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Pop quiz: name three things that affect your health.
Chances are slim you said your neighbourhood, your jobor your income. Yet all three are huge influences on yourhealth and wellness throughout life. They are among the
12 social determinants of health we define in this issue (seeUnderstanding How Health is Shaped on page 38) social,economic and environmental factors play a bigger role inour health than our genes and health-care system.
The social influences of health
Our coverage continues with Imagining Alberta WithoutPoverty on page 40. We asked five Albertans to share theirviews about how our province could change if we wipedout poverty. “Eliminating poverty in Alberta would leadto serious improvements in longevity, literacy, the statusof women and social mobility. It would also greatly reducecrime, violence and substance abuse,” says Ricardo Acuñaof the Parkland Institute.
An Alberta study found poverty costs our health-caresystem $1.2 billion a year. Economics, however, are onlya fraction of the problem. Poverty also keeps tens ofthousands of Albertans from being able to play, learn,thrive and be a part of their families and communities.
It also robs them of their dignity and often makes themtargets of discrimination.
The complexity and connectivity of the socialdeterminants of health are reflected in our story ChangingDirections: Health on the Blood Reserve (page 46). CurtisGillespie’s story and George Webber’s photography offerboth hopeful and haunting insight.
The social determinants of health are the things we dowith and for one another to improve our wellness andquality of life. If we work in our communities to createwellness environments that support everyone in beinghealthier, we help them to reach their full potential andcontribute to building a healthier, fairer and more vibrantAlberta.
— Jim Talbot & Gerry Predy
Dr. Jim Talbot is the chief medical officer of Health for AlbertaHealth. Dr. Gerry predy is the senior medical officer of Health andsenior medical director of population, public and Aboriginal Healthfor Alberta Health Services.