Politics of health

As perhaps the most universally relevant topic, health care cuts across lines of class, race, nationality, age, gender and political bent, and has the potential to either unite or polarize, to inspire or enrage. Seeking a more holistic understanding of health in our current socio-political context, Briarpatch explores the intersection between the health of our environment, our bodies and our social systems.

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    Letter from the editor

    Health, and the way we manage our collective well-being, is inherently political. As perhaps the most universally relevant topic, health care cuts across lines of class, race, nationality, age, gender and political bent, and has the potential to either unite or polarize, to inspire or enrage. As well as being highly political, health care is also deeply personal, affecting each of us at the most fundamental level of our existence.

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    In defense of universal health care

    There’s nothing universal about an insurance-based system, and Canadians concerned about the future of medicare would do well to understand the problems inherent in the American system.

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    De-linking from dependency

    The concept of indigenous food sovereignty represents a policy approach that extends the concept of food security through honouring the wisdom and values of indigenous knowledge in maintaining responsible relationships with the land.

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    Breeding disease

    Many Canadians first learned of flesh-eating disease or necrotizing fasciitis in 1994 when then-Bloc Québécois leader Lucien Bouchard lost his leg, and very nearly his life, to the affliction. Media reports of Bouchard’s brush with death described the disease as “extremely rare.” It was at the time, but has since become more commonplace.

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    Healing denied

    Of the more than 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis children who were forcibly removed from their families and enrolled in one of the many Indian Residential Schools (IRS) in Canada, it is estimated that there are 85,000 residential school survivors in Canada today. Alongside these survivors are the thousands more impacted by the intergenerational effects of residential schools on Aboriginal families.

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    Commodification

    Consumer culture is having significant repercussions on our physical and mental well-being. One hormone-injected cheeseburger or the placement of an offensively loud advertisement where a tree once stood will not singularly ruin one’s health. But all of these intrusions into our physical and mental space, experienced routinely and en masse, are devastating to our collective quality of life.

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    Freedom of (hate) speech

    A new generation of anti-choice groups is establishing a reputation for itself on Canadian campuses, with increasingly visible tactics that many pro-choice activists call discriminatory, harassing and hateful. In response, student unions and pro-choice groups have mobilized to prevent anti-choice presentations from taking place on campus and anti-choice groups from gaining club status.

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    In sickness and in wealth

    In Canada and around the world, the health of the poorest people is far worse than the health of the richest – and new evidence suggests we all suffer as a result. In order to address the fundamental unfairness of this situation, we need to completely rethink not just how we do health care, but how we do politics.

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    Community acupuncture

    As debates about national health care reform ensue in Canada and the U.S., with governments desperate to find an affordable way to provide equitable, effective and timely health care to an aging and increasingly sick population, is it possible we are missing the point entirely? An emerging network of community acupuncturists on both sides of the border are challenging the notion that increasing access to Western medicine is the best way to improve health care.

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    Cultivating community

    Nestled in a small park in the bustling central Toronto neighbourhood of Parkdale is a community garden project that is improving the health of the environment, the neighbourhood and the gardeners involved by reducing the social isolation and homogenization that often come with gentrification.