Future Physicians call upon Government of Canada to ensure Canadians have access to housing and medical care

OTTAWA, Feb. 3, 2014 /CNW/ - The Canadian Federation of Medical Students (CFMS) is bringing tomorrow's physicians to Parliament Hill for its annual Lobby Day. Medical students from Vancouver to St. John's will meet with Members of Parliament and Senators to discuss strategies to ensure that all Canadians have access to two important determinants of health: adequate and affordable housing and medical care.

Lack of access to safe and stable housing has significant negative consequences on one's health. According to the 2010 Health and Housing in Transition Study from the Research Alliance for Canadian Homelessness, Housing and Health, people who are homeless or vulnerably housed have higher rates of chronic health conditions like Hepatitis B and C, asthma, high blood pressure, and cancer.

Sustaining current social housing units remains a significant area of unaddressed need. The agreements that created most social housing units are set to expire from the present time until 2034. For example, between 2012 and 2018, more than 100,000 social housing units will have lost their annual subsidies. With social housing waiting lists growing across the country, hundreds of thousands could be put at greater risk of homelessness.

In recognition of the link between housing and health, Canadian medical students are calling upon the federal government to reinvest the savings gained from the end of social housing agreements to enable social housing providers to maintain the same number of units with the same affordability.

Medical students have also recognized that patients who are adequately housed may not have access to medical services, particularly within rural and remote areas. A 2012 report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information revealed that while 18% of Canadians live rurally, only 8% of physicians live within these regions. In April 2013, the Government of Canada launched a program to provide loan forgiveness to family physicians and nurses who practice in rural and remote areas. However, medical students are concerned this program may not be maximally effective. Newly graduated physicians are required to repay the federal portion of their Canada Student Loans during their residency training. Therefore, physicians are offered forgiveness of loans that are typically already repaid or consolidated into private bank loans with lower interest rates. Deferral of loan repayment during residency helps ensure the incentive to practice in rural and remote areas is not diminished.

The Canadian Federation of Medical Students looks forward to working with policy-makers to ensure Canadians from coast to coast have access to the medical care and safe housing required for sustainable healthy living.

QUOTATIONS FROM CFMS EXECUTIVE

"Pharmaceuticals and procedures are only part of the approach used by the medical community to help patients. As important as clinical work is engagement with public policy makers, where the translation of what we hear from our patients and neighbours turns into discourse to improve lifestyles, communities and populations."
- Jesse Kancir, CFMS President

"It is thrilling to work with the government to implement solutions for some of Canada's most pressing health concerns. Cooperation with key policy-makers enables us to potentially have a much wider-ranging impact upon patients' health than we could achieve through individual clinical efforts alone."
- Melanie Bechard, CFMS VP Government Affairs

"There is growing awareness that to truly fulfil our role as providers and protectors of health, medical students need to look beyond the walls of the hospital and the clinic, and be politically aware and active.  Housing vulnerability and its health effects have been called a "Hidden Emergency" by the St. Michael's Hospital Centre for Research on Inner City Health. We know that the issue is a wide continuum ranging from having to cut your grocery budget to make rent payments to chronic homelessness, and that all of it contributes to negative health outcomes.  Vulnerable housing and homelessness affect the lives of hopes of hundreds of thousands, as well as costing billions of dollars to the health system.  Medical students are coming to Ottawa to make our voices heard on this crucial issue."
- Ben Langer, National Officer for Human Rights and Peace

"As medical students, we see firsthand that quality affordable housing is a vital determinant of health.  The scientific evidence affirms what we see every day: that every medical story has social story, and that too often, lack of adequate and affordable housing leaves Canadians - especially low income Canadians - in harm's way.  Meeting the need for new housing, improving existing housing stock, and making it easier for low-income Canadians to afford safe and high quality housing is vital to building a healthy society for all Canadians. In the same breath, building a healthy society is a very smart way to reduce the cost of healthcare, and keep medicare sustainable for generations to come. Canadian medical students are coming to Parliament Hill from every corner of Canada to share solutions to everyday housing problems, and inspire action for a healthy society."
- Andrew Bresnahan, CFMS Vice President Global Health

The Canadian Federation of Medical Students (CFMS) is a national organization that represents over 7500 medical students at 14 medical schools across Canada.

SOURCE: Canadian Federation of Medical Students (CFMS)

For further information:

Miriam Lermer, Vice President Communications
Canadian Federation of Medical Students
Cell: (778) 994-9481 • vpcommunications@cfms.org

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Canadian Federation of Medical Students (CFMS)

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