Addressing Social Determinants of Health in Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: A public health perspective on local health, policy and program needs

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


Social determinants of health are the socio-economic, cultural, and environmental conditions of our lives that impact overall health. A recent publication from the Health Council of Canada, Stepping it Up: Moving the Focus from Health Care in Canada to a Healthier Canada, confirms that Canadians with the lowest incomes are more likely to suffer from chronic conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease; to live with a disability; and to be hospitalized for a variety of health problems. They are twice as likely to use health care services as those with the highest incomes.
Serious and pervasive concerns about growing health disparities, the increasing prevalence of chronic conditions, and the need to look at sustainability of the health care system are converging to create a sense of urgency about health promotion and disease prevention in Canada. Since the greatest gains in improving health can be made in vulnerable and marginalized sub-groups of our population, it is important to undertake activities supporting specific efforts in these areas.
Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph (WDG) communities have demonstrated their commitment to improving the health of residents by addressing the social determinants of health. However, approach, whereby action is taken collectively and results are measured and demonstrated.
This report identifies barriers to health and wellbeing within communities and effective strategies to address these barriers and enable all residents to realize their full potential. The report also considers existing community strengths and assets. In order to create this picture quantitative data collected from the 2006 Census was integrated with community voices. Statistics and real stories from WDG communities will assist in determining ththe focus of coordinated efforts to address the social determinants of health in WDG.
Much has been written about the impact that social determinants of health can have on a community. We have local data to support the existence of these determinants and we have a beginning inventory of promising practices and policies to begin addressing the health inequities. Now, we need ACTION. It is only by working together that we can truly impact the health of our residents, in a positive way, and ultimately see improvements that will support the future generations of our communities. It is recommended that we work together to:
  • Continue working to establish a collaborative, community-wide process to determine the most suitable course of action. This should include a commitment to engage broad membership from the health, education, business and other sectors.
  • Strengthen mechanisms that link existing community networks in WDG across the issues in order to strengthen their impact and maximize policy and intervention outcomes.
  • Draw further support and commitment by sharing the evidence about the cost effectiveness of investing in early years interventions and poverty reduction.
  • Support mechanisms to monitor population health and equity gaps.
  • Continue to engage priority areas in the development of optimal solutions that match their needs and unique circumstances.
  • Build on the momentum by raising public awareness about the importance of addressing social determinants of health.
  • Support intervention research and continue to build on the existing evidence base for promising practices in addressing social determinants of health.
The Call to Action section of this report further describes the action we can take towards addressing the social determinants of health.