Advancing Health, Health Equity and Opportunities for Children and Youth in Tough Times


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This presentation examines the ways in which to advance health and health equity for children and youth during difficult times.

Bob Gardner, Director of Policy
Steve Barnes, Policy Analyst
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  • POWER data age-standardized % of adults 2005 overall patterns – 3 X as many low income as high report health to be only fair or poor
  • In: that's impact on daily lives that type of impact adds up over people's lives so that ’ s the cumulative impact of health inequalities over people ’ s lives – we ’ re interested in starting points: both in kids health specifically but in enhancing health equity for kids to reduce this adverse impact over the next generation ’ s lives
  • In: definition developed by WI, based upon an extensive literature used in our strategic framework for the Toronto Central LHIN taken up by many govt and other stakeholders parallels to ideas of justice for children
  • Out: which links up our specific areas of policy and community concern
  • Out: another parallel roots of unequal opportunities and conditions faced by certain groups of children and youth would also be systemically based want to briefly stress complexity of all this
  • In: SDoH lead to gradient of health in chronic conditions plus affect how people can deal with the conditions Out: complex and reinforcing nature of social determinants on health disparities
  • In: drilling down for a crucial contemporary health issue
  • idea of inter-sectionality – reflecting the fact that personal identities and group dynamics do not reflect a single line of oppression/identity such as gender, race or class, but their reinforcing and interacting nature
  • Out: which again links up our spheres
  • need to specify different levels in which SDoH and structured inequality affect health → different policy solutions parallels to children and youth?
  • In: captures the complex and dynamic environments in which SDoH play out Out: shows that for broad social sectors, paying attention to building community resilience and capacities is crucial also highlights the need for action across various policy spheres and sectors
  • parallel? support for children who have been abused = equally wicked problem
  • IN: people can throw their hands → if SDoH are so fundamental, how can they ever be changed? if various determinants are so interconnected, where to start? key action is at macro level: reducing overall social and economic inequality may be the most significant single way to reduce health disparities → requires a significant commitment and re-orientation of social and economic policy Challenge: making SDoH understandable  similar to children’s rights
  • parallel: poverty/inequality – higher proportion in justice system
  • In: even though roots of health disparities lie in far wider social and economic inequality, it is crucial to ensure equitable access to health care regardless of social position will try to draw out some lessons learned from health reform Out: what parallels for children's equity? similar X point strategy?
  • One parallel to children's services – -- need for good equity-focused planning -- to inform advocacy efforts and help to identify key levers/avenues for change
  • OWHN model of inclusive research as one way again -- parallels
  • many CCIs focus on children Hamilton e.g.
  • Parallels to child and youth services e.g. when turning 18
  • fiscal prudence means spending wisely, reducing waste, collecting sufficient taxes to pay for the public goods and services we want, and keeping debt coming down, at least during reasonably good times
  • Demonstrates understanding that investing now can create savings in the long-term (although increase still below caseload growth and inflation) Need basket of essential supports, child care, transit, employment supports, etc. Social spending includes social assistance, developmental services, child protection, Ontario Child Benefit, child and youth mental health, youth justice, and child care
  • Freezing and cutting will have negative – and ongoing – health impacts for people on social assistance and their children But the government did increase funding in this key area, which demonstrates that they see the need for these kinds of investments  leverage point
  • parallel to children and youth -- idea of children's’ justice basic ideas of health and social justice can be a powerful vision to drive action
  • Advancing Health, Health Equity and Opportunities for Children and Youth in Tough Times

    1. 1. Advancing Health, Health Equity and Opportunities for Children and Youth in Tough Times Presentation to the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth April 2012 Bob Gardner & Steve Barnes
    2. 2. OutlinePervasive and damaging health Rooted in underlying socialinequities determinants of health = parallels in problems you addressStrategy and action to address health Some parallel lessons learned forinequities your challengesAddressing underlying determinants Parallels are closeof healthPost-Drummond era of austerity Policy context shapes all of our issues 2
    3. 3. One Problem to Solve: Health Inequities in Ontario•there is a clear gradient inhealth in which people withlower income, education orother indicators of socialinequality and exclusion tendto have poorer health•+ major differences betweenwomen and men•the gap between the health ofthe best off and mostdisadvantaged can be huge –and damaging•impact and severity of theseinequities can beconcentrated in particularpopulations 3
    4. 4. Impact of Inequities• from the start: while infant mortality rates have been declining overall, rates in Canada’s poorest neighbourhoods remain two-thirds higher than those of the richest neighbourhoods• to the end: inequality in how long people live • difference btwn life expectancy of top and bottom income decile = 7.4 years for men and 4.5 for women• + inequality in how well people live: • more sophisticated analyses add the pronounced gradient in morbidity to mortality → taking account of quality of life and developing data on health adjusted life expectancy • even higher disparities btwn top and bottom = 11.4 years for men and 9.7 for women (Statistics Canada Health Reports Dec 09) 4
    5. 5. Health Equity = Reducing Unfair Differences• Health disparities or inequities are differences in health outcomes that are avoidable, unfair and systematically related to social inequality and disadvantage• This concept: • is clear, understandable and actionable • identifies the problem that policies will try to solve • is also tied to widely accepted notions of fairness and social justice• The goal of health equity strategy is to reduce or eliminate socially and institutionally structured health inequalities and differential outcomes• A positive and forward-looking definition = equal opportunities for good health• Equity is a broad goal, including diversity in background, culture, race and identity 5
    6. 6. Health Equity and Social Justice• this view builds upon Amartyn Sen -- a leading voice in highlighting that what has to be equitable here is the capacity to secure good health• More broadly, he sees the capability for good health as “a central feature of the justice of social arrangements in general”• a recent book on Health Justice by Sridahr Venkatapuram emphasizes: • “the recognition of every human being’s moral entitlement to a capability to be healthy” • and links this to social determinants of health • “.. and, more specifically, the entitlement is to the social bases” of the capability to be healthy• in these ways health equity can be seen as a fundamental component of social justice 6
    7. 7. Foundations of Health Disparities Roots Lie in Social Determinants of Health• clear research consensus that roots of health disparities lie in broader social and economic inequality and exclusion• impact of inadequate early childhood development, poverty, precarious employment, social exclusion, inadequate housing and decaying social safety nets on health outcomes is well established here and internationally• real problem is differential access to these determinants – many analysts are focusing more specifically on social determinants of health inequalities 7
    8. 8. Canadians With Chronic Conditions Who Also Report Food Insecurity 8
    9. 9. Drilling Down: Diabetes• Best way to prevent/manage diabetes is through a healthy diet of lots of fruit & veggies • But not all communities have easy access to grocery stores • And not all families can afford healthy food • And not all families can afford the transport costs to get to and from stores • And not everyone has good access to primary health care that helps manage diabetes in the first place• All this leads to ongoing health problems over a lifetime 9
    10. 10. SDoH As a Complex ProblemDeterminants interact and intersectwith each other in a constantlychanging and dynamic systemIn fact, through multiple interactingand inter-dependent economic,social and health systemsDeterminants have a reinforcing andcumulative effect on individualsthroughout their lives and onoverall population health 10
    11. 11. SDoH Over the Life Course• important elaboration in SDoH analysis – recognizing that: • the effect of determinants varies across people’s lives – so need to analyze impact on children and youth specifically • and that impact of inequalities is cumulative• for children, research shows that: • pre-natal and early years are especially sensitive to social conditions and can have a major impact on future health • intervening in early years to counteract adverse effects of wider social and economic inequalities has great potential • growing up in inadequate and inequitable social and family circumstances can store up a life-time of health problems 11
    12. 12. Three Cumulative and Inter-Dependent Levels Shape Health Inequities1. because of inequitable access to 1. gradient of health in which more wealth, income, education and disadvantaged communities have other fundamental determinants of poorer overall health and are at health → greater risk of many conditions1. also because of broader social and 1. some communities and populations economic inequality and exclusion→ have fewer capacities, resources and resilience to cope with the impact of poor health1. because of all this, disadvantaged 1. these disadvantaged and vulnerable and vulnerable populations have communities tend to have more complex needs, but face inequitable access to services and systemic barriers within the health support they need and other systems → 12
    13. 13. Social Determinantsof Health +Need to look at how theseother systems shape theimpact of SDoH: •access to health services can mediate harshest impact of SDoH to some degree •community resources and resilience are importantPOWER Study: GenderandEquity Health IndicatorFramework 13
    14. 14. Health Inequities = ‘Wicked’ Problem• health inequities and their underlying social determinants of health are classic ‘wicked’ policy problems: • shaped by many inter-related and inter-dependent factors • in constantly changing social, economic, community and policy environments • action has to be taken at multiple levels -- by many levels of government, service providers, other stakeholders and communities • solutions are not always clear and policy agreement can be difficult to achieve • effects take years to show up – far beyond any electoral cycle• have to be able to understand and navigate this complexity to develop solutions• we need to be able to: • identify the connections and causal pathways between multiple factors • articulate the mechanisms or leverage points that we assume drive change in these factors and population health as a whole • identify the crucial policy levers that will drive the needed changes • specify the short, intermediate and long-term outcomes expected and the preconditions for achieving them.April 4, 2012 14
    15. 15. Think Big, But Get Going• the point of all this analysis is to be able to identify policy and program changes needed to reduce health disparities• but health disparities can seem so overwhelming and their underlying social determinants so intractable → can be paralyzing• think big and think strategically, but get going • make best judgment from evidence and experience • identify actionable and manageable initiatives that can make a difference • experiment and innovate • learn lessons and adjust – why evaluation is so crucial • gradually build up coherent sets of policy and program actions – and keep evaluating 15• need to start somewhere – and focus here is on children’s health and
    16. 16. Equity Into Health System: Whyif the foundations of health inequities lie in underlying social determinants, why worry about health care?3. it’s in the health system that the most disadvantaged in SDoH terms end up sicker and needing care • equitable healthcare and support can help to mediate the harshest impact of the wider social determinants of health on health disadvantaged populations and communities4. in addition, there are systemic disparities in access and quality of healthcare that need to be addressed • people lower down the social hierarchy can have poorer access to health services, even though they may have more complex needs and require more care • unless we address inequitable access and quality, healthcare and community support services could make overall disparities even worse 16
    17. 17. Towards Solutions: Building Equity Into the Health System1. building health equity into all health care planning and delivery • doesn’t mean all programs are all about equity • but all take equity into account in planning their services and outreach2. aligning equity with system drivers and priorities – such as chronic disease prevention and management, quality3. embedding equity in provider organizations’ deliverables, incentives and performance management4. targeting some resources or programs specifically to addressing disadvantaged populations or key access barriers • looking for investments and interventions that will have the highest impact on reducing health disparities or enhancing the opportunities for good health of the most vulnerable • looking to improve the health of most disadvantaged, fastest5. while investing up-stream in health promotion and addressing the underlying determinants of healthApril 4, 2012 17
    18. 18. Equity-Focused Planning• all of that needs good planning• addressing health disparities in service delivery, planning and policy development requires a solid understanding of: • key barriers to equitable access to high quality health care and other services and support • the specific needs of health-disadvantaged populations • gaps in available services for these populations• and need to understand the roots of disparities: • i.e. is the main problem language barriers, lack of coordination among providers, sheer lack of services in particular neighbourhoods, racism, concentrated poverty, precarious work, etc. • which requires good local research and detailed information – speaks to great potential of community-based research and involvement of local communities• requires an array of effective and practical equity-focused planning tools: • for health care to ensure equitable access – equity into targets, deliverables and performance management • other sectors to ensure implications for health are taken into account HEIA • all sectors to enhance policy and program coordination and coherent impact HiAP 18
    19. 19. Start From The Community• goal is to reduce health disparities and speak to needs of most vulnerable communities – who will define those needs?• can’t just be ‘experts’, planners or professionals • have to build community into core planning and priority setting • not as occasional community engagement, but to identify equity needs and priorities, and to evaluate how we are doing • many providers have community advisory panels or community members on their boards • can also build on innovative methods of engagement – e.g. citizens’ assemblies or juries in many jurisdictions• need to develop community engagement that will work for disadvantaged and marginalized communities: • in the language and culture of particular community • has to be collaborative • sustained over the long-term • has to show results – to build trust • need to go where people are • need to partner with trusted community groups19
    20. 20. Extend That → Build Community-Level Action• all leading jurisdictions with comprehensive equity strategies combine national policy with local adaptation and concentrated investment• many cities have developed neighbourhood revitalization strategies • Toronto’s priority neighbourhoods, Regent’s Park• promising direction = comprehensive community initiatives: • broad partnerships of local residents, community organizations, governments, business, labour and other stakeholders coming together to address deep-rooted local problems – poverty, neighbourhood deterioration, health disparities • collaborative cross-sectoral efforts – employment opportunities, skills building, access to health and social services, community development • e.g. of Vibrant Communities – 14 communities across the country to build individual and community capacities to reduce poverty • Wellesley review of evidence = these initiatives have the potential to build individual opportunities, awareness of structural nature of poverty and local mobilization → into policy advocacy20
    21. 21. Public Policy Post-Drummond• An enormous range of specific recommendations and welcome recognition of need for govt and public services to be more innovative and responsive• But most important influence may be in shaping the tenor/parameters of public policy• It justifies and ushers in an era of austerity, restraint and limited public investment – with implications for all our fields 21
    22. 22. Drummond on Health• The Drummond Report’s emphasis on reform and innovation in the way health care is organized and delivered is vital.• Huge element is missing: equity. • Equitable access to services, equitable outcomes and improved population health must also be fundamental goals of reform. • we need to ensure that that the reforms being contemplated do not make access to health care less equitable or worsen the health of marginalized populations.• Drummond highlights that a small proportion of patients with complex needs account for a high proportion of overall health system costs and emphasizes that preventing ill health and controlling chronic diseases is crucial moving forward • but the distribution of ill-health is not random • consistent inequitable gradient of health 22
    23. 23. Drummond on Health II• The report also highlights the importance of primary care. • An equity approach would ensure that expanded family health teams, community health centres and other key reforms are concentrated in under-served and higher need areas to reduce inequitable disparities in access.• The report rightly points to the need for coordination and integration of services. • Discharging a patient into overcrowded or unsafe housing means that they are likely to end up back in the hospital, thereby undermining the savings and efficiencies the Commission is looking for. 23
    24. 24. Post-Drummond Social Policy• Drummond did recognize – although unevenly – that not investing in the social/community foundations of a healthy society will lead to higher costs down the road• But it didn’t recognize in its health analysis how inequitable social determinants of health will undermine efforts at reform and continue to underlay poorer health • the same point – of not seeing the systemic roots of so many social problems and policy challenges in structured inequality weakens the Report throughout • so there is no coherent vision of investing in the social foundations of a healthy and equitable society 24
    25. 25. Look for Areas to Intervene•Commission on the Reformof Social Assistance inOntario•A broad collaborative ofleading Toronto healthsector institutions andexperts came together to: • Define a vision of health- enabling social assistance system; and • Practical actions to implement such a system 25
    26. 26. Social Assistance Reform• Drummond recommended that social spending be allowed to increase by 0.5%• But social assistance rates are already inadequate and people on social assistance do not have the supports to help them into work/training• Children who grow up in poverty ‘store up’ a lifetime of health problems 26
    27. 27. Social Assistance Reform II• The budget froze social assistance rates and cut funding for health-related expenses• And it preempted the advice of its own expert Commission• BUT it increased spending on social and children’s services by an average of 2.7 percent over the next three years, the largest percentage increase of any sector 27
    28. 28. Lessons for Advancing Equity in Tough Times• Watch for constant danger of austerity policy: → cuts to community foundations of health and opportunity or to services for most vulnerable → make inequalities worse• Always keep equity in the front of your mind• Don’t let the scale of the problem or the harsh policy environment stop you from making progress • Austerity will pass and we need to be ready with imaginative and achievable policy solutions• Identify opportunities and the policy levers that you have within your control 28
    29. 29. Back to Community Again: Build Momentum and Mobilization• sophisticated strategy, solid equity-focused research, planning and innovation, and well-targeted investments and services are key• but in the long run, also need fundamental changes in over-arching social policy and underlying structures of economic and social inequality• these kinds of huge changes come about not because of good analysis, but through widespread community mobilization and public pressure• key to equity-driven reform will also be empowering communities to imagine their own alternative vision of different health futures and to organize to achieve them• we need to find ways that governments, providers, community groups, unions, and others can support each others’ campaigns and coalesce around a few ‘big ideas’ 29
    30. 30. Health Equity• could be one of those ‘big’ unifying ideas.. • if we see opportunities for good health and well-being as a basic right for all • if we see the damaged health of disadvantaged and marginalized populations as an indictment of an unequal society – but that focused initiatives can make a difference • if we recognize that coming together to address the social determinants that underlie health inequalities will also address the roots of so many other social problems• thinking of what needs to be done to create health equity is a way of imagining and forging a powerful vision of a progressive future• and showing that we can get there from here 30