, S.; Maesschalck De, S.; Deveugele, M.; Derese, A. & J. De Maeseneer (2005) "Socio-economic status of the patient and doctor-patient communication: does it make a difference?" Patient Education and Counseling. 56 pp. 139-146. 50 Bloch, Gary; Rozmovits, Linda & Broden Giambone (2011) "Barriers to primary care responsiveness to poverty as a risk factor for health." BioMed Central Family Practice. Available at: http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1471-2296-12-62.pdf; Schillinger, Dean; Villela, Theresa J. & George William Saba. Chapter 6: Creating a Context for Effective Intervention in the Clinical Care of Vulnerable Patients. pp.59-67. In King, Talmadge E, Jr. & Margaret B. Wheeler ed. (2007) Medical Management of Vulnerable and Underserved Patients. 51 Dharamsi, Shafik; Ho, Anita; Spadafora, Salvatore; and Robert Woollard (2011) "The Physician as Health Advocate... 52 UCL Institute of Health Equity (2012) The Role of the Health Workforce in Tackling Health Inequalities... 53 Meili, Ryan (2012) A Healthy Society: How A Focus On Health Can Revive Canadian Democracy. Saskatoon: Canada. Purich Publishing Limited. pp.36 54 UCL Institute of Health Equity (2012) The Role of the Health Workforce in Tackling Health Inequalities... 55 Bloch, Gary (2011) "Poverty: A clinical tool for primary care "Family & Community Medicine, University of Toronto. Available at: http://www.healthprovidersagainstpoverty.ca/system/files/Poverty%20A%20Clinical%20Tool%20for%20Primary%20Care%20%28version%20with%20References%29_0.pdf ; Bricic, Vanessa; Eberdt, Caroline & Janusz Kaczorowski (2011) "Development of a Tool to Identify Poverty in a Family Practice Setting: A Pilot Study." International Journal of Family Medicine. Available at: http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ijfm/2011/812182/ ; Based on form developed by: Drs. V. Dubey, R.Mathew & K. Iglar; Revised by Health Providers Against Poverty (2008) " Preventative Care Checklist Form: For average-risk, routine, female health assessments." Available at: http://www.healthprovidersagainstpoverty.ca/Resourcesforhealthcareproviders ; Based on form developed by: Drs. V. Dubey, R.Mathew & K. Iglar; Revised by Health Providers Against Poverty (2008) " Preventative Care Checklist Form: For average-risk, routine, male health assessments." Available at: http://www.healthprovidersagainstpoverty.ca/Resourcesforhealthcareproviders 56 Frank, Dr. Jason R. ed. (2005) "The CanMEDS 2005 Physician Competency Framework: Better standards. Better physicians. Better Care." Office of Education: The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. Available at: http://rcpsc.medical.org/canmeds/CanMEDS2005/CanMEDS2005_e.pdf 57 Tannenbaum, David et.al. (2011) "Triple C Competency-based Curriculum: Report of the Working Group on Postgraduate Curriculum Review-Part 1 58 UCL Institute of Health Equity (2012) The Role of the Health Workforce in Tackling Health Inequalities... 59 Doyle-Trace L, Labuda S. Community Resources in Cote-des-Neiges. Montreal: St Mary's Hospital Family Medicine Centre, 2011. (This guide was developed by medical residents Lara Doyle-Trace and Suzan Labuda at McGill University.); Mobile Outreach Street Health (N.D.) Pocket MOSH: a little MOSH for your pocket: A Practitioners Guide to MOSH and the Community We Serve. Available at: http://www.cdha.nshealth.ca/mobile-outreach-street-health 60 Health Providers Against Poverty (N.D.) Tools and Resources. Available at: http://www.healthprovidersagainstpoverty.ca/Resourcesforhealthcareproviders 61 Meili, Ryan (2012) A Healthy Society: How A Focus...pp.61; UCL Institute of Health Equity (2012) The Role of the Health Workforce in Tackling Health Inequalities... 62 Rachlis, Michael (2008) Operationalizing Health Equity: How Ontario's Health Services Can Contribute to Reducing Health Disparities. Wellesley Institute. Available at: http://wellesleyinstitute.com/files/OperationalizingHealthEquity.pdf
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Restricting marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to children and youth in Canada: A Canadian health care and scientific organization policy consensus statement

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy10676
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2012-12-08
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Policy document
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2012-12-08
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
Restricting Marketing of Unhealthy Foods and Beverages to Children and Youth in Canada: A Canadian Health Care and Scientific Organization Policy Consensus Statement POLICY GOAL Federal government to immediately begin a legislative process to restrict all marketing targeted to children under the age of 13 of foods and beverages high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, free sugars or sodium and that in the interim the food industry immediately ceases marketing of such food to children. PURPOSE OF STATEMENT This policy consensus statement was developed to reflect the growing body of evidence linking the promotion and consumption of diets high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, free sugars or sodium1 to cardiovascular and chronic disease (hypertension, dyslipidemia, diabetes mellitus, obesity, cancer, and heart disease and stroke)— leading preventable risk factors and causes of death and disability within Canada and worldwide. (1-3) (1) For the remainder of the document, reference to foods high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, free sugars or sodium will be framed as foods high in fats, sugars or sodium. The current generation of Canadian children is expected to live shorter, less healthy lives as a result of unhealthy eating. (4) Canadians’ overconsumption of fat, sodium and sugar, rising rates of childhood obesity, growing numbers of people with cancer, heart disease and stroke, and the combined strain they exert on the health care system and quality of life for Canadians necessitates immediate action for Canadian governments and policy-makers. Restricting the marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages directed at children is gaining increasing international attention as a cost-effective, population-based intervention to reduce the prevalence and the burden of chronic and cardiovascular diseases through reducing children’s exposure to, and consumption of, disease-causing foods. (2,5,6) In May 2010, the World Health Organization (WHO released a set of recommendations on the marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children (5) and called on governments worldwide to reduce the exposure of children to advertising messages that promote foods high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, free sugars or sodium and to reduce the use of powerful marketing techniques. In June 2012, the follow-up document, A Framework for Implementing the Set of Recommendations on the Marketing of Foods and Non-Alcoholic Beverages to Children, (7) was released. The policy aim should be to reduce the impact on children of marketing of foods high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, free sugars, or sodium. WHO (2010): Recommendation 1 What this policy consensus statement offers is the perspective of many major national health care professional and scientific organizations to guide Canadian governments and non-government organizations on actions that need to be taken to protect the health of our future generations, in part by restricting the adverse influence of marketing of foods high in fat, sugar or sodium to Canadian children and youth. SUMMARY OF EVIDENCE AND RATIONALE -Young children lack the cognitive ability to understand the persuasive intent of marketing or assess commercial claims critically. (8) in 1989 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that “advertisers should not be able to capitalize upon children’s credulity” and “advertising directed at young children is per se manipulative”.(5) -The marketing and advertising of information or products known to be injurious to children’s health and wellbeing is unethical and infringes on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which stipulates that, “In all actions concerning children … the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.” (9) - Unhealthy food advertising during children’s television programs in Canada is higher than in many countries, with children being exposed to advertisements for unhealthy foods and beverages up to 6 times per hour. (10) - Unhealthy food and beverage advertising influences children’s food preferences, purchase requests and consumption patterns and has been shown to be a probable cause of childhood overweight and obesity by the WHO. (1,8,11) - The vast majority of Canadians (82%) want government intervention to place limits on advertising unhealthy foods and beverages to children. (12) - The regulation of food marketing to children is an effective and cost-saving population-based intervention to improve health and prevent disease. (13,14) - Several bills have been introduced into the House of Commons to amend the Competition Act and the Food and Drug Act to restrict commercial advertising, including food, to children under 13 years of age. None have yet been passed. (15) - Canada’s current approach to restricting advertising to children is not effective and is not in line with the 2010 WHO recommendations on the marketing of foods and beverages to children, nor is it keeping pace with the direction of policies being adopted internationally, which ban or restrict unhealthy food and beverage marketing targeted to children. (16,17) LEGISLATIVE RULING The Supreme Court of Canada concluded that “advertising directed at young children is per se manipulative” Irwin Toy Ltd. v. Québec (AG), 1989 FOOD MARKETING TO CHILDREN: A TIMELY OPPORTUNITY FOR CANADA Childhood obesity and chronic disease prevention are collective priorities for action of federal, provincial and territorial (F/P/T) governments. (3,5,18,19) Strategy 2.3b of the 2011 Federal, Provincial and Territorial Framework for Action to Promote Healthy Weights stipulates “looking at ways to decrease the marketing of foods and beverages high in fat, sugar and/or sodium to children. “(5, p. 31) The 2010 Sodium Reduction Strategy for Canada has also identified the need to “continue to explore options to reduce the exposure of children to marketing for foods that are high in sodium" as a key activity for F/P/T governments to consider. (19, p. 31) In their 2010 set of recommendations, the WHO stipulated that governments are best positioned to lead and ensure effective policy development, implementation and evaluation. (6) To date, there has been no substantive movement by the federal government to develop coordinated national-level policies that change the way unhealthy foods and beverages are produced, marketed and sold. Current federal, provincial and industry-led self-regulatory codes are inconsistent in their scope and remain ineffective in their ability to sufficiently reduce children’s exposure to unhealthy food marketing, nor have they been adequately updated to address the influx of new marketing mediums to which children and youth in Canada are increasingly subjected. Quebec implemented regulations in 1980 restricting all commercial advertising. (20) Although the ban has received international recognition and is viewed as world leading, several limitations remain, in part due exposure of Quebec children to marketing from outside Quebec, weak enforcement of the regulations and narrow application of its provisions. Accordingly, the undersigned are calling on the federal government to provide strong leadership and establish a legislative process for the development of regulations that restrict all commercial marketing of foods and beverages high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, free sugars or sodium to children. Strong federal government action and commitment are required to change the trajectory of chronic diseases in Canada and institute lasting changes in public health. Specifically: Efforts must be made to ensure that children…are protected against the impact of marketing [of foods with a high content of fat, sugar and sodium] and given the opportunity to grow and develop in an enabling food environment — one that fosters and encourages healthy dietary choices and promotes the maintenance of healthy weight. (7, p. 6) Such efforts to protect the health of children must go beyond the realm of federal responsibility and involve engagement, dialogue, leadership and advocacy by all relevant stakeholders, including all elected officials, the food and marketing sector, public health, health care professional and scientific organizations, and most importantly civil society. The undersigned support the development of policies that are regulatory in nature to create national and/or regional uniformity in implementation and compliance by industry. “Realizing the responsibility of governments both to protect the health of children and to set definitions in policy according to public health goals and challenges — as well as to ensure policy is legally enforced — statutory regulation has the greatest potential to achieve the intended or desired policy impact.” WHO (2012), p. 33 POLICY/LEGISLATIVE SPECIFICATIONS The following outline key definitions and components of an effective and comprehensive policy on unhealthy food and beverage marketing to children and should be used to guide national policy scope and impact. - Age of Child: In the context of broadcast regulations, the definition of “age of child” typically ranges from under 13 years to under 16 years. In Canada, Quebec’s Consumer Protection Act (20) applies to children under 13 years of age. Consistent with existing legislation, this report recommends that policies restricting marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages be directed to children less than 13 years of age at a minimum. While the science on the impact of marketing on children over 13 is less extensive, emerging research reveals that older children still require protection and may be more vulnerable to newer forms of marketing (i.e., digital media ), in which food and beverage companies are playing an increasingly prominent role. (21-23) Strong consideration should be given to extending the age of restricting the marketing of unhealthy food and beverage to age 16. - Unhealthy Food and Beverages: In the absence of a national standardized definition for “healthy” or “unhealthy” foods, this document defines unhealthy foods broadly as foods with a high content of saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, free sugars or sodium, as per the WHO recommendations. (5) It is recommended that a robust and comprehensive definition be developed by an interdisciplinary stakeholder working group. - Focus on Marketing: Marketing is more than advertising and involves: …any form of commercial communication or message that is designed to, or has the effect of, increasing the recognition, appeal and/ or consumption of particular products and services. It comprises anything that acts to advertise or otherwise promote a product or service. (6, p. 9) This definition goes beyond the current legal definition of advertisement outlined in the Food and Drug Act as “any representation by any means whatever for the purpose of promoting directly or indirectly the sale or disposal of any food, drug, cosmetic or device.” (24) - Marketing Techniques, Communication Channels and Locations: Legislation restricting unhealthy food marketing needs to be sufficiently comprehensive to address the broad scope of marketing and advertising techniques that have a particularly powerful effect on children and youth. This includes, but is not limited to, the following: . Television . Internet . Radio . Magazines . Direct electronic marketing (email, SMS) . Mobile phones . Video and adver-games . Characters, brand mascots and/or celebrities, including those that are advertiser-generated . Product placement . Cross-promotions . Point-of-purchase displays . Cinemas and theatres . Competitions and premiums (free toys) . Children’s institutions, services, events and activities (schools, event sponsorship) . “Viral and buzz marketing” (25,26) . Directed to Children: The criteria used by the Quebec Consumer Protection Act (20) to determine whether an advertisement is “directed at children” offers a starting point in developing national legislation regarding child-directed media. The loopholes in the Quebec Consumer Protection Act criteria, namely allowing advertising of unhealthy foods and beverages directed at adults during children’s programming, will necessitate the development of an alternative approach or set of criteria that reflects the range of media to which children are exposed and when they are exposed, in addition to the proportion of the audience that is made up of children. Quebec Consumer Protection Act Article 249 To determine whether or not an advertisement is directed at persons under thirteen years of age, account must be taken of the context of its presentation, and in particular of: a)the nature and intended purpose of the goods advertised; b)the manner of presenting such advertisement; c)the time and place it is shown. ACTION RECOMMENDATIONS 1. Federal Government Leadership 1.1 Immediately and publicly operationalize the WHO set of recommendations on the marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children. In working toward the implementation of the WHO recommendations, the federal government is strongly urged to accelerate implementation of the WHO Framework for Implementing the Set of Recommendations on the Marketing of Foods and Beverages to Children. To this end, the Government of Canada is urged to: 1.2 Convene a Federal, Provincial and Territorial Working Group on Food Marketing to Children to develop, implement and monitor policies to restrict unhealthy food and beverage marketing to children. As stipulated within the WHO Implementation Framework: The government-led working group should ultimately reach consensus on the priorities for intervention, identify the available policy measures and decide how they best can be implemented. (7, p.13) 1.3 In developing policies, it is recommended that the working group: - Develop standardized criteria and an operational definition to distinguish and classify “unhealthy” foods. Definitions should be developed using objective, evidence-based methods and should be developed and approved independent of commercial interests. - Develop a set of definitions/specifications that will guide policy scope and implementation. Consistent with the WHO recommendations, the working group is encouraged to apply the policy specifications identified above. - Set measurable outcomes, targets and timelines for achievement of targets for industry and broadcasters to restrict unhealthy food marketing to children in all forms and settings. It is recommended that policies be implemented as soon as possible and within a 3-year time frame. - Establish mechanisms for close monitoring and enforcement through defined rewards and/or penalties by an independent regulatory agency that has the power and infrastructure to evaluate questionable advertisements and enforce penalties for non-compliance.(2) (2) Such an infrastructure could be supported though the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), similar to the authority of the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Canadian Food Inspection Agency or the Food and Drug Act via the development of an advertising investigation arm. The nature and extent of penalties imposed should be sufficiently stringent to deter violations. Enforcement mechanisms should be explicit, and infringing companies should be exposed publicly. - Develop evaluation mechanisms to assess process, impact and outcomes of food marketing restriction policies. Components should include scheduled reviews (5 years or as agreed upon) to update policies and/or strategies. To showcase accountability, evaluation findings should be publicly disseminated. 1.4 Provide adequate funding to support the successful implementation and monitoring of the food marketing restriction policies. 1.5 Collaborate with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and other granting councils to fund research to generate baseline data and address gaps related to the impact of marketing in all media on children and how to most effectively restrict advertising unhealthy foods to children. (27) 1.6 Fund and commission a Canadian economic modeling study to assess the cost-effectiveness and the relative strength of the effect of marketing in comparison to other influences on children’s diets and diet-related health outcomes. Similar studies have been undertaken elsewhere and highlight cost– benefit savings from restricting unhealthy food marketing. (13,14) 1.7 Call on industry to immediately stop marketing foods to children that are high in fats, sugar or sodium. 2. Provincial, Territorial and Municipal Governments 2.1 Wherever possible, incorporate strategies to reduce the impact of unhealthy food and beverage marketing to children into provincial and local (public) health or related strategic action plans, and consider all settings that are frequented by children. 2.2 Pass and/or amend policies and legislation restricting unhealthy food and beverage marketing to children that go beyond limitations stipulated in federal legislation and regulations and industry voluntary codes. 2.3 Until federal legislation is in place, strike a P/T Steering Committee on Unhealthy Food Marketing to Children to establish interprovincial consistency related to key definitions and criteria and mechanisms for enforcement, as proposed above. 2.4 Collaborate with local health authorities, non- governmental organizations and other stakeholders to develop and implement education and awareness programs on the harmful impacts of marketing, including but not limited to unhealthy food and beverage advertising. 2.5 Call on industry to immediately stop marketing foods to children that are high in fats, sugar or sodium. 3. Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs), Health Care Organizations, Health Care Professionals 3.1 Publicly endorse this position statement and advocate to all Canadian governments to restrict marketing of unhealthy foods to children and youth in Canada. 3.2 Collaborate with governments at all levels to facilitate implementation and enforcement of federal/provincial/municipal regulations or policies. 3.3 Wherever possible, incorporate and address the need for restrictions on unhealthy food and beverage marketing to children into position papers, strategic plans, conferences, programs and other communication mediums. 3.4 Support, fund and/or commission research to address identified research gaps, including the changing contexts and modes of marketing and their implications on the nutritional status, health and well-being of children and youth 3.5 Call on industry to immediately stop the marketing of foods high in fat, sugar or sodium. 4. Marketing and Commercial Industry 4.1 Immediately cease marketing foods high in fats, sugar or sodium. 4.2 Amend the Canadian Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CAI) nutrition criteria used to re-define “better-for-you products” to be consistent with currently available international standards that are healthier and with Canadian nutrient profiling standards, once developed. BACKGROUND AND EVIDENCE BASE Non-communicable diseases (diabetes, stroke, heart attack, cancer, chronic respiratory disease) are a leading cause of death worldwide and are linked by several common risk factors including high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, obesity, unhealthy diets and physical inactivity. (1,2,3 28) The WHO has predicted that premature death from chronic disease will increase by 17% over the next decade if the roots of the problem are not addressed. (2) Diet-related chronic disease risk stems from long- term dietary patterns which start in childhood (8,28). Canadian statistics reveal children, consume too much fat, sodium and sugars (foods that cause chronic disease) and eat too little fiber, fruits and vegetables (foods that prevent chronic disease). (3) There is evidence that (television) advertising of foods high in fat, sugar or sodium is associated with childhood overweight and obesity. (6,11) Children and youth in Canada are exposed to a barrage of marketing and promotion of unhealthy foods and beverages through a variety of channels and techniques – tactics which undermine and contradict government, health care professional and scientific recommendations for healthy eating. (10,26) Available research indicates that food marketing to children influences their food preferences, beliefs, purchase requests and food consumption patterns. (8,29) A US study showed that children who were exposed to food and beverage advertisements consumed 45% more snacks than their unexposed counterparts. (30) Similarly, preschoolers who were exposed to commercials for vegetables (broccoli and carrots) had a significantly higher preference for these vegetables after multiple exposures (n=4) compared to the control group. (31) Economic modeling studies have shown that restricting children’s exposure to food and beverage advertising is a cost effective population based approach to childhood obesity prevention, with the largest overall gain in disability adjusted life years. (13,14). Canada has yet to conduct a comparable analysis. Marketing and Ethics Foods and beverages high in fats, sugars or sodium is one of many health compromising products marketed to children. It has been argued that policy approaches ought to extend beyond marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages to one that restricts marketing of all products to children, as practiced in Quebec (7,26,32). Article 36 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Canada is a signatory, states that, “children should be protected from any activity that takes advantage of them or could harm their welfare and development.” (9) Restricting marketing of all products has been argued to be the most comprehensive policy option in that it aims to protect children from any commercial interest and is grounded in the argument that children have the right to a commercial-free childhood (7, 25,26,32). The focus on restricting unhealthy food and beverage marketing was based in consultations with national health organizations whose mandates, at the time of writing, were more aligned with a focus on unhealthy foods and beverages. This policy statement is not opposed to, and does not preclude further policy enhancements to protect children from all commercial marketing, and therefore encourages further advocacy in this area. In order to inform the debate and help underpin future policy direction, further research is needed. Canada’s Food and Beverage Marketing Environment Television remains a primary medium for children’s exposure to advertising, with Canadian children aged 2–11 watching an average of 18 hours of television per week. (26) In the past two decades, the food marketing and promotion environment has expanded to include Internet marketing, product placement in television programs, films and DVDs, computer and video games, peer-to-peer or viral marketing, supermarket sales promotions, cross- promotions between films and television programs, use of licensed characters and spokes-characters, celebrity endorsements, advertising in children’s magazines, outdoor advertising, print marketing, sponsorship of school and sporting activities, advertising on mobile phones, and branding on toys and clothing. (25,26) A systematic review of 41 international studies looking at the content analysis of children’s food commercials found that the majority advertised unhealthy foods, namely pre-sugared cereals, soft drinks, confectionary and savoury snacks and fast food restaurants. (33) In an analysis of food advertising on children’s television channels across 11 countries, Canada (Alberta sample) had the second-highest rate of food and beverage advertising (7 advertisements per hour), 80% of which were for unhealthy foods and beverages defined as “high in undesirable nutrients and/or energy.” (10) Illustrating the influence of food packaging in supermarkets, two Canadian studies found that for six food product categories 75% of the products were directed solely at children through use of colour, cartoon mascots, pointed appeals to parents and/or cross-merchandising claims, games or activities. Of the 63% of products with nutrition claims, 89% were classified as being “of poor nutritional quality” due to high levels of sugar, fat, or sodium when judged against US-based nutrition criteria. Less than 1% of food messages specifically targeted to children were for fruits and vegetables. (34,35) Food is also unhealthily marketed in schools. A recent study of 4,936 Canadian students from grades 7 to 10 found that 62% reported the presence of snack-vending machines in their schools, and that this presence was associated with students’ frequency of consuming vended goods. (36) In another Canadian analysis, 28% of elementary schools reported the presence of some form of advertising in the school and 19% had an exclusive marketing arrangement with Coke or Pepsi. (37) Given children’s vulnerability, a key tenant of the WHO recommendations on marketing to children is that “settings where children gather should be free from all forms of marketing of foods high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, and free sugars or sodium.” (6, p.9) and need to be included in development of food marketing policies directed at children. The Canadian public wants government oversight in restricting unhealthy food marketing to children. A nation-wide survey of over 1200 Canadian adults found 82% want limits placed on unhealthy food and beverage advertising to children; 53% support restricting all marketing of high-fat, high-sugar or high-sodium foods aimed directly at children and youth. (12) Canada’s Commercial Advertising Environment Internationally, 26 countries have made explicit statements on food marketing to children and 20 have, or are in the process of, developing policies in the form of statutory measures, official guidelines or approved forms of self-regulation. (38) The differences in the nature and degree of these restrictions is considerable, with significant variation regarding definition of child, products covered, communication and marketing strategies permitted and expectations regarding implementation, monitoring and evaluation. (38,39) With the exception of Quebec, Canada’s advertising policy environment is restricted to self-regulated rather than legislative measures with little monitoring and oversight in terms of measuring the impact of regulations on the intensity and frequency of advertising unhealthy foods and beverages to children. (39) Federal Restrictions Nationally, the Food and Drug Act and the Competition Act provide overarching rules on commercial advertising and (loosely) prohibit selling or advertising in a manner that is considered false, misleading or deceptive to consumers. These laws, however, contain no provisions dealing specifically with unhealthy food advertising or marketing to children and youth. (26) The Consumer Package and Labeling Act outlines federal requirements concerning the packaging, labeling, sale, importation and advertising of prepackaged non- food consumer products. Packaging and labels, however, are not included under the scope of advertising and therefore not subject to the administration and enforcement of the Act and regulations. (26) Such loopholes have prompted the introduction of three private member's bills into the House of Commons to amend both the Competition Act and the Food and Drugs Act. Tabled in 2007, 2009 and 2012, respectively, none of the bills have, to date, advanced past the First Reading. (15) Industry Restrictions The Canadian Code of Advertising Standards (Code) and the Broadcast Code for Advertising to Children (BCAC) together cover Canadian broadcast and non- broadcast advertising. (23) While both have explicit provisions/clauses to cover advertising directed to children (12 years and younger), neither address or explicitly cover unhealthy food and beverage advertising. Further excluded are other heavily used and persuasive forms of marketing directed to children, including in-store promotions, packaging, logos, and advertising in schools or at events, as well as foreign media. (40) Formed in 2008, the Canadian Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CAI) defines marketing standards and criteria to identify the products that are appropriate or not to advertise to children under 12 years old. Under this initiative, participating food companies (N=19) are encouraged to direct 100% of their advertising to children under 12 to “better-for-you” products. (41) In 2010, the scope of CAI was expanded to include other media forms, namely video games, child- directed DVDs and mobile media. Despite reportedly high compliance by CAI participants, (41) several fundamental loopholes undermine its level of protection and effectiveness, namely: - Participation is voluntary, exempting non- participators such as President’s Choice, Wendy’s and A&W, from committing to CAI core principles. - Companies are allowed to create their own nutrient criteria for defining “better-for-you” or “healthier dietary choice” products. (32) A 2010 analysis revealed that up to 62% of these products would not be acceptable to promote to children by other countries’ advertising nutrition standards. (16) - Companies are able to adopt their own definition of what constitutes “directed at children” under 12 years. (32) Participants' definitions of child audience composition percentage range from 25% to 50%, significantly more lenient than current Quebec legislation and other international regulatory systems. (7,42,43) - The initiative excludes a number of marketing and advertising techniques primarily directed at children, namely advertiser-generated characters (e.g., Tony the Tiger), product packaging, displays of food and beverage products, fundraising, public service messaging and educational programs. (26,27) Provincial Restrictions The Quebec Consumer Protection Act states that “no person may make use of commercial advertising directed at persons under thirteen years of age.” (26) Despite its merits, the effectiveness of the Quebec ban has been compromised. In its current form, the ban does not protect children from cross-border leakage of child-directed advertisements from other provinces. (40) One study found that while the ban reduced fast food consumption by US$88 million per year and decreased purchase propensity by 13% per week, the outcomes primarily affected French-speaking households with children, not their English-speaking counterparts. (44) A more recent study looking at the ban’s impact on television advertising arrived at similar conclusions and found that Quebec French subjects were exposed to significantly fewer candy and snack promotions (25.4%, p<0.001) compared to the Ontario English (33.7%) and Quebec English (39.8%) groups. (40) The ban has further been criticized for having a weak definition of “advertisement”, which allows adult-targeted advertisements for unhealthy foods during children’s programming (37) and having weak regulatory and monitoring structures. (37,40) In assessing the effectiveness of Quebec’s legislation in reducing children’s exposure to unhealthy food advertising, it is important to note that the ban was not developed to target or reduce the marketing of foods and beverages specifically, but rather to reduce the commercialization of childhood. (27) Public Policy: The Way Forward Several legislative approaches have been undertaken internationally to restrict unhealthy food and beverage marketing. (7,43,45) While more research is needed with regards to the impact of restricting unhealthy food and beverage marketing on child health outcomes (i.e., obesity), a US study estimated that between 14-33% of instances of childhood obesity could be prevented by eliminating television advertising for unhealthy food. (46) An Australian study found that a restriction on non-core-food advertisement between 7am and 8:30pm could reduce children’s exposure to unhealthy food advertising by almost 80%. (47) An evaluation of the UK regulations which restricts television advertising of all foods high in fat, sugar and sodium found that since its introduction there has been a 37% reduction in unhealthy food advertisement seen by children. (25) Restrictions on food marketing are being increasingly advocated internationally. A 2011 International Policy Consensus Conference identified regulating marketing to children as a key policy strategy to prevent childhood obesity. (48) A similar recommendation was made at the September 2011 United Nations high-level meeting on the prevention and control of non- communicable diseases. Restrictions on television advertising for less healthful foods has also been identified as an effective (Class I; Grade B) population-based strategy to improve dietary behaviors in children by the American Heart Association. (49) Within Canada, non-governmental and other health organizations are assuming an equally active role. Among others, the Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance of Canada, the Dietitians of Canada, the Alberta Policy Coalition for Chronic Disease Prevention, the Simcoe Board of Health, the Thunder Bay and District Board of Health and the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington Board of Health have issued position papers or statements urging the federal government to implement more stringent regulations on food and beverage marketing to children. (26,42,48) Conclusions The current voluntary, industry self-regulated and ineffective system of restricting the marketing and advertising of foods and beverages fails to protect Canadian Children and thereby contributes to the rising rates of childhood obesity and the likelihood of premature death and disability in our children’s and future generations. Strong federal government leadership and nationwide action from other levels of government and other key stakeholders are needed. Regulation restricting unhealthy food advertising is internationally supported, with a growing evidence base for expanding such regulation to all forms of food marketing. This policy statement offer an integrated, pragmatic and timely response to the national stated priorities of childhood obesity and chronic disease prevention in Canada and supports the F/P/T vision of making Canada, “…a country that creates and maintains the conditions for healthy weights so that children can have the healthiest possible lives.” (4) This policy statement was funded by The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada (HSFC) and the Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health (CIHR) Chair in Hypertension Prevention and Control, prepared with the assistance of an ad hoc Expert Scientific Working Group, reviewed and approved by the Hypertension Advisory Committee and endorsed by the undersigned national health organizations. 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