Double whammy: Poverty can make you sick and cost you more, StatsCan study shows

OTTAWA, April 16, 2014 /CNW/ - The poorer you are the more it costs to stay healthy.

That's the conclusion of a Statistics Canada study released Wednesday — and also validation of arguments that poverty is a health issue just as it is an economic one, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) said.

As a percentage of after-tax income, out-of-pocket spending on health care was greater in lower-income households, said the StatsCan study of prices between 1997 and 2009.

In 2009, out-of-pocket spending on health care represented 5.7% of total after-tax income in households at the bottom of the income grid, compared with 2.6% at the top of the income scale.

"This is further validation of what physicians have been saying for years — social determinants like housing, nutrition, education and even literacy have a direct bearing on your health,'' said Dr. Chris Simpson, President-elect of the Canadian Medical Association. ``This is why one out of every five dollars spent on the health care system can be attributed to social determinants.''

In a July 2013 report, the CMA urged the federal, provincial and territorial governments to elimination of poverty in Canada a top priority, and that guaranteed annual income be evaluated and tested through a major pilot project funded by Ottawa.

Throughout the study period, StatsCan found the top three components of out-of-pocket health expenditures were dental services, medications and insurance premiums.

Almost one in 10 Canadians cannot afford their prescriptions. The CMA believes making drug coverage available to all remains a serious piece of unfinished business in the transformation of the Canadian health care system.

``Health policy makers need to focus more on upstream solutions such as  health care promotion efforts that help keep people well instead of bemoaning the costs of trying to pick up the pieces downstream,'' Dr. Simpson said. ``It will be better for everyone.''

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is the national voice of Canadian physicians. Founded in 1867, the CMA is a voluntary professional organization representing more than 80,000 of Canada's physicians and comprising 12 provincial and territorial medical associations and 60 national medical organizations. CMA's mission is to serve and unite the physicians of Canada and be the national advocate, in partnership with the people of Canada, for the highest standards of health and health care.

SOURCE Canadian Medical Association

For further information: Lucie Boileau, Senior Advisor, Communications and Public Outreach, lucie.boileau@cma.ca, Tel.: 800-663-7336 / 613-731-8610 ext. 1266, Cell.: 613-447-0866