Paul Krugman: America’s Greatest Public Health Champion?

Last week the New York Times reported on a study which documents a reversing trend in life expectancy for the least educated whites in the US. The study shows that since 1990, life expectancy for white Americans without a high school diploma has fallen by five years for women and three years for men. Reading […]

How Not to Think About Social Determinants of Health: A cautionary tale from Canada

In this guest post, Ted Schrecker critically discusses the results of a recently published public health study in Canada. Illustrated are the hazardous implications of de-contextualized conceptualizations of health.

From the Social to the Ultimate Determinants of Health

The notion that health is influenced by society, and the politics governing it, has been around for generations. The contemporary uptake of this idea can be found in the increasingly popular concept of ‘social determinants of health’. But should all social determinants be treated with equal concern? Or are certain determinants more important than others in influencing the health of populations?

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The Scottish Referendum and Health Equity

In this guest post, Beth Thomas discusses what the Scottish Referendum means to her as a medical student and as a citizen of Scotland. Beth is currently a final year medical student at the University of Glasgow who has been working with Medsin UK for the past 5 years. She is currently the Scottish and Northern Irish Coordinator of Medsin UK and as such has been working on numerous campaigns including promoting health equity in Glasgow.

The referendum to decide whether the people of Scotland want independence from England is only days away, and everywhere you turn as a voter in Scotland you are faced by a barrage of information regarding the pros and cons of a yes or a no vote. And yet, whichever way we vote on the 18th of September, a fundamental truth remains; that this will be a pivotal moment in Scottish history. A moment when the government of Scotland, be it as an independent country or as a more devolved part of the United Kingdom, will have an opportunity to set an agenda to revolutionise the issues faced by Scots today. As a member of Medsin UK, as a medical student, and as a citizen of Scotland, I want that agenda to prioritise health equity.

The city of Glasgow is famous for many things; deep fried mars bars and football spring to mind for starters. But one thing that comes up time and time again when I introduce my place of study at international meetings: ‘isn’t that the place with the lowest life expectancy in the developed world?’.

We have the NHS, we have a strong welfare system and we are the largest city in Scotland, and yet some men born in Glasgow today can only expect to live to the age of 54. We have known about ‘the Glasgow effect’ for many years now, a study from 2003-2007 found that premature deaths in Glasgow were 30% higher than Liverpool and Manchester even though both of those English cities are home to populations who have comparable experiences of post industrialised Britain.

Since the publication of the Marmot report (‘fair society, healthy lives) in 2008 and ‘it’s not just deprivation’ in 2010, the Scottish government has begun to address the fundamental inequities in the social determinants of health which underpin the massive gap in life expectancy within the city. But these are not issues that can be addressed overnight, as Carol Tennahill, the director of the Glasgow centre for population health says, the long term nature of the changes ‘do not fit into a political agenda much shorter than that’.

The change in the political system of Scotland that is inevitable after this Scottish referendum gives an opportunity to cement the commitment to reducing health inequities in Scotland into longer term political vision. While the current governing Scottish National Party has been working to address these social issues, that is not a guarantee that future Scottish governments will do so.

It is here, that we as young people need to stand up and be counted. We need to make sure that politicians are aware that we do not want to belong to the city with the lowest life expectancy in the developed world, but the city that revolutionised the health of its people by addressing inequities in the social determinants of health. We are approaching one of the most important days in Scottish history; let’s not miss this opportunity to have our say.

This piece was originally posted on the Medsin blog


Global Trade and Health: Rana Plaza, One Year On

Last Thursday marked the one year anniversary of the Rana Plaza tragedy in Bangladesh, which left more than 1100 dead and many more injured. The disaster has been described as one of the worst industrial accidents in modern history. In the year since the accident, we have witnessed a number of initiatives aimed at providing compensation to […]


Canada and the post-2015 world: Part II

In this post, guest blogger Ronald Labonté concludes a two-part blog series about post-2015 development goals. Discussed are their relationship to health and specific steps Canada could take to encourage a healthy and progressive transition. Labonté holds a Canada Research Chair in Globalization and Health Equity at the Institute of Population Health, and is Professor in the Faculty […]


Canada and the post-2015 world: Part I

In this post, guest blogger Ronald Labonté introduces a two-part blog series about post-2015 development goals. Discussed are their relationship to health and specific steps Canada could take to encourage a healthy and progressive transition. Labonté holds a Canada Research Chair in Globalization and Health Equity at the Institute of Population Health, and is Professor in […]


Healthcare spending and health: looking beyond the money

This graph was posted on the Atlantic last week and illustrates the striking relationship between healthcare spending and life expectancy.  There are many important and interesting aspects to this relationship, which has been documented for some time, but there is one aspect which is seldom discussed when the topic surfaces in mainstream media outlets. One […]


Canada’s Austerity Agenda: It’s About the Taxes

Austerity policies pose major threats to the public’s health. In this guest post, Ronald Labonté argues that the austerity agenda in Canada stems not from a crisis in finances, but from a crisis in fair taxation. Labonté holds a Canada Research Chair in Globalization and Health Equity at the Institute of Population Health, and is Professor in the Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa; and in the Faculty of Health Sciences, Flinders University of South Australia.

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Readers of Healthy Policies will know that inequities in health are very much rooted in inequities of power. Recent posts by Ted Schrecker have outlined how political trajectories shape landscapes of health disparities. A defining feature of these trajectories is that in addition to being determined by unequal distributions of power, they also perpetuate the […]


Changed priorities ahead? An anti-Thatcherite view of health and equity

As a follow-up to last week’s guest post, this week Ted Schrecker outlines the political trajectories which have not only shaped current landscapes of health disparities, but also continue to obstruct avenues towards achieving greater health equity. He challenges us to consider the prospects for national-level inroads and contemplates whether the future lies in more localized efforts. Ted is a Professor of Global Health Policy at Durham University.


Acting to reduce health inequity: How much evidence is enough?

It is often asserted that more evidence is needed to take action on the social determinants of health. In this guest post Ted Schrecker identifies such claims as a key obstacle to achieving health equity. He argues that to overcome this obstacle, we must recognize that decisions about how much evidence is enough are irrevocably […]


No test, no visa: How mandatory immigration HIV testing makes Canada—and HIV—stand out as exceptional

In this guest post, Dr. Laura Bisaillon critiques the inner workings of the Canadian immigration system. She explores whether mandatory HIV testing is justified for prospective immigrants and challenges us to consider how broader socio-political relations shape such practices.  What logic prevails that sees prospective immigrants and refugees to Canada submitted to a test that […]

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