Testing Relationships among Determinants of Health, Health Policy, and Self-Assessed Health Status in Quebec
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By removing financial barriers, the Canada Health Act (1984) equalized access to health care services in Canada. Yet class, educational, and geographical disparities in individual and population health status persist. Recent health reform policies in Quebec assert that health and well-being are a function of income, educational level, housing conditions, employment, and other socioeconomic factors. They suggest that health policy should encompass social policies that influence individual and community socioeconomic factors which in turn affect health. Against the backdrop of these reforms, this study tests the importance of socioeconomic factors as a determinant of health--while controlling for other known determinants through a logistic regression model--with data from the Santé Quebec health surveys 1987 and 1992-93. The results confirm the importance of economic security as a determinant of individual health. This effect appears to operate through an individual income variable and through the community-level variable of regional unemployment. The importance of the income effect declined between 1987 and 1992-93. This may indicate that an increased focus on the socioeconomic determinants of health has reduced inequalities in health. It may also mean that health inequalities appear inevitable until health care policy merges completely with broader health and social policies. But such integration may well conflict with economic (and political) imperatives of the post-Fordist capitalist system.
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