Much work needs to be done to close the gap between social classes in order to improve the health of Ontario residents, says Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Deb Matthews.
t Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Deb Matthews spoke to Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry students April 23 about the importance of reducing poverty.
Matthews, London North Centre MPP, spoke to medical students at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry about the province’s Poverty Reduction Strategy and safe, affordable housing, and the implications on health. The event was organized by Schulich’s Political Advocacy Committee.
“We know the social determinants of health. It’s really clear that those social determinants really do determine health status, so the more preventative you can be, the better,” she says.
Matthews has been involved politically in social assistance reform, particularly in her previous role as Ontario’s Minister of Children and Youth Services and Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues.
Matthews attended The University of Western Ontario as a mature student, completing a PhD in Sociology. During this time, she was motivated to run for provincial office. She played a role in introducing the Poverty Reduction Strategy, which seeks to reduce the number of children living in poverty by 25 per cent over five years.
“When a problem is so big and so pervasive as poverty, where do you start?” she says.
“We are persuaded that the best thing you can do to break the cycle of poverty — because we really do see an intergenerational nature to poverty — (and) the best protective factor against adult poverty is education.”
A year into implementing the strategy, which targets eight measures such as income, housing and health that capture the spectrum of poverty, Matthews is optimistic the target will be met.
“The cost of poverty is far higher than the cost of reducing poverty,” she adds.
She encouraged the students to maintain their advocacy work and to petition governmental representatives on issues of concern.
“As the freshest eyes in health care, you probably are seeing things we really should institute in health care.”