Doctors Point to Poverty as Major Cause of Illness

    New report shows how poverty impacts health and what doctors can do to
    help address this growing health-care crisis

    TORONTO, July 29 /CNW/ - A new report by a group of Ontario doctors
highlights the ways in which poverty affects the health outcomes of adults and
children and the role health-care professionals can play in reducing the
impact of poverty on people's health. The report, "Why poverty makes us sick,"
authored by The Ontario Physicians Poverty Work Group, reveals that poverty
substantially raises the rate of chronic illness, infant mortality and lowers
life expectancy.
    "As doctors, we are concerned with the widespread impact that poverty has
on people's health," said Dr. Gary Bloch, a family doctor and member of the
Ontario Physicians Poverty Work Group. "Demographic trends show that poverty
is now a key indicator for health status when we treat our patients, which is
why doctors are highlighting how poverty can affect us and what patients need
to do to minimize the negative impact."
    One of the most dramatic conclusions in the report is that poverty is
likely the most important determinant of illness and early mortality. Research
shows the startling impact that low-income can have on a person's health
status. For example, low-income Ontario women are nearly four times more
likely to suffer from diabetes than high-income women, and the prevalence of
depression among low-income individuals is 60 percent higher than the Canadian
    The Ontario Physicians Poverty Work Group, which is made up of Medical
Officers of Health and physicians who specialize in family medicine, is
raising awareness about the role health-care providers can play in treating
patients from lower socio-economic backgrounds and the need to have a
province-wide plan to address poverty.
    "The faces of poverty are often hidden to physicians, but there are ways
to understand how patients are living and their level of risk for illnesses
associated with poverty," said Dr. Itamar Tamari, member of the Ontario
Physicians Poverty Work Group. "Doctors are working hard to ensure this part
of the patient population does not go untreated, but tackling poverty must be
a coordinated effort including governments and communities."
    In 2007, the Ontario provincial government pledged to tackle poverty in
their election platform. According to the Ontario Physicians Poverty Work
Group, health-care professionals look forward to working with the government
to address the negative impact of poverty on health.
    The report provides practical clinical advice to physicians such as
becoming aware of different population groups in the community so that
appropriate preventative steps and education are provided to patients. The
report also suggests that doctors can encourage patients to apply for
government support programs and advocate for their patients by preparing
letters of support.
    "In order to address the problem of poverty we need strong leaders.
Doctors can fulfill that role by advocating for better care for their
patients," said Dr. Michael Rachlis, member of the Ontario Physicians Poverty
Work Group. "It is our hope that the provincial government will work with
health-care providers in the fight against poverty and the preventable
illnesses that it is responsible for."

For further information:

For further information: Nadia Daniell or Lorraine Forster at (416)
340-2862 or toll-free at 1-800-268-72215 ext. 2862

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