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Income only one variable

In her Sept. 9 column, Social policy is strong health policy, Patricia O'Campo reasons that because low levels of income are associated with substantially higher levels of poor health outcomes, low income is the cause. Accordingly, she concludes providing higher incomes to the poor is the appropriate policy response.

But what if low income and poor health status are jointly determined by other factors, such as low levels of education, poor parenting, chronic health conditions and low levels of employment? If so, the correct policy prescription is investment in programs that address these deficiencies.

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In my review of studies that adequately controlled for personal characteristics that jointly affected income and health status, the independent and unique effect of income was quite small. In other words, giving people a large increase in income through transfer payments would lead to small improvements in their health status.

There is no one magic bullet. Yes, adequate levels of income support are required for those unable to work. But the surer long-run solution is investments in programs that give children better chances at succeeding in school, in obtaining employment, in avoiding addictions, etc.

Given limited public funds, the really tough policy question is that of determining the right mix and level of investments in income transfers and social programs.




Patricia O'Campo very cogently demonstrates policy influencing income, education and the other social determinants of health is the most powerful means of decreasing premature mortality and disease morbidity. One important implication of this is government expenditures must increase in areas such as education, income assistance, child care, poverty reduction and social support services.

In addition, this growth must be financed through increasing the progressiveness of the personal income tax system and taxation yields from profitable corporations, because increasing the taxation load of low and modest-income earners will increase inequities in health. Is there a government ready to use this evidence from good science as a basis for taxation and health policy?


Faculty of Social Work

University of Manitoba


Splitting gaseous hairs

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, while condemning Syria's Bashar Assad (Harper blasts veto power for Russia, Sept. 7), seems to suggest even Nazi Germany was morally superior to Assad when he says "in the war against fascism and Hitler" (he does not mention Germany by name) chemical weapons were not used.

He says nothing of the millions of German citizens and others who were gassed by the Nazis. In fact, gas is not a good tactical weapon on the battlefield because of shifting winds, so in the Second World War the Nazis confined their use of it to closed rooms containing only their victims.

Harper ignores the horrible deaths of the Holocaust as he tries to make a rhetorical point. He is aware of what he is doing, of course, as he awkwardly injects the clause "these forces did not on the battlefield resort to chemical weapons." Dead children in the streets of Ghouta and Damascus are not soldiers on a battlefield, either.

These leaders at the G20 are not the ones we should be trusting for solutions. There is more truth and wisdom in the articles by Umut Ozsu and Jack Granatstein (Paralysed on Syria, Sept.7) than in all the speeches made by Harper, Obama, Hollande and Cameron. Each of these politicians is trying to define his legacy, consolidate his power, or prepare for the next election.

As long as we think self-serving domestic politicians can solve complex world problems, we are doomed to the same cycle of conflict, recrimination, and more conflict, than we have seen for the last 40 years.




Why are chemical weapons considered by some to be more evil than any another type of weapon? Is getting hit on the head by an air-delivered dumb bomb and then being vapourized by a subsequent detonation somehow more humane?

Is napalm really bad news, and a bullet between the eyes good news? I sure wouldn't want to be whacked by depleted uranium ordinance, when good old lead would do just fine.

Weapons of mass destruction? Killing one person selectively is civilized, but knocking off a few hundred is just not fair play. Organized or government-sanctioned killing by whatever means is killing, so why bother to try to sugar-coat it?




Hats off to Buck...

Re: You can take Buck out of Winnipeg... (Sept. 10). My hat goes off to Buck Pierce, who truly is a good sport, a good citizen and an all-round good guy. He does indeed exemplify what good sportsmanship is all about.

Unfortunately, the Bombers could not find his niche in the organization, but he definitely has found his in our city.




... and to Bob, too

Re: A 'thoughtful and humble' guy (Sept. 10). Bob Chipman was truly one of the great Manitobans. His legacy is one of extraordinary accomplishments as an entrepreneur and business leader, and as an enormously generous philanthropist who cared deeply about this city and Province.

In addition to all that, he was just one of the kindest, most genuine people you could ever meet. He will be greatly missed by many.




You run Robert Chipman's obituary story above an Audi dealership advertisement? Really.



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 11, 2013 A8

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