Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Learning Moment

It is an inevitable human trait for us to say things we later come to regret. If we are humane and compassionate, we should give Gerald Keddy the benefit of the doubt and accept his apology as sincere. And in fact, we might even thank him – not for his opinion about “no-good bastards sitting on the sidewalk” – but for exposing our ignorance as a society about the links between homelessness, mental illness, job security, food security, and other social and economic divides.

Mr. Keddy's misstatement was a learning moment for us all. He inadvertently showed that many factors are at play if people are to be healthy participants in all aspects of a healthy society. People don't wake up one day and decide never to work, live in poverty, leave their home, spark up an addiction, spiral into mental illness, or aspire to be "no-good bastards sitting on the sidewalk." This is why there are many agencies in Halifax and elsewhere that work hard to address these social divides from a holistic health perspective. They understand that physical and genetic factors are only pieces in a complex puzzle of what makes someone healthy enough to fully participate in society.

With so many of these factors influenced by socio-economic conditions like poverty, homelessness, and addiction, it is clear much work still needs to be done. Indeed, if we are humane and compassionate, we need to support these great organizations that are improving each of the facets of health for people who find themselves in this situation.

Each of us cannot single-handedly ensure there are winter shelters, supported housing, mobile medical and social care, addiction treatment, employment training, education and literacy training, job opportunities, transportation, friendship and encouragement. However, each of us as citizens has a responsibility to take the time to educate ourselves and our political representatives about the connections between healthy people and a healthy society. This will lead to better public policy and a better society for everyone.

On behalf of the Halifax Community Health Board,

Michael A. Poworoznyk

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