Saturday, October 19, 2013

Saturday Morning Links

This and that for your weekend reading.

- Thomas Walkom notes that the CETA isn't particularly about trade, but instead serves to enshrine yet again the principle that investors come before citizens.

- Lana Payne highlights the contradiction between the promise that giveaways to the corporate sector will lead to good jobs, and the reality that employers are looking more and more toward exploitative structures such as unpaid internships and temporary foreign workers.

- Meanwhile, Konrad Yakabuski sees the Cons' set of minor consumer baubles as a poor substitute for economic development which would actually help working Canadians.

- Finally, Cameron Dearlove writes about the impact of income and social supports on overall well-being:
The study of the social determinants of health provides us with the best opportunity for reining in long-term health costs. The social determinants are the economic and social conditions that determine the health of individuals and communities. Research has shown that economic and social conditions are more important factors in determining health than individual and family behaviour.

Put simply, your income has a greater impact on your health than lifestyle choices. One oft-cited study revealed an astonishing 21-year life expectancy gap between two Hamilton neighbourhoods — one affluent, one with entrenched poverty. That poorer neighbourhood's life expectancy of 65.5 years isn't close to Canada's average. If it were a country, it would rank 165th in the world.

We find equally striking numbers when looking beyond communities to the health costs of individuals experiencing poverty. A study in Vancouver determined that the costs to the health system of one homeless individual accessing emergency services can reach $55,000 a year, a figure well beyond what it would have cost to house this person. 
What about the social determinants of childhood development and education? Poverty can actually leave a mark on a child's brain development. A Berkeley study identified differences in prefrontal cortex development based on a child's socioeconomic background, a part of the brain responsible for problem solving and creativity.

Studies across age groups show that the stressful reality of poverty takes up so much mental energy that it can negatively impact an individual's pursuit of education. 
People like to believe that our individual efforts and decisions determine our fates, but the social determinants expose the naiveté of this view. Pulling oneself up from one's bootstraps isn't impossible. But systemically, the dice are loaded. 

It's time we put to rest the assumption that cuts to social and health spending save money. Let's judge spending decisions instead on the social determinants of everything.

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