REALITY CHECK: B.C. Liberals Can’t Get Story Straight On Poverty And Health

Posted in:

The B.C. Liberal ministers of health and of housing and social development may want to do their homework on the relationship between health and poverty in the province of British Columbia.

  • Recently, in a written response to New Democrat MLA Kathy Corrigan, Minister of Housing and Social Development Rich Coleman said: “Some reports link poverty and health. Historically, this linkage is not well-established. Although there is a correlation between poverty and poor health outcomes, the direction of causality is vague.” (Letter in response to Estimates, March 1, 2010)
  • However, Tuesday morning in budget estimate debate, Health Minister Kevin Falcon was asked whether he would agree that poverty and inequity cause ill health, and he firmly stated that he “would agree with that”. (Hansard, May 25, 2010)

There is clear evidence that poverty and health are correlated:

  • In the Canadian Population Health Initiative, Shelley Phipps conducted a review of research studies concerning the impact of poverty on health, finding that: “Most of the studies reviewed tried to control for the possibility that ill health causes low income rather than that low income causes ill health; all conclude that reverse causation is not a serious problem and that the main direction of influence is from poverty to poor(er) health.” (The Impact of Poverty on Health, June 2003)

So the question for Minister Coleman now is: will he admit that poverty has a detrimental impact on health, and agree to bring in a comprehensive and targeted poverty reduction strategy?

The B.C. Liberals’ own “Conversation on Health” guide and studies that they have commissioned find that there is overwhelming evidence that poverty causes poor health. Does Minister Coleman believe he can change facts to suit arguments he is trying to make?

The B.C. Liberals refuse to accept basic facts about the social determinants of health, and that has significant impacts on patients, programs and health care costs. The B.C. Liberals continue to cut vital direct health supports to people with disabilities and the vulnerable poor, from a reduction in dental visits to reducing funds available for medical equipment and supplies.  These decisions undermine the health of recipients, and result in less proactive care and more emergency room visits.

Under the B.C. Liberal government, British Columbia has had the highest rate of child poverty in the country for six years in a row, and has the biggest gap between rich and poor in Canada.