New book examines how wealthy developed nations tackle health inequalities

Tackling health Inequalities Book Cover

A new book edited by York Professor Dennis Raphael looks not only at Canada, but beyond its borders to how six other wealthy developed nations approach the avoidable inequalities in health that Raphael says “haunts our societies”.

Tackling Health Inequalities: Lessons from International Experiences will launch Thursday, Nov. 8, from 5:30 Tackling health Inequalities Book Coverto 7pm, at Riverdale Public Library, Broadview Avenue and Gerrard Street East, Toronto.

Raphael writes about the importance of tackling these inequalities in wealthy developing nations and details Canada’s experience in doing so. He also delivers an analysis of international experiences, while Alex Scott-Samuel, director of Equity in Health Research & Development Unit and senior clinical lecturer in public health at the University of Liverpool, provides the book’s foreword.

The book, says Raphael, provides a unique perspective on health inequalities and the contrasting approaches to reducing avoidable health problems in this country and elsewhere, including the United States, Australia, Britain and Northern Ireland, Finland, Norway and Sweden. Each of the countries examined in the book recognize – at some level – the importance of addressing health inequalities, but what emerges is that some of them are successful in responding to health inequalities, while others including Canada, are not.

“Australia and the United Kingdom have achieved recognition for their activities, but their success in tackling health inequalities has been modest,” says Raphael of the School of Health Policy & Management in the Faculty of Health and the Faculty of Graduate Dennis Raphael head shotStudies. “In North America, the picture is rather bleak. The US has just begun to highlight the issue of health inequalities, but governmental authorities have done little to tackle them.” Canadian governmental statements provide plentiful arguments for addressing health inequalities, with rather little actual activity actually seen, he adds.

Dennis Raphael

Tackling Health Inequalities (Canadian Scholars Press Inc.) looks at the political and societal structures and institutions that shape the distribution of economic, political and social resources and how those forces create differences in health among various populations. It also explores whether governing authorities confront or ignore these health inequalities and the conditions that create them. By doing so it aims to direct those national authorities not tackling the issues toward possible solutions.

In Finland, Norway and Sweden, the governments have gone beyond recognition of health inequalities to achieving “notable success in implementing public policy” that deals with these issues, says Raphael. The level of success within a nation seems not to hinge on good intentions, but rather on each country’s public policy commitments to providing economic and social security to its citizens.

In the book’s concluding chapter, Professor Toba Bryant of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology discusses how these lessons from international experiences can be applied in Canada and internationally, where the task of tackling health inequalities remains to be done.

For more information, visit the Canadian Scholars’ Press website.