Tag Archives: public health

(490) Atlanta’s food deserts

Breakfast cerealHit by ice storms, high winds and heavy snow this winter Atlanta was seen to nearly grind to a halt at times.  The exceptional weather highlighted some worrisome things about life in that massively sprawled southern city: indicators of human risk built right into the general living arrangements there.  Low density, car-centric living in Atlanta doesn’t function particularly well for the poor on a sunny day.  Add in northern winter conditions and things get ugly.  Weak choices that overemphasize fast food and long treks for food in extreme weather are commonplace for low income Atlantans year round.  As the bad weather recedes the underlying vulnerability doesn’t and extremes of heat are also difficult.  A huge component of vulnerability year round is the area’s food deserts which are the subject of the Guardian piece linked below (which appears also in Atlanta Magazine).

Atlanta’s food deserts leave its poorest citizens stranded and struggling. It seems unthinkable but in a major US city, thousands cannot get to places where fresh, affordable food is available Guardian

The day we lost Atlanta. How 2 lousy inches of snow paralyzed a metro area of 6 million
Politico provided an excellent and widely read feature on the effect of January’s Icepocalypse on Atlanta’s vast sprawl

See also: (421) Let it snow

image: breakfast cereal by Zanastardust via Wikimedia Commons

(472) Kids, poverty & mental health in Hamilton, ON [Five-part CBC series]

HamiltonA five-part, in depth look at children, poverty and mental health in Hamilton, Ontario is underway at cbc.ca.  If the first segment is anything to go by this will be an impressive piece of feature journalism on a very important topic.  Even moderate exposure to poverty has implications for community mental health because of its effect on childhood development.  Hamilton’s children will be the first generation to grow up there as citizens of a fully post industrial community.  Where those children go so goes Hamilton.  A picture of the conditions and issues faced by Hamilton’s children is assembled by Denise Davey based upon key statistics and time spent with families.  Some of the best cared for of children are found in Hamilton but even newer neighbourhoods “up the mountain” as Hamiltonians say, are home to children in problematic situations.

Kids, poverty and mental health: Hamilton fights back

(469) Collective bargaining & poverty

Valentines DayIf you love someone surprise them with a good, unionized job instead of some artery-clogging chocolates this Valentine’s Day.  Why?  Because OECD data seems to indicate the greater the part of the population covered by collective bargaining the better the health of that population through reduced poverty.  Canadian labour economist Jim Stanford considers the matter in this piece from rabble.ca.

Evidence shows: Unions and collective bargaining reduce poverty

(468) Heroin?

HeroinA twenty minute segment on Huffington Post last fall discussed a trend in the US mainstream media to attach heroin to the emergence of suburban poverty.  It is said that a shift from prescription pain killer use and abuse to heroin consumption is under way.  The horrors of 1970s New York City were invoked.  Detroit cited.  Fear suggested and dismissed in turns.

The segment mixes HuffPo’s amateur style with the traditional alarmism of mainstream media leaving the viewer with mixed feelings as to the reality behind the segment.  Even though it is of laughable quality, disorganized and glitch-containing there is a discussion of suburban poverty here so the segment is the subject of this posting.  Take it only as a possible starting point on the matter.  A relationship between a rapid rise in poverty and a rapid rise in the use of heroin might make some intuitive sense but in this rich topic area the truth is not always straightforward.

How does the economy affect the heroin trade?

image: Wikimedia Commons

(459) Food insecurity in Canada [Report]

Canada Food Insecurity 2012Just released is a high level report on food insecurity in Canadian households and what the best policies might be for doing something about it.  Data for the report is for 2012 and includes this fact: “four million Canadians, including 1.15 million children, lived in households that struggled to afford the food they needed.”  The report, from an international and interdisciplinary team, points out that the majority of food insecure people and families are working.

PROOF: research to identify policy options to reduce food insecurity
Links to full report in English or French

Household food insecurity in Canada 2012

(429) HPAP statement for $14/hr minimum wage in Ontario

Health Providers Against PovertyWe give doctors and nurses a kind of power.  We are encouraged to respect them and listen when they tell us what is good or bad for us.  The individual told to quit smoking or start exercising by their physician and who then doesn’t bother is seen as unwise.  So when health providers suggest we do something on behalf of our quality of life at a societal level we ought to give that advice the most serious level of attention we can.  The impact of low income on human health was the subject of a Health Providers Against Poverty press conference at Queen’s Park yesterday.  How can anyone in good conscience argue back on this file?  There is a clear and long established link between poverty and ill health.

Raise Ontario’s Minimum Wage To $14
HPAP press release


(399) I’m hungry: can you loan me two grand? [BMJ Study]

Fruit & VegThe British Medical Journal looked at food costs and the diet/public health relationship in ten countries recently.  They confirmed that it costs individuals more to eat fresher, healthier foods but that not making better diets part of public health policy will have high social costs.  For a Canadian family the household budget requires an extra two thousand dollars a year to stay off a less healthy diet.  With over 1300 comments and several thousand “shares” in just a couple of days CBC online coverage of the report seems to have struck a note with Canadians.

Healthy eating adds $2K a year to family grocery bill. Lowering price of nutritious foods should be a public health goal, researchers say cbc.ca

See also: (355) Meal break with Jack Monroe

image: Van Tol Retail via Wikimedia Commons

(359) Your wages & your health [CMA & Metcalfe Foundation reports]

Flag_of_Canada_svgHey Canadians: income is everything.  The lower the wages the sicker the worker.  Within days of each other two reports have arrived backing up this statement.

What makes Canadians sick? Poverty, says a report from the Canadian Medical Association Ottawa Citizen
The CMA based its findings on six town-hall style meetings across Canada

Ontario’s working poor pay with their health: low-income workers got sicker than other adults as the economy faltered between 1996 and 2009
Toronto Star

(320) It’s the austerity, stupid

scissorsThe blogosphere has been abloom this cruel April with at least one sane, inspiring meme.  The new old new idea is that austerity doesn’t work and, in fact, is an utterly stupid policy for places with low growth, high unemployment, angry demonstrators, declining middle classes, broke governments, aging populations, unpopular wars, shaky currencies and discredited financial systems, which is to say pretty much everywhere.

You need only go to the instruments of the system itself in the United States alone to hear the catchphrase “austerity is stupid” ringing out. No less than the Federal Reserve (cue gurgling sound) or Foreign Affairs online edition (sit up straight when you are reading it, people) have said so with volume and clarity.

While austerity, the bashing of social budgets, defence spending, infrastructure spending, the letting go of civil servants and the privatization of state assets, has been mainly a European story to date, the English-speaking countries are now in the cross hairs.  The political actors and agents looking to knock down the public sector in those countries were in high school during the first great age of neoconservatism under Reagan, Thatcher and Mulroney.  Now it looks as if they hope to live up to their ideological parents and go them one better in the administration of noxious budgetary medicines and shock capitalism.  Hopefully the voters and taxpayers will wake up soon and resist austerity, not for ideological reasons, but because there is clear evidence it just doesn’t work, we can’t slash your way out of this mess.

Consider recent work from Canada’s Dennis Rafael at York University or an upcoming effort from Oxford & Stanford University researchers.  A decade of data headed into a new book from the latter is to be called The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills which promises to further unveil the fact that austerity wrecks public health.  Suicide, infectious diseases, depression and tooth decay – you get more of this under austerity.

The path of austerity leads to sickness and death: new research shows government spending cuts have dire health effects. Welcome to malaria outbreaks and a rise in HIV infections.  MSN Money

Almost like cyanide-laced icing on a strychnine-and-bleach birthday cake, austerity was recently identified with arithmetic error and nasty questions of numbers-for-the-sake-of-ideology.  A key positional document of recent modern austerity economics has been found to have missing data and simply be wrong numerically!  A grad student discovered the error.

‘They Said at First That They Hadn’t Made a Spreadsheet Error, When They Had’
Chronicle of Higher Education

Who me? Austerity authors say don’t blame them: the Harvard scholars behind a prominent but error-riddled 2010 paper promoting fiscal discipline aren’t gaining sympathy with their defense.  MSN Money

The suburban poor in North America, and elsewhere, have been living with austere realities already. In these pages we’ve seen how the lack of social services, employment opportunities and transportation aggravates suburban poverty.  How about a counter attack on austerity and suburban poverty with stimulating projects to build better, healthier places and address these specific challenges?

The austerity delusion: why a bad idea won over the west
Mark Blyth at Foreign Affairs

This press release from the Federal Reserve, May 1st 2013 (did someone tell us irony was dead?) says “fiscal policy is restraining economic growth.”  All that Republican rage being poured into budgetary civil war is essentially wrecking recovery.  If the UK and Canada pick up cutback fever they will have the same problem.

Wasting a whole generation of people in Europe is stupid
Russia Times on Spain & Portugal 4:30

image: rusty tailor’s scissors via Wikimedia Commons

(317) Durham Region

OshawaThe Regional Municipality of Durham lies directly east of Toronto.  It’s almost a microcosm of Canada in that its 2500 square kilometers encompass serious suburbanization, some heavy industry, much commerical activity, farm land, rolling hills and areas where outdoor recreation including hunting and fishing is commonplace.  By and large the people of Durham Region are among some of the healthiest, best fed and most secure human beings in this unbalanced world.  Starting in the late 2000s, as the real estate/automobile industrial complex, so long the paymaster in Ontario, began to show signs of weirdness in terms of its future performance, a certain amount of poverty has come to be red flagged in Durham Region.

To take the understanding of suburban poverty beyond one-off profiles of people living in it requires detailed investigation and meaningful data attached to real experience.  That makes a recent document from the authorities in Durham of genuine interest.

The Price of Eating Well in Durham Region looks at one of the major impacts on family and personal well-being and concerns elucidated here can be found elsewhere.  The report looks at the cost of a simple, metaphoric basket of nutritious foods for a week for a family of four.  The cost of that metaphoric basket since 2009 has gone up by about $45.  Luckily, Durham appears to be a cheaper place to live than the rest of the province, for which there is also some comparative data.  Either way, about 8% of households in Durham experience food insecurity which generally means lowered quality and amount of food in those households.

Recipients of government support and low wages are under extra pressure in this respect.  More widely, the entire region is vulnerable to increases in energy prices, especially gasoline for personal motor vehicles (oversized, truck-style models are seen in abundance in Durham), and uncertainty exists over the future direction of real estate prices and the encroachment onto farm land of residential development.

The latter might seem a little ironic, the ongoing conversion of agricultural land into subdivisions and commercial property, in a place where food insecurity is now, pardon the pun, on the table.  Certainly, the laws for doing so are quite strict compared to past decades but perhaps real estate development has captured a little too much of the imagination in Durham, as in other places touching the Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area.  As with the country at large, Durham has too much child poverty and food bank use is a permanent feature of life for many, including people with jobs.

This particular report, and ones like it, merits attention and represents the detail needed to understand poverty.

The Price of Eating Well in Durham Region
7-page .pdf file

Poverty report raises red flags for Durham groups

Social Planning Network of Ontario: CDC Durham
Links to a variety of reports 2007-2011

image: Two vistas from near Oshawa, one of Canada’s rock capitals and commercial centre of Durham Region via SeRVe61 & Rick Harris – Wikimedia Commons