Achieving health for all through self-reflection on attitudes, beliefs and behaviours
The Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA) applauds the Chief Public Health Officer for the release of the 2019 Annual Report on the State of Public Health in Canada—Addressing Stigma: Towards a more inclusive health system.
For the most part, Canada is a healthy nation, but we can do better. The report highlights some areas where we have seen health improvements and other areas that are concerning. Achievements have been made in social factors that influence health including an increase in post-secondary education levels and a decrease in childhood poverty. Troublesome trends are the rise of measles, a vaccine-preventable disease; a resurgence of sexually-transmitted and blood-borne infections such as syphilis; increased incidence of youth vaping; and, the rising toll of the opioid crisis.
As much as we would like to believe that our health system is universally accessible, supportive, and safe, our social structures are often designed in a way that limits access to services for many Canadians, leading to poor health outcomes and health inequities. These barriers are the result of widespread stigma and discrimination.
“The widespread presence of stigma and discrimination within and outside of the health system results in Canada being a country where not every person has the ability to reach their full health potential,” says Ian Culbert, Executive Director of CPHA. “Those of us in the health and social service sectors – in fact all Canadians – need to reflect on our own personal attitudes and beliefs and employers need to review the systems that reinforce stigma and discrimination so that we can reduce health inequities in our society.”
The report overviews the linkages between stigma and poor health outcomes and suggests an action framework to reduce stigma.
Earlier this year, CPHA released LANGUAGE MATTERS: Using respectful language in relation to sexual health, substance use, STBBIs and intersecting sources of stigma, a practical guide for health and social service providers that demonstrates how we can be thoughtful and inclusive with our language choices and how to avoid words or expressions that exclude groups of people or that are considered hurtful toward particular communities.
CPHA’s position statement on Racism and Public Health includes a set of recommendations for all levels of government and governmental agencies as well as for agencies and organizations involved in education, research and the provision of health and social services to address systemic racism in Canada.