The Northwestern Health Unit is looking to highlight the root causes of poor health in the northwestern Ontario community, and hope to empower the public to improve health equity in the region – through their Health Equity Matters campaign.

Health equity is described as making sure that each member of the public has the resources they need to reach their best health.

“Health is greatly influenced by a number of social and economic factors, including income, education, housing, social acceptance, and access to healthy food. These are the social determinants of health,” said Medical Officer of Health for the health unit, Dr. Kit Young-Hoon.

The Healthy Equity Matters campaign will focus attention on why health equity is not just a public health issue, but a public issue with real effects on the health of our communities. It is estimated that health equity makes up roughly 50 per cent of a person’s health.

“The purpose of the campaign is to inform the general public about the root causes of poor health, what is health equity and the social factors that influence health, and the role that they play in the health of our community. In order to improve the health of people in our region, work must be done to address these key factors that can contribute to poor health,” Young-Hoon added.

The two-year campaign is a new requirement in the Ontario Public Health Standards, and was identified in the health unit’s 2017 – 2020 Strategic Plan.

In July of 2018, the health unit released the results of their annual public health report card, which compared health behaviours and death-rates in the district to those across the province, as well as health equity, community engagement and more.

For health behaviours, the health unit reported that northwestern Ontario had a high percentage of cigarette smokers and heavy drinkers, compared to the provincial norm. Fruit and vegetable consumption was in-line with the rest of the province, and residents reported more physical activity than average. 

When looking at leading causes of death, cancer rates across the board were higher than the provincial average. Northwestern Ontario also had close to double the accidental-death rate for Ontario, and triple the intentional self-harm rate.

For more information:
Drinking, smoking rates high in region
New standards for NWHU

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