Social determinants of health are factors that influence the health of all people. There are 14 factors influencing health. Some of these factors include income, stress, education, employment, early childhood development, food insecurity, race, gender, etc. This paper focuses on housing and the impacts of housing on health based on a reading called Social determinants of health: The Canadian facts by J. Mikkonen and D. Raphael (2010). This paper will also analyze a current newspaper article about housing and how it affects health.
Finally, this paper will compare how the two articles relate to housing, health, and social policy. From the reading, Social determinants of health: The Canadian facts by J. Mikkonen and D. Raphael (2010), I came to understand that housing has an important connection with the health and well-being of all people. The reading, Social determinants of health (2010), described housing as one of the most basic necessities people need for healthy living (Mikkonen and Raphael, 2010, p. 29). We need a house in order to stay healthy, therefore, housing isn’t an issue Canadians should ignore.
Unfortunately, ignoring is what we are doing since Canada is facing a “homelessness emergency”, or a rise in homelessness, especially in larger cities where the risk of homelessness is 22% in Vancouver, 20% in Toronto, and 18% in Montreal (Mikkonen and Raphael, 2010, p. 29-30). One of the causes of this issue is the rise in housing cost where Canadians are spending most of their income on paying for rent. The reading further explained that there was a high correlation between income, unemployment/job security, and housing towards health (Mikkonen and Raphael, 2010, p. 0).
Without a job, or even with a low paying job, Canadians won’t have the income they need to pay for their housing. The combination of high rents for housing, low incomes, and unemployment becomes a big problem for the health of Canadians because, if Canadians can’t pay rent, then they become at risk for homelessness which can further lead to more illnesses or even death. “The likelihood of early death among homeless people is 8-10 times greater than the general population” (Mikkonen and Raphael, 2010, p. 30).
Finally, this reading described that not only is having a house or a shelter important, the quality of the housing or shelter is significant to the health and well-being of Canadians as well. The reading stated, “The presence of lead and mold, poor heating and draft, inadequate ventilation, vermin, and overcrowding are all determinants of adverse health outcomes. Children who live in low-quality housing conditions have a greater likelihood of poor health outcomes in both childhood and adulthood. Dampness, for example, causes respiratory illness and makes pre-existing health conditions worse. ” (Mikkonen and Raphael, 2010, p. 9).
This demonstrated that even living in a poor quality housing unit affects health and puts Canadians at risk for homelessness. For example, since there are some individuals sleeping in unsafe conditions, and some individuals that don’t even have a home to sleep in, they have no protection against the weather especially in the winter when it’s cold. They become at risk for health issues like hypothermia and pneumonia, which can then lead to death. The article I chose for this essay is called “About 4,000 people are homeless in Metro Vancouver, study says” by B. Leighton and D. Meissner (2017).
This article discussed a rising situation in Vancouver, where there are more than 70 homeless camps with approximately 4,000 people living in Metro Vancouver, who are homeless (Leighton and Meissner, 2017). A key theme in this article was the causes of homelessness. There was a growing concern that the homeless crisis is on the rise because the cost of living is increasing (Leighton and Meissner, 2017). Not only are Canadians using their income on unaffordable housing payments, they could also be spending their income on social services, like health care, and/or other necessities, like food and water (Leighton and Meissner, 2017).
This combination of income spendings becomes a problem for Canadians because it makes them at risk for homelessness. The article stated that “five people become homeless across the region every week and a further 60,000 households are vulnerable to homelessness” (Leighton and Meissner, 2017). This is an alarming statistic, and therefore, the message in this article was to bring awareness to the homelessness crisis in order to prevent and decrease the number of people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness in Canada. As a result, a task force in Vancouver encouraged the government to create a plan to tackle the homelessness crisis.
To tackle this situation, the task force proposed that political parties should agree to open approximately 2,000 transitional units between 2017 to 2019 (Leighton and Meissner, 2017). Even though the government is doing what it can to decrease the number of homeless people in the streets, “Rich Coleman, the minister responsible for housing, said the report does not take into account the numerous efforts underway across Metro Vancouver to find housing for people” (Leighton and Meissner, 2017), their efforts are not enough to keep people off the streets.
This shows that housing is an important determinant of health because as the cost of living increases, the amount of people at risk of homelessness increases, which can affect health negatively. The article by Leighton and Meissner (2017) strengthened the idea of how housing is an important social determinant of health as explained in the reading from Mikkonen and Raphael (2010). It is important because without hosing, homeless individuals are at greater risk for health problems and death compared to the general population (Mikkonen and Raphael, 2010, p. 0).
Both readings explained how income and employment are main factors in the risk of homelessness. The article Leighton and Meissner (2017) stated that Canadians are becoming homeless or at risk for homelessness because they spend most of their income on housing. The same can be said from the reading by Mikkonen and Raphael (2010) which described that more tenants are spending more than 30% of their income on housing making it more unaffordable for Canadians. This can cause Canadians to either find cheaper, unsafe housing or they can become homeless.
Essentially, both show the growing concern towards housing cost in Canada, especially for individuals with a low-paying job. If low-income individuals aren’t getting the income they need to support their basic needs, then they can’t make ends meet. Both articles also discuss the idea that not only are Canadians spending most of their income on housing, they are also using their income on other basic needs, such as health-care or food. This relates to other social determinants of health because as Canadians decided how to spend their income, factors such as food insecurity, housing, and health services come into play.
With this idea, it’s a matter of which is more important – paying for housing or paying for the other basic needs. It all becomes too expensive for Canadians, and in the long run, the stress of coping with theses decisions and the stress on their bodies can cause a decline on their health. “… stressful and poor living conditions can cause continuing feelings of shame, insecurity and worthlessness. In adverse living conditions, everyday life often appears as unpredictable, uncontrollable, and meaningless.
Uncertainty about the future raises anxiety and hopelessness that increases the level of exhaustion and makes everyday coping even more difficult. ” (Mikkonen and Raphael, 2010, p. 10). Job insecurity also affects housing because without a stable job, individuals can pay for rent, “Canada has one of the highest levels of low-paying jobs at 23 percent and among the highest family poverty rates among Western nations. ” (Mikkonen and Raphael, 2010, p. 30). Both articles connect to the concepts discussed in class because housing and homelessness involve people. making it a social issue.
The article by Leighton and Meissner (2017) raises awareness that there is a growing problem in Canada in terms of housing and that there needs to be a change. Unfortunately, homelessness and poor quality housing isn’t a new issue. Homelessness and poor quality housing had always been around. In class, we studied Joseph Atkinson and poverty. Even around the 1900s, Canadians dealt with homelessness and poor quality housing with overcrowding, poor houses and shanty shacks (Atkinson Foundation, 2012).
Based on the news article from the Toronto Star by Leighton and Meissner (2017) and Mikkonen and Raphael’s (2010) article on social determinate of health, what can you or I do to help solve the problem of the growing homelessness issue in Canada? I never really thought about the homeless situation in Canada. Whenever I walked down the street and see a homeless individual, I do nothing. I can’t really spare change because I use the money I have getting to and paying for school.
But I also feel like there’s a bystander effect I think that someone will eventually help, mostly the government. I also feel like homelessness is a really big issue for me to tackle alone. So to answer this question, well I don’t really have an answer, but in my opinion the first step would be to have the willingness to take that first step which is to recognize the homelessness and housing is a problem, I also need to become more educated especially since I never really thought about homelessness and poor quality housing.
In conclusion, housing is an important social determinant of health. Without housing, there is an increase of health-related problem. There is growing concern as the cost of rent is increasing make housing less affordable. Although housing issues have been around for years, homelessness, especially in larger Canadian cities like Vancouver, is on the rise. The combination of housing, income, and employment are factors affecting health. Without a job, individuals won’t get income to pay for housing or other resources.