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Health factors vary

The Free Press should be congratulated for its excellent editorial calling for preventive action against the social factors that lead to poor health (Invest in prevention, Aug. 15). While equitable health care for Canadians is important, you're right to point out that such access is only one part in determining overall health outcomes.

Income status, education, early childhood development, housing and food security have just as much (if not more) bearing on a person's health and well-being. Consider, for example, a 2010 study in Hamilton, Ont., where researchers discovered a 21-year life-expectancy gap between low- and high-income neighbourhoods.

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By encouraging our governments to address such crucial issues in a co-ordinated, comprehensive fashion, we can get to the root of poor health, reduce poverty and improve our collective well-being.

SIMON LEWCHUK

Citizens for Public Justice

Ottawa

 

High-standard care

Re: Back to court: Medicare needs a shakeup (Aug. 15). Gwyn Morgan may be right in suggesting that "unleashing" innovation from the health-care workplace would prove a superior hammer to asking provincial politicians for solutions. But the "nail" he wants to hammer -- the potential for private medicine to save our system -- has already proved rusty and bent.

Unfortunately, Morgan misses the genius of the Canadian health-care system in its ability to deliver high-standard care evenly across our diverse country, and he turns a blind eye to the inevitable consequences of adopting what is essentially the discredited and failing U.S. system. The high standard of Canadian care is affirmed by innumerable studies, showing Canadians to be beneficiaries of world-class outcomes in almost all domains of care delivery.

Granted, our system is imperfect, and one area in which it does not shine lies in uniformly satisfying patient expectations with respect to wait times. We all have personal experiences of friends and family who are not able to access care in a timely fashion, so we empathize with the suffering of individuals caught in service logjams of the sort that Morgan dwells upon. But we also all have greater and, therefore, less remarkable experience of the opposite, patients receiving quality care in a timely fashion. So a sense of proportion is needed.

Because overall health-care costs have reached an apparent maximum, redistribution of service (exemplified by the opening of private clinics) is a zero-sum game; some will win, others will lose. In the U.S., for example, very few talk about waiting lists, because their private system has resulted in de facto rationing, which divides the population neatly into those who have insurance and rarely wait, and those who don't and who can essentially wait forever.

Morgan is correct in pointing to the need for system solutions to problems of access, but he is deluded in thinking that creating special access for the privileged few can be achieved without dismantling the heart and soul of Canadian health care.

DR. DANIEL KLASS

West Hawk Lake

 

Gwyn Morgan's column gets close to a disturbing truth. Canadians may soon come to see the Charter of Rights and Freedoms used to erode and perhaps destroy Canadian medicare.

The drastic spending cuts of the Paul Martin years paved the way for a crisis of public medicine. At the height of the crisis, the Supreme Court of Canada found, in the Chaoulli decision, that there is a right to two-tier medicine -- three Supreme Court justices ruled that such a right was protected by the Canadian charter as well as by Quebec's Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. A fourth justice found that the right to two-tier medicine was protected by Quebec's charter and declined to talk about the Canadian charter.

Together these justices formed a majority that overturned decades of progressive Canadian public policy in the name of Canadian and Quebec charter rights. This breathtaking piece of right-wing judicial activism has prepared the way for the new crop of charter challenges to medicare.

Someday soon, the Supreme Court may affirm its decision that it has the power to make policy decisions about how health care is delivered. If this unusual judicial power imperils a value -- namely, medicare -- that is central to the Canadian identity, then so be it.

Canadians may be left wondering how judges can overturn a fundamental Canadian value via policy-making that passes as jurisprudence.

Meanwhile, directors of global corporations will continue to paint fantasy images of private health care based upon anecdotes.

MARTIN KRAMER

Winnipeg

 

Bent on criminalizing

Jeremy Torrie had an unfortunate encounter with a loogan and as a result of that, alcohol should be banned at beaches (Enforce the alcohol ban at beaches, Aug. 16). North American society seems hell-bent on criminalizing more and more common behaviour. Because a select few can't be trusted to act in a responsible way, we ban things.

I remember being in Denmark and going to an art gallery, just north of Copenhagen. Out on the lawn were dozens of people (including my friend and I) enjoying a beer and wine with our picnic lunches (brought from home) before continuing with the tour. There was no rowdiness, no verbal assaults.

In North America, we get ourselves bent out of shape about the 10 per cent who abuse privileges. Rather than dealing with them, we impose bans on the responsible 90 per cent.

I'm an adult. If I want to have a cold one while relaxing on the beach, I should be able to do so. If, and only if, I abuse that privilege, the law should step in. Torrie also believes that by merely having people pour out the offending liquid, the police are sending the wrong message. I think government sends the wrong message by treating us all like children who can't be trusted to act in a responsible manner.

DAVE FERGUSON

Winnipeg

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 18, 2012 A14

History

Updated on Tuesday, August 21, 2012 at 2:51 PM CDT: adds links

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