7 News Archive
Too Many Die Needlessly
By Don Weitz
Seven News, August 28, 1976

We live in a crisis-causing, disease-producing and death-oriented society which also happens to be insane, and doesn’t seem to care. Strong words, but consider these facts. The People’s Republic of China (that “underdeveloped”, “commie” country) has completely wiped out VD. Yet, last year in Toronto there were almost 6,000 reported cases of VD, which doesn’t include the hundreds of thousands of other people with VD who didn’t bother to notify their doctor, clinic or hospital. In 1970, about 3700 people in Toronto were known to have VD, so in five years VD in Toronto increased roughly 62%. Why can’t we wipe out VD like the Chinese did? Good question. Maybe we should ask the Chinese public health authorities. My own hunch is that the medical profession and the rest of us don’t give a damn.

Take another example, like death. As reported in the last issue of 7 News, Toronto’s 1975 death rate was down slightly over 1974, yet the death rates in the Don District are still 3-4 times higher than the city’s average of 8.3 per 1000 population. And it’s been this way for the past five years, if not longer. Why?

It’s a fact that the Ontario Medical Association and the Ontario Government – especially its Ministry of Health (which should be retitled the Ministry of Crisis-Creation, Neglect and Death) – are more committed to treating than preventing disease and health crises. Of course, the multi-national drug companies exploit our everyday stresses, aches and pains with their obscene magazine ads and TV commercials. Sometimes, I believe that the government, organized medicine and the drug companies are all in this thing together &dndash; conspiring to make us sick and stay sick. They’re making huge profits off our suffering and weaknesses.

Preventive health care, or what the government likes to label “protection and promotion” of health, is the lowest priority item in the Ministry’s 1975-76 budget. This year the government is spending less than 2% (exactly 1.8%) on keeping us well and supposedly educating us about preventing disease. During 1973-74, it spent a whopping 1.7%. This year the government will spend about $7 on each one of us to keep us healthy and informed. That’s really pathetic and laughable. You can’t buy any decent health “protection” for that little money.

So where are most of our health tax-dollars going? About 94-95% will be spent on “treatment and rehabilitation” – in other words paying doctors and nurses to cure or treat us after we get sick, and all too often $100 per day to be hospitalized and the OHIP rates are still rising out of sight.)

Here are only a few of many things which could be done, if the government, the doctors and all of us really cared enough to stay healthy and educate ourselves about illness and how to prevent health crises.

* Nutrition: Teach people the basic facts, principles and major effects of eating nutritious and cheap food or a “balanced diet” – responsibility of nutritionists, doctors, public health nurses, paramedics.
* First Aid: Set up free courses in all major cities and communities to teach and train people the basic principles of Emergency First Aid and many life-saving procedures – responsibility of doctors, public health nurses, paramedics and all First Aid instructors.
* Public Health: Hire and train more public health nurses, nursing assistants, paramedics and community workers to make regular home visits (once-a-week/month) do health check-ups and counselling (‘rapping’), especially for senior citizens, the disabled and chronically ill, many of whom also suffer from loneliness and neglect – responsibility of public health and everyone in community.
* Pre & Post-Natal Care: Provide free and easily accessible prenatal and postnatal care, including nutritional courses or classes, for all women.
* Birth Control: Set up special courses or classes to teach the basic facts, principles and major “side effects” of all major contraceptives and offer abortion couselling on demand.
* Community Health Centres: Adequately fund all community health centres which emphasize disease prevention and health promotion.
* Crisis Prevention Centres: Start and fund 24-hr crisis prevention centres to deal with health-and-housing problems in their early stages.
* Community Freak-out Houses: Fund and support co-op or communal-type houses for people who feel they are about to “freak”, “go crazy”, or “insane” for ex-psychiatric inmates who’ve recently been discharged from psychiatric institutions and prisons. These houses should be democratically managed by the residents and backed up by radical or progressive health professionals. In Vancouver, the Mental Patients Association runs 5 houses and a drop-in and is saving B.C. taxpayers an average of $900 per day per person by helping the person stay out of hospital.
* Health Advocates: Hire, train and fund health advocates to work in their own communities.
* Transportation: Provide free transportation to-and-from medical clinics and hospitals for all elderly and disabled people and those receiving any governmental assistance.
* General Health Information: Provide much more free information on all major health issues and problems to the public; make it accurate, up-to-date and easily accessible (e.g., in drop-ins, community centres, laundrymats, supermarkets, pubs, etc.)
* Drug Information: Provide free information on the major effects and “side effects” of all prescribed drugs – especially major tranquilizers.

This article was published in Seven News, Volume 7, Number 5, August 28, 1976

Related Topics: Community HealthDeath & DyingHealth EducationHealth PromotionPreventive Health CarePublic Health