Heart disease and politics

By Admin Thursday August 13 2015 in Editorial
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Another study has been published reminding us that the rate of heart disease is significantly high among people of African ancestry living in Canada. The Canadian Community Health Survey looked at cardiovascular health as measured in terms of ethnicity and found that the rate of increase in cardiovascular disease has risen faster over the past 10 years than in prior decades, in particular among Black women and South Asian males. It also pointed to tremendous increase in obesity rates among Black and Chinese males.

Urban life has certainly given way to more sedentary habits, which would explain the survey pointing to smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity as factors in the rise of heart disease.

Perhaps other aspects were beyond the parameters of the study, but social, economic and even political factors would have to be considered in getting a more accurate understanding of all that contributes to this health epidemic.

The matter of heart disease may seem to be a far off issue during an election year, yet if election surveys are to be believed, healthcare is a top concern among a sizeable demographic within the electorate.

Perhaps it is too early in this 11-week election cycle for politicians hoping to be elected to drill down on the matter of healthcare funding, but if they hope to get the attention of that sizable demographic, then they had better begin to state their policies and promises in this regard.

As it is now, the Conservative Party of Canada, the group that has been running the government over the past 10 years, is aiming to whittle down healthcare transfer payments to the provinces.

Under various governments, Medicare transfer payments from the federal government had gone from its initial 50/50 funding model down to 10/90. That is, 10 per cent of the total amount to fund healthcare would have come from the feds. This cut was one of the tools the previous Liberal government used to curb a deficit and to bring about a balanced budget in the 1990s.

The 2004 Health Accord was an attempt by the Liberals to restore some balance by moving Medicare transfer payments up to 20 per cent. That 10-year agreement ran out in 2014. Now, the Conservatives with their aim for six per cent in Medicare transfer payments will take some $36 billion out of that funding over the coming 10 years.

That plan goes even further, since the Conservatives have already presented their plan to take Medicare transfers from six per cent to contributing only three per cent of total funding in 2017, and thenceforth to tie transfer payments to whatever state the economy is in, whether economic growth or economic decline. Of course, some of this could have been avoided if the Conservatives had not cut the GST tax by one cent, thereby costing billions in lost revenue.

This plan to cut transfer payments is set to go forward while the healthcare needs of an aging population are increasing, as well as the healthcare needs of particular ethnic groups as identified by the aforementioned Canadian Community Health Survey.

In response, Ontario’s healthcare spending has continued to decline, with more and more emphasis being placed on the lowest cost in applying care. That will explain the Ontario Liberals’ latest budget having placed greater emphasis on homecare workers, the lowest paid workers in other words, to take up the burden of healthcare.

If the aim of the Harper Conservatives is to ease in a two-tier healthcare model, then cutting Medicare transfer payments would be the way to spur that on. It would once again point to their method of looking after those who can best take care of themselves and leaving the most vulnerable to fate.

Heart disease not only shows up in higher proportion among people of African descent, it is also evident in critical numbers among those who live with the stressors of poverty and other forms of financial insecurity, such as poor diet and inadequate housing.

Heart disease will require more support and will take the lives of more people living in Canada than the threat of misguided people willing to fight with the Islamic State terrorist organization. That should make it an election issue.

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