Monday, May 27, 2013
Adding to poor patients' incomes works to decrease the health effects of poverty, Canadian doctors are finding.
The Canadian Medical Association is asking people across the country how poverty affects their health as part of its national dialogue tour. The group said that social and economic factors determine 50 per cent of health outcomes.
At his inner city family practice at Toronto's St. Michael's Hospital, Dr. Gary Bloch puts income information at the top of the medical history he puts on his charts.
"Treating people at low income with a higher income will have at least as big an impact on their health as any other drugs that I could prescribe them," Bloch said.
To that end, Bloch asks all patients what their income is and where they get it, along with the standard questions about past medical history, surgeries and medications.
"I do see poverty as a disease," Bloch said.
In his practice, prescribing income could mean assessing whether a patient's illnesses might qualify for provincial or federal disability supports and employment insurance. He helps fill in applications and connects patients with programs such as basic financial planning.