Political decisions and ideology continue to play a huge role in determining the quality of life of individuals and communities in Canada, as well as society as a whole, says York health policy & manangement Professor Dennis Raphael, editor of the newly published book Health Promotion and Quality of Life in Canada: Essential Readings being launched this Thursday. As it stands now, "the quality of life of Canadians is under threat," he says.
Health is one of the main contributing factors to quality of life, but Canada has fallen behind or become stagnant over the years on many indicators of health status compared with other wealthy, developed nations, says Raphael. Health Promotion and Quality of Life in Canada brings health and quality of life issues together in one book as they are interrelated and intertwined as indicators of societal functioning, indicators in which Canada is lagging behind.
This country has slipped from a first-place ranking for quality of life in the late-1990s United Nations Human Development Report to fourth in 2007, and from ninth place to 12th in human and income poverty for the same period.
"In 2005, Canada’s infant mortality rate was compared to that of 30 wealthy developed nations of the OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development] (UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, 2007). Canada’s rate gave it a relative ranking of 24th of 30 nations. Canada’s low birth-weight rate provided a somewhat better ranking of ninth of 30 nations," writes Raphael, a professor in York’s School of Health Policy & Management in the Faculty of Health. These are just some of the issues facing the country.
To improve the quality of life in Canada, governments need to deal with these health indicators, along with emerging issues, such as the incidence of poverty. Better public policies are needed, especially for the most vulnerable groups – aboriginal people, immigrants and persons of colour, persons with disabilities and women. Similarly, work needs to be done to promote health at the individual, community and societal level.
"Health promotion is about engaging citizens in order to increase their control over the determinants of health," writes Raphael. "The best way to do this is to influence the development and implementation of health promoting public policy."
Contributors to Health Promotion and Quality of Life in Canada: Essential Readings (Canadian Scholars’ Press Inc., 2010) look at the importance of health promotion and the social determinants of health in bringing about quality of life. The book speaks to the need for citizens to become more involved in policy-related activities and for the focus to be broadened from the individual to include the community and society. Public policy choices have a direct impact on the distribution of resources and reveal government priorities.
Left: Dennis Raphael
“The concepts of quality of life and health promotion can help define and provide means of addressing emerging Canadian concerns,” writes Raphael. “Quality of life is a multi-dimensional concept that allows consideration of a range of perspectives from individual subjective well-being through to broader indicators of societal functioning.” It is a term that has relevancy for the average person.
Health Promotion and Quality of Life in Canada examines various aspects of these issues, including "Maintaining Population Health in a Period of Welfare State Decline", "The Welfare State as a Determinant of Women’s Health", "Making the Links Between Community Structure and Individual Well-being", "Quality of Life Indicators and Health" and "A Call to Combat Poverty and Exclusion of Canadians with Disabilities".
The contributors suggest ways to bring health promotion, quality of life and the social determinants of health together and they outline the barriers to improving quality of life and health.
Raphael is the editor of Social Determinants of Health: Canadian Perspectives (Canadian Scholars Press Inc., 2008), co-editor of Staying Alive: Critical Perspectives on Health, Illness and Health Care (Canadian Scholars Press Inc., 2006), and the author of Poverty and Policy in Canada: Implications for Health and Quality of Life (Canadian Scholars Press Inc., 2007). His research focuses on the health effects of income inequality, the quality of life of communities and individuals, and the impact of government decisions on Canadians’ health and well-being.
The launch of Health Promotion and Quality of Life in Canada: Essential Readings will take place Jan. 28, from 5:30 to 7pm, at the Riverdale Public Library, 370 Broadview Ave. at Gerrard Street, Toronto.
By Sandra McLean, YFile writer