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News Release

What matters to health is more than we may think

Nov 13, 2017
SIMCOE MUSKOKA – When we think about our health, we often think about access to health care and lifestyle choices, but what actually matters most to our health are the conditions in our daily lives.

SIMCOE MUSKOKA – When we think about our health, we often think about access to health care and  lifestyle choices, but what actually matters most to our health are the conditions in our daily lives.

“When we live in poor quality housing, when we don’t have money, when we don’t have decent jobs – even when we don’t have social connections – our health can be, and often is, negatively affected,” said Dr. Lisa Simon, associate medical officer of health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU). “Health starts long before we need health care; health starts with these social determinants of health, because they influence our opportunity to be healthy and live a long life.”

People with less money have higher rates of chronic disease, use the health care system more often and are more likely to die earlier than those with more money. Money is also important because it influences other living conditions, including access to safe and affordable housing, education, nutritious affordable food and health services like dental care. In Simcoe Muskoka, 12 per cent of the population live with low income, including almost 16,000 children and more than 9,000 seniors.

People who are not able to afford safe and secure housing are also at more risk of health problems, while the high cost of housing can limit the money people have left over for food and transportation.

People who are unemployed, work in low paying jobs, have part time or seasonal work or have poor working conditions are at higher risk of stress, injury, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Being socially connected also matters to health, especially during times of stress. Family, friends, neighbours and co-workers give people a sense of belonging to a community and help buffer hard times. However, more than a third of Simcoe Muskoka residents 12 years and older feel a somewhat weak or very weak sense of community belonging.

“There is not a lot of public awareness that our health and well-being is shaped significantly by the conditions of our daily lives,” said Dr. Simon. “Knowing about them and understanding them is a first step in improving the health of our communities.”  

For more on the social determinants of health, which also include several other determinants, visit the health unit’s website at www.smdhu.org/whatmatters or call Health Connection at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520 weekdays 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.

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