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Health care in Canada: What makes us sick?: Canadian Medical Association town hall report

In an effort to drive health system change, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) launched, in 2011, the National Dialogue on Health Care Transformation. The dialogue took place online and in six town hall meetings across Canada.  What makes us sick? summarizes the public dialogues, and makes 12 recommendations for action.

Participants in the consultations told the CMA that the health care system is only one predictor of good health. They identified four factors—income, housing, nutrition, and early childhood development—that have an equal, if not more important, role in determining health. One clear message was that the medical profession has an ethical duty to work towards a society in which everyone has the opportunity to lead a healthy life. The CMA team heard that Canada should be a compassionate society in which everyone has decent living conditions and equal access to the health care system. However, while dialogue participants were clear that issues such as poverty and inadequate housing need to be rectified, they struggled with how this should be done.

The report recommends actions to address the four factors that participants identified as having the greatest influence on health.  One recommendation is for a national food security program to ensure equitable access to safe and nutritious food, regardless of people’s neighbourhood or income.  Another is to prioritize investments in early childhood development, including education programs and parental supports at all levels of government.

Use this resource to

  • learn more about the work of the Canadian Medical Association, and the outcome of this important consultation process
  • consider how a process of consultation about the determinants of health and health equity could be implemented by your association or organization
  • support and inform your work as a practitioner, decision maker or policy maker interested in making access to the social determinants of health more equitable in Canada


Canadian Medical Association (2013).  Health care in Canada: What makes us sick?: Canadian Medical Association Town Hall Report. Ottawa (ON): Canadian Medical Association.

Tags: Access to health services, Community engagement, Early childhood development, Food security, Intersectoral action, Leadership & capacity building, Socioeconomic status , Link

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