Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Canada’s Minister of Health, was at StFX University on Monday to announce a renewed investment of more than $7.7 million over eight years towards the National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health to support research and evidence-based knowledge exchange to improve health equity for Canadians.

ANTIGONISH: The National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health (NCCDH) on the campus of StFX University will receive stable funding for the next eight years to support research and evidence-based knowledge to improve health equity for Canadians.

The renewed investment of more than $7.7 million will enable Canada’s public health community to take action on the social determinants of health, helping to close the gap between those who are most and least healthy.

“When we talk about the social determinants of health, often times people think just kind of health outcomes, but we certainly know when we talk about health it means a lot of things,” said Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Canada’s Minister of Health. “It’s about income, it’s about our education, housing, jobs, and so, so much more. That’s exactly what the focus of the work that is being done here at StFX in the National Collaboration Centre in Determinants of Health.”

While all Canadians should enjoy the benefits of good health, persistent health inequalities exist for many, including those with lower socioeconomic status, Indigenous peoples, sexual and racial/ethnic minorities, immigrants, and people living with physical or mental impairments.

“When we look at the factors that impact health, we certainly know it’s not just what we eat or our physical activity or inactivity, it’s all of the social factors that I’ve indicated,” Petitpas Taylor noted. “If we want to influence good public policy we have to have a good understanding of how this impacts individuals health.”

When he goes knocking on doors in his riding, health care is the number one issue that Central Nova MP Sean Fraser faces, and he said there are a number of things they can do in partnership with the province to transfer money for the sake of health care.

“Things like housing, education, employment, the status of our economy, has a very direct connection to the health of our community members. It’s not hard once your eyes have been opened to this concept as to why someone who can’t afford rent might not be able to purchase groceries, why a person living with mental illness may not be able to live life to their fullest capacity when they’re facing a stigma, why someone won’t seek treatment when they can’t afford to take time off from work,” Fraser indicated. “Learning the lessons of how these different social determinates impact health and something that people don’t realize have been happening on the campus of StFX.”

The university has one of six national collaborating centres on campus and locally, the focus is on the determinants of health, and the lessons learned there are creating a real tangible difference in lives of Canadians – from helping to provoke anti-racism strategies that might have an impact on the health of minorities, to developing an approach to the opioid crisis that Canada’s facing.

Investing in the NCCDH, recognized for its work on improving public health sector knowledge, skills, policy, structures, and decision-making, will help advance health equity, reducing harm from social circumstances that diminish health in Canada.

“Improving the quality of life, health of Canadians and the health of our community members, with this investment we’re going to be able to establish some of the best practices and get our hands on the best research available,” Fraser said. “So we know we’re informing a policy approach that doesn’t just take care of the people that are sick but preventing people from becoming sick in the first place.”

The current work of the NCCDH includes inter-sectoral partnerships on building health equity organizational capacity, interventions to integrate equity targets, opioid surveillance, housing, Indigenous reconciliation, anti-racism initiatives, healthy built environment, mental health, food security, community interventions, and early child development.