Policy Options Reduce Health Disparity In Saskatoon

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

A new report from the Office of the Chief Medical Health Officer highlights 46 policy options that local health, education, municipal and provincial government agencies should consider in an effort to reduce health and social disparities in Saskatoon. Saskatoon Health Region's 'Health Disparity in Saskatoon: Analysis to intervention' study focuses on the extent of and causes of health disparity in Saskatoon.

In their report "Health Disparity in Saskatoon: Analysis to Intervention", co-authors Dr. Mark Lemstra and Dr. Cory Neudorf state: "In addition to the excess burden of illness on those who are already disadvantaged, health disparities threaten the cohesiveness of our community, challenge the sustainability of our health system and have an impact on the economy. These consequences are avoidable and can be successfully addressed. Many of the evidence based policy options presented already have strong public support, including a wide range of general support from agencies and community groups."

The report a) describes the extent of health disparity in the Saskatoon community, b) determines the causes of health disparity, c) explains that health disparity is mostly preventable and d) reviews over 10,000 abstracts and articles from other jurisdictions to present policy options for consideration to reduce health and social disparity.

The study also included extensive feedback and engagement of over 5000 Saskatoon residents. 100 community consultations occurred with government agencies, academics, community groups, community associations, unions and business groups to ensure the evidence based policy options were realistic in a Saskatchewan context.

Main findings of the report show:


* Income is the main determinant of health and risk behaviour in Saskatoon

* Aboriginal cultural status has a reduced role in poor health outcomes and risk behaviours after statistically controlling for income status

* A total of 46 evidence based policy options within the general categories of income, education, employment, housing and health care are presented on how to reduce health and social disparity

* 83.2% of Saskatoon residents believe something can be done to reduce health disparity by income status in Saskatoon

The final results show that a number of relatively simple policies could be implemented that would have a substantial impact on reducing health disparity such as implementing a child poverty protection plan, modeled after the Canada Pension Plan that reduced poverty in seniors from 58 per cent to 6 per cent. It is important to note that the evidence based policy options in the report need to be viewed in combination rather than in isolation as some policy options are to address immediate needs, while others are long term strategies that address macro level social structures."

The new study is a follow up from the Health Region's 'Health Disparity by Neighbourhood Income' study in 2006. That report found higher rates of most diseases based on neighbourhood income and suggested an integrated community response to improve the health status in low income homes.