Foundation of Social Policy

Health starts long before we need health care.

It starts at home, at work, in school, and within communities. An estimated 75 per cent of the factors that determine our health lie outside the health-care system.

They include:

  • Physical and social conditions that people experience daily in the places where they live, learn, work, and play. The housing they have, the air quality, as well as their social support network of family and friends.
  • Healthy pregnancy and early childhood development
  • Education and literacy levels which affect job opportunities
  • Availability and access to quality health-care, and other services
  • Personal health behaviour, including coping skills
  • Biological and genetic factors
  • Gender
  • Environmental, social, economic, and cultural conditions of our society and communities

You may hear of them referred to as the “Determinants of Health.”

Social policy influences many of these determinants. At a population level, health improves at every step up the socioeconomic scale. Living with chronic stress, lacking a sense of control over life circumstances, and the widening gap between the rich and the poor that we see in Canada are associated with poor health.

Children playing in the snowNot all Nova Scotians have the same opportunity to be healthy. There are considerable differences among groups with respect to access to culturally competent care and the support needed to stay healthy. These groups include low-income populations, female-led households with children, aboriginal communities, and groups that experience discrimination or other forms of social exclusion.

Strong social policy is the foundation of all prevention strategies, including Thrive!. Governments at all levels need to continue to implement and expand policies that provide a living wage, affordable housing, access to quality child-care, income and employment supports, employment standards and arrangements (including parental leave), and affordable transportation. We must also continue to improve our public education system so as to prepare every child for success, and create good jobs and a strong economy to support families and sustain quality public services.