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For immediate release:
Health Workers Hold Massive Hunger
On Monday October 3, 2005, a team of doctors, nurse practitioners and registered dieticians will set up a huge clinic on the front lawn of Queen's Park to assess one thousand low income people for the Special Diet Allowance. The allowance provides social assistance recipients with an extra $250 monthly if a health care practitioner determines medical need.
The single most important predictor of health problems is low income. Since the deep cuts to social assistance in 1995, rates have fallen in real costs by approximately 40%. This places low income Ontarians at increased risk of many health problems including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Says Dr. Gary Bloch, MD, of St. Michael's Hospital: "When a patient comes to my office with high blood pressure, I feel obliged to treat it to the best of my abilities to prevent it from becoming serious heart disease. Similarly, when a patient does not have enough money to afford her basic nutritional needs, I am compelled to treat her poverty to the best of my abilities, to prevent this from turning into serious illness. Treating poverty as a health condition and as a risk factor for serious illness is precisely what we are doing through this campaign. I cannot treat my low income patients' health without addressing their poverty."
Health providers are participating in the mass clinic because they understand that preventing health problems makes much more human and fiscal sense than treating chronic conditions. They are calling on the provincial government to raise social assistance rates by 40%: "One way or another, the Ontario government will have to pay. It can increase social assistance rates now, and invest in the health of low income Ontarians, or it can procrastinate and pay the much greater future health care costs of treating expensive chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease and the multiple complications which arise from them," says Dr. Melissa Melnitzer, MD, a family physician working in an inner city Toronto neighbourhood.
For more information, contact:
Dr. Gary Bloch, MD
Dr. Melissa Melnitzer, MD
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