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Pop quiz: name three things that affect your health.
Chances are slim you said your neighbourhood, your job
or your income. Yet all three are huge influences on your
health and wellness throughout life. They are among the
12 social determinants of health we define in this issue (see
Understanding How Health is Shaped on page 38) social,
economic and environmental factors play a bigger role in
our health than our genes and health-care system.
The social influences of health
Our coverage continues with Imagining Alberta Without
Poverty on page 40. We asked five Albertans to share their
views about how our province could change if we wiped
out poverty. “Eliminating poverty in Alberta would lead
to serious improvements in longevity, literacy, the status
of women and social mobility. It would also greatly reduce
crime, violence and substance abuse,” says Ricardo Acuña
of the Parkland Institute.
An Alberta study found poverty costs our health-care
system $1.2 billion a year. Economics, however, are only
a fraction of the problem. Poverty also keeps tens of
thousands 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 them
targets of discrimination.
The complexity and connectivity of the social
determinants of health are reflected in our story Changing
Directions: Health on the Blood Reserve (page 46). Curtis
Gillespie’s story and George Webber’s photography offer
both hopeful and haunting insight.
The social determinants of health are the things we do
with and for one another to improve our wellness and
quality of life. If we work in our communities to create
wellness environments that support everyone in being
healthier, we help them to reach their full potential and
contribute to building a healthier, fairer and more vibrant
— Jim Talbot & Gerry Predy
Dr. Jim Talbot is the chief medical officer of Health for Alberta
Health. Dr. Gerry predy is the senior medical officer of Health and
senior medical director of population, public and Aboriginal Health
for Alberta Health Services.