Neighbourhood study finds disease prevalent in low-income areas

Toronto’s inner suburbs are the urban epicentre of an obesity and diabetes epidemic that is shortening lives and threatens to overwhelm our health-care system, says a groundbreaking study to be released today, wrote the Toronto Star in a front-page story Nov. 1. The report found diabetes rates climbed in low-income, high visible-minority neighbourhoods the more residents depended on cars and the further they had to travel to grocery stores and other services.

Dennis Raphael, sociology professor and anti-poverty activist in York’s School of Health Policy & Management, Faculty of Health, agrees these communities are making people sick, but he says it’s more about raising people’s incomes than razing buildings.

"You’ve got to improve people’s social status if you really want to tackle ill health," said Raphael, who has written countless reports and books on the topic. He is now studying low-income and homeless people with diabetes to document their struggles with the disease, wrote the Star.

Harper’s team dumps city-friendly candidate

The federal Conservatives have ousted their candidate for Toronto Centre, 43-year-old international-trade lawyer and York alumnus Mark Warner (LLB ’91), and he says it’s because he wanted to play up urban and social issues that are at odds with the master Conservative campaign strategy, wrote the Toronto Star Nov. 1.

"We’ve had, for a number of months, a series of differences between our campaign and the national campaign, over the degree to which I could run a campaign that would focus on the kind of issues that matter in a downtown urban riding," Warner told the Star.

Connie Harrison, a poverty and housing activist in the St. Jamestown area of Toronto Centre, said she finds it odd that for all the Tories’ talk of outreach to ethnic and cultural communities, they have ousted a black man, born in Trinidad and Tobago, who immigrated to Canada as child in the 1960s and went on to attend York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and have a significant career in international trade law.

Birth of a new tourism and its growing pains

Penny Dowedoff, a PhD student in sociology at York, is studying reproductive tourism, wherein women and couples go outside their home country in order to receive fertility treatments as part of a growing industry that brings with it the same ethical, legal and medical concerns as other types of medical tourism, wrote the Toronto Star Nov. 1 in its Deep Thoughts column.

Online ads for fertility clinics in Barbados or other reproductive tourism hot spots promise a chance to get pregnant in a vacation-like setting. As with any type of medical tourism, the practice can lead to a two-tier system with those who can afford the treatments effectively jumping the queue or circumventing the laws of their home country, wrote the Star. Dowedoff is interviewing people who leave Canada to receive treatments such as in vitro fertilization or artificial insemination.

She’s also looking at individuals who sell their own reproductive material such as sperm or eggs, which is illegal in Canada but legal in the United States and other jurisdictions. "I’m not trying to portray them as villains or victims," says Dowedoff of Canadians who go outside the country for treatments that are illegal, expensive or impractical to receive here. "I’m just trying to understand their experiences and tease out these complex relationships."

Choreographer inspired by plight of African wildlife

The guest dance maker for Winnipeg’s African-modern troupe NAfro Dance is Patrick Parson (MA ’99), artistic director of Toronto’s Ballet Creole and one of Canada’s senior figures in black dance, wrote the Winnipeg Free Press Nov. 1. A native of Trinidad and Tobago who grew up dancing, singing and drumming, Parson came to Canada at age 30 and holds a master’s degree in dance ethnology from York University’s Faculty of Graduate Studies. He has also taught dance in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts. Parson’s 25-minute piece is titled InnerSpirit.