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Health Policy. 2008 Dec;88(2-3):222-35. doi: 10.1016/j.healthpol.2008.03.015. Epub 2008 May 8.

Barriers to addressing the social determinants of health: insights from the Canadian experience.

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School of Health Policy and Management, York University, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, Canada M3J 1P3.


Despite Canada's reputation as a leader in health promotion and population health, implementation of public policies in support of the social determinants of health has been woefully inadequate. The continuing presence of income, housing, and food insecurity has led to Canada being the subject of a series of rebukes from the United Nations for failing to address child and family poverty, discrimination against women and Aboriginal groups, and most recently the crisis of homelessness and housing insecurity. In this article we consider some of the reasons why this might be the case. These include the epistemological dominance of positivist approaches to the health sciences, the ideology of individualism prevalent in North America, and the increasing influence on public policy of the marketplace. Various models of public policy provide pathways by which these barriers can be surmounted. Considering that the International Commission on the Social Determinants of Health will soon be releasing its findings and recommendations, such an analysis seems especially timely for understanding both the Canadian scene and developments in other nations.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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