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Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Inequity - Communicating the message.

A piece from the Winnipeg Free Press is the latest item where the media are supporting and driving the public health agenda of reducing disparities.   Winnipeg Free Press June 18, 2012  Masters of storytelling, such heartfelt pleas echo the public displays of discontent in the Montreal student strike, the Occupy movement and even the efforts of doctors for fair taxation Equity and taxation – the status quo is being whittled away.  

Yet, despite the crashing Greek economy with unemployment approaching 25%, the conservative leaning incumbents were returned with the plurality and asked to form a coalition government. This contrasts with the election of the left leaning French Socialist party presidential candidate.

As powerful as the media can be in expressing the message – it is further enlightening to read the personal reactions to the Winnipeg piece.  No wonder there is such resistance to addressing the increasing disparity in the country.  Clashing values of personal happiness against societal altruism are played out in the words of individuals responding to the article.

Just as the G20 countries prepare to meet in Mexico to further discuss the current global financial crisis that has banks and businesses suffering such that public tax dollars are being poured by the billions in corporate welfare while personal welfare programs are cut to balance budgets.  Buried deep in the throes of the bureaucracy is this December 2011 OECD report Divided we fall:  an overview of growing income inequalities   an economic analysis of inequality globally.  A Canada specific summary is available at Canada report, US at US report  

Note Figures 9 and 11 – which display Canada’s inequality in respect to other developed countries.  Figure 11 (pasted below) adjusts for the impact of universal health care and makes Canada look as good as any of measures. Using any of the three Gini coefficient measures in the document, Canada remains higher than the OECD mean – and higher means more inequality.  (for more on Gini coefficient  Gini coefficient September 14, 2011 ). Figure 12 also below,  is most disconcerting for North Americans as it shows the increasing proportion of wealth held by the top 1% of income earners, with the US in the not so enviable position of number 1 and Canada number 3.

Figure 11

Figure 12

Why, in the midst of such forces as left wing leaning social and health professionals and right wing leaning economists – both of whom have been signalling warning signs of the dangers of propagating the long term trend of increasing disparity, do we continue to have political decisions which fly in the face of facts?  Truthfully, the OECD report is dry, unexciting, lacks story and personification – reminiscent of many public health reports.  While the number crunchers may get thrills from reading the report, it likely had little impact on policy decisions in any OECD country.

Good governance is the ability to provide leadership amidst conflicting value structures with an aim for the greatest benefit.  While the media may be the new modality messaging inequality, the media have also been the drivers of populism as the goal of governance rather than leadership.   There was a notable subpiece to the Montreal student demonstrations on the success of the new generation to win the use of new communications media http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/Canada/20120618/social-media-quebec-student-protests-120618/ .  The press have long influenced public opinion and have been the puppeteers of political winners and downfall of political losers.  We in public health have a lot to learn about moving from number crunching to pulling at heart strings.  

1 comment:

  1. Great job, Dr. P. I am so glad that you picked up on the WFP article. It was truly a story to pull at the heart strings. I have often wondered what the secret is to mobilizing media to maximize our messages. Thanks for your good work, once again.