Inequality is bad for your health

A story in the Nelson Daily News, Feb. 21 cited research published in The Social Determinants of Health: Canadian Perspectives (Canadian Scholars Press Inc. 2004), edited by Dennis Raphael, professor in York’s School of Health Policy & Management. Raphael, writer Helen Lutz noted, considers a number of social factors as playing a critical role in the health and well-being of individuals, communities and society as a whole. These resources include such things as conditions of childhood, income, availability of food, housing, employment and working conditions, and health and social services. It also includes issues of gender, class, racism and other forms of social exclusion.

Quoting from Raphael’s book, the writer offered the following advice: “Don’t be poor. If you can, stop. If you can’t, try not to be poor for long. Don’t have poor parents. Own a car. Don’t work in a stressful, low paid manual job. Don’t live in damp, low-quality housing. Be able to afford to go on a foreign holiday and sunbathe. Practice not losing your job and don’t become unemployed. Take up all benefits you are entitled to, if you are unemployed, retired or sick or disabled. Don’t live next to a busy major road or near a polluting factory. Learn how to fill in the complex housing benefit/asylum application forms before you become homeless and destitute.”

A very judicious process

Patrick Monahan, dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law, put his thoughts in writing for The Globe and Mail Feb. 22 about Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s decision to require his nominee for the vacant seat on the Supreme Court of Canada to appear before an ad hoc committee of MPs. Monahan said the move represents an important step toward greater transparency and accountability in the appointments process.

In earlier proposals, he noted, there was still no opportunity provided to review a potential candidate’s qualifications in advance of the actual appointment. Under the revised approach announced this week, the nominee will be publicly identified in advance of his or her actual appointment, thereby creating a space within which debate and deliberation over his or her qualifications can take place. Second, requiring the nominee to appear before an independent committee will provide an important opportunity to understand the nominee’s background, qualities and suitability for appointment to the country’s highest court.

Commenting on the fear that the public hearings will descend into an American-style partisan circus, Monahan said he was less concerned. The acrimonious confirmation hearings involving Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas are really the exception rather than the rule in the United States, Monahan wrote. The Canadian hearings process will be quite different from that in the United States, he said, and the advisory character of the Canadian committee will lower the temperature in the hearing room quite dramatically. Given the fact the committee cannot veto the appointment, it is unlikely interest groups and political organizations will invest the huge sums of money and resources that are devoted to the US confirmation process.

In future, Monahan suggested, the review committee should be composed not only of MPs, but also of other experts or knowledgeable individuals of integrity and commitment to the independence of the judiciary. A review protocol should be prepared which would establish limits on the kinds of questions that could be asked of the nominee..

Three thumbs down on private health care

Dr. Joel Lexchin, professor in York’s School of Health Policy & Management, wrote a letter published in the National Post, Feb. 22, responding to criticism of the views of former York graduate student Doris Grinspun, executive director of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario. “Just as Dr. Joseph Berger claims that not all nurses agree with Doris Grinspun and her attitude about for-profit delivery of health care, not all doctors agree with Dr. Berger. As a practising emergency physician, I would be loath to see the introduction of for-profit care. In the United States, all kidney dialysis is funded federally with three-quarters of the care provided by for-profit dialysis centres and one-quarter by not-for-profit centres. A comparison of mortality rates shows that there are annually about 2,500 excess deaths in the for-profit centres. Is this the type of care Dr. Berger wants for his patients? I don’t want it for mine.”

Drache notes lack of foreign policy debate in federal election

Foreign policy was a low priority during the federal election campaign and changes to it are a low priority, according to Daniel Drache, political science professor in York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies and associate director of the Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies, reported The Ottawa Citizen Feb. 22. “Foreign policy really didn’t figure in the recent election, there was no discussion of the WTO, NAFTA, poverty eradication, bilateral relations, global governance, international law and human rights, the UN or the Middle East,” Drache said at a round-table discussion held shortly after the election.  “Those omissions are huge,”

Drache also offered his view of the three big issues in North America – softwood lumber, homeland security and NAFTA. On softwood lumber, he said, “there is no deal possible.” On homeland security, “there’s no common definition on what’s a security risk.” And on NAFTA? “Mexico is barely on the radar.” 

Choice in childbirth

“As an aromatherapy-burning Wiccan doula (sans hat), I decided to go to York University and conduct a year-long study on women’s perceptions of coping in the childbirth process,” wrote alumna Heather Mains (MA ‘03, BFA ‘81) in a letter to the National Post Feb. 22. “When I conducted this Canadian study, hearing directly from women and comparing birth experiences, I was surprised to learn that the women who had chosen epidurals said they…would not choose epidurals again, but look towards non-drug support instead.” She continued: “What’s more, in my 12-year-old practice of attending women throughout their entire labours, I found another consistent surprise. When women are asked if they have considered the option of birthing in the comfort and familiarity of their own home with a qualified birth attendant, many lower their voices and say things like, ‘I would consider it, but my husband is so scared that he cannot even have the conversation, so I can’t.'” Mains concluded: “Some days, I wish men could give birth, so their comments would be informed by experience, rather than fear.”

Managers are not referees

Stephen Friedman, part-time faculty member at the Schulich School of Business at York, said in a National Post story Feb. 22, that managers often “spend an inordinate amount of time refereeing their direct reports who can’t seem to get along” and “could be spending as much as $15,000 worth of his or her time in this role.” The ability to get along with each other should be the responsibility of employees themselves, Friedman said. The manager usually attempts to find out who is at fault so some action can be taken, and the one who gets blamed, sulks or gets angry. This outcome poisons morale and leaves the problem unsolved and the employees are no better equipped to handle their next conflict than they were before.  Friedman, who teaches organizational behaviour and human resource management at Schulich, is also an executive and career coach and trainer.

In search of forgotten core values

A National Post  story published Feb. 22 featured executive coach and York alumna Adria Trowhill (MA ’80) , president of Toronto-based Posi-TRAK Coaching and Consulting Inc. In describing her philosophy about coaching, Trowhill noted that ambitious employees often lose some humanity on their climb to the executive suite. “They lose their core values: They lose their passion to serve, they lose their intuitive insights about people,” she said.

Former York student enjoys playing goal down east

You need only talk with the guy for about five minutes and you can understand why Saint Mary’s Huskies goaltender – and former York student – David Chant was the recipient of the James Bayer Memorial Scholarship that goes to the player best combining athletics, academics and leadership in the community, reported The Daily Gleaner (Fredericton), Feb. 22 . Chant spent two years at York while playing his junior hockey in Barrie. After a season of minor pro, he came to Saint Mary’s for three years. Chant plans to attend graduate school in Scotland next year. He says this is it as far as his hockey is concerned. “That’s given me some extra motivation,” he said. “We won the last year I played junior in Barrie. That was a great way to go out. And I’d love to end…my hockey career here the same way.”

Rookie Lion has a rookie brother with Leafs

In a Feb. 22 story about the recent fortunes of Toronto Maple Leafs rookie defenceman Jay Harrison, recently sent down to the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies, The Globe and Mail noted that his younger brother Tyler Harrison is in his first year playing for the York Lions men’s hockey team.