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Poverty makes you sick

From Suzanne Schwenger, OPC

Poverty makes you sick:

Since 1995, welfare has been cut by 21.6% and 400 new social housing projects have been cancelled. Metro officials report a 67% increase in homeless people using shelters in Toronto in the past year, and now homeless people in Toronto have a TB rate 10 times higher than the national average. The Government has announced more cuts to social assistance recipients coming soon in Bills 142 and 152.

If the following isn't related to the Determinants of Health, (and from the Toronto Sun, no less) I don't know what is!

Toronto Sun: October 6, 1997


By SHARON LEM -- Toronto Sun

An old and familiar infectious disease spread by coughing and sneezing is increasing at "alarming rates" among Toronto's homeless, a new study says. "We have found rates of positive skin tests of tuberculosis at 30% to 40% for Toronto's homeless people when the positive skin test for the general population is less than 3%," said Dr. Andrew Sonor, head of microbiology at Sunnybrook hospital.

"This is alarming because there is the risk of tuberculosis rates going even higher and there's a risk of infection to all of us. We all come into contact with these homeless people everyday on the subway, in

restaurants, or walking down the street," Sonor said.

The average provincial and national rate of TB is 7 1/2 per 100,000, whereas the homeless in Toronto had a rate of 70 per 100,000. The rate for the City of Toronto's general population is 20 per 100,000.

"We've concluded that we need more public health active intervention to identify high-risk individuals and to ensure adequate treatment," said Sonor, who worked on the study with Toronto's public health department and the University of Toronto. "Public health is an easy target for cutbacks, and this is one example of how the new megacity has to ensure there's adequate resources or else those rates will go up," he warned.

Sonor said in the '70s and '80s, public-health funding in the U.S. waned and TB exploded through big cities in the late '80s and '90s. Funding increases in the last five years has brought those rates under

control. Sonor said researchers were surprised to find clustered cases of TB among the homeless, and some of them had the same strain of the bug. This means it was passed from one person to another.

Copyright 1997, Canoe Limited Partnership.