The value of all humans

There are about 35,000 people living with Down Syndrome in Canada.  As a diverse nation, we claim to include people of all cultures, ethnicities, and intellectual and physical abilities.

But the data we see from prenatal screening and diagnosis outcomes don’t seem to reflect this.  According to research conducted by Dr. Brain Skotko, an estimated 92% of women in the US who are prenatally diagnosed with a fetus with Down Syndrome choose to terminate the pregnancy.  Between 1989 – 2005, there was a 49% decrease between the expected and observed rates of infants born with Down Syndrome.

Why is this so?  Is it based on underlying societal judgments and expectations, telling us what type of people we should value?  Or is it simply due to insufficient information and resources provided to parents at the time of decision-making?  These trends not only affect those already living with Down Syndrome, but have implications for the future of our ‘diverse’ Canadian society.

On this show, we discuss important aspects of prenatal screening and diagnosis with Dr. Ashleigh Molloy, the President of the Down Syndrome Association of Toronto.  His promotion of inclusion and human value are important messages that should be heard by all.

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Ahead of Ontario’s budget vote, NDP leader heeds physicians’ call for fair taxation

On the eve of the confidence vote for the Ontario provincial budget, provincial NDP leader Andrea Horwath is ramping up the pressure to negotiate key budget changes in exchange for NDP support.  If the Liberals fail to garner NDP support for the budget, they’ll be thrown back into an election, something political pundits say the McGuinty government wants to avoid at all costs. Foremost among Andrea Horwath’s demands has been a proposal for a new tax bracket for Ontarians earning more than 500 000 dollars annually. The NDP has calculated that the new tax bracket would raise $570 million in revenues for the province. Polls indicate that Ontarians are overwhelmingly in favour of the proposal.

Talking about increasing taxes has been a politically taboo topic for as long as most of us can remember. The very fact that it is now being discussed in the mainstream media, and as a serious policy possibility, has many people excited. The new organization, Doctors for Fair Taxation (D4FT), a group of physicians calling for more progressive taxation in Canada, is being credited with bringing the issue to the forefront.

Since launching their website on March 22, 2012, D4FT have had numerous op-eds, TV and radio appearances. Their slogan, “Tax us, Canada is worth it!” has caught on as physicians put themselves forward as a group who are willing to be taxed more progressively if it means maintaining current public services.

On today’s episode of Health Justice Radio, we speak with Tanya Zakrison, steering committee member of Doctors for Fair Taxation and a trauma surgeon at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital.

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Ever thought about the connection between that glass of wine and migrant workers?

“The fruits and vegetables that we are eating, the wine that we are drinking, has been brought to us by the migrant workers. If it wasn’t for them, our economy would collapse.”

                     25 000 migrant workers are brought into Canada every year under the federal Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP) established in 1966. 66% of these workers are in Ontario, 13% in Quebec and 13% in British Columbia.

 In the Niagara region, there are about 6000 migrant workers originating from Jamaica and Mexico. We spoke with Jackie Barrett-Greene who is the Newcomer Support Coordinator at AIDS Niagara. She has been working with migrant workers in the Niagara region and spoke about the barriers that migrant workers face, including access to health care services, transportation, language barriers, long work hours and work place safety.

If you would like to contact Jackie, you can find her at AIDS Niagara.

To get involved or learn more about Niagara migrant workers advocacy, check out the Niagara Migrant Workers Interest Group. Lastly, you can find directions to the Migrant Workers Walk-in Clinic in Virgil here.

Thank you for tuning in! (photo credit:

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“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society”

Dr. Bruce Levine

Indian philosopher Krishnamurti once said, “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

The public’s understanding of mental illness today is based on a theory emphasizing chemical imbalance. But has our focus on brain chemistry removed mental illness from its social context? We know for example, poverty is a significant risk factor for poor mental health. We also know that more unequal societies experience more mental health problems. Understanding mental illness as part of a chemical process has aided tremendously in removing stigma from mental illness, but have we gone too far? By removing mental illness from its social context, by medicating chemical imbalances, are we actually medicating a profoundly sick society?

On Health Justice Radio today we speak with clinical psychologist and author Dr. Bruce Levine about a recent blog post of his entitled, “Why anti-authoritarians are diagnosed as mentally ill.”

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Our Moms Need Help Too

Image courtesy of University College London Two of the UN’s Millennium Development goals for 2015 are to improve maternal and child health.  We often associate these goals with developing countries, but do we ever think about the barriers facing mothers and children right here in Hamilton?

The Code Red “BORN” series analyzed different neighborhoods in the Hamilton area in terms of infant health outcomes.  It found that areas with low income and poor education suffered effects including increased rates of teen pregnancy and low birth-weight babies.  Poverty in Hamilton exerts devastating effects not only on mothers, but also on their children.

But don’t fret, it’s not all bad news.  There are wonderful programs available to mothers and pregnant women in the community.   In this episode of the Health Justice Radio Collective, we spoke with Kit Young-Hoon about the Hamilton Prenatal Nutrition Project, a weekly group that provides support, education, advice, and a healthy meal to pregnant women and new mothers.

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Experimenting with(out) poverty: Health impacts of a guaranteed annual income

In an age of austerity, a time when public discourse related to healthcare revolves around which services to cut, its difficult to imagine that at one time in Canadian history, medicare was seen as just one part of a just society. The other part, was social assistance reform but it wasn’t immediately clear what reform would look like. Between 1974 and 1979 in the small town of Dauphin, Manitoba, the government of Canada conducted one of the country’s most interesting social experiments: MINCOME.

MINCOME was a guaranteed annual income field experiment targeted at the working poor. During the experiment, town residents received a minimum annual income regardless of whether or not they worked. That is, the working poor would receive their salary in addition to an income from the government. At the time, it was thought that such a system would eliminate the so-called welfare-trap which some argue dis-incentivizes the transition from social assistance to low-paying wage labour.

The experiment was cut short however, owing to a change in government and rising program costs associated with stagflation of the late 1970s. The data from the experiment was never analyzed. Now, 30 years later, health policy analyst and Professor, Evelyn Forget looks back at the data in her paper “The Town with No Poverty” to find out what effect a minimum annual income had on the health of individuals in the community of Dauphin, Manitoba. We speak with her today.

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Living with a rare medical condition – HHT

This week we spoke with Mary Ellyn Parker about living with a rare medical condition called Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia. She worked as a nurse in the Niagara Region for over 30 years and in 2001 she was diagnosed with HHT. She spoke about the challenges of finding a diagnosis for her symptoms and the experiences of switching from being someone who is used to giving care to now having to depend on others. A critical message that Mary Ellyn spoke about is the importance of physicians listening to patients and really hearing what they have to say.

To understand more about Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia go to Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia Foundation International.

If you would like to contact Mary Ellyn you can reach her at

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Teens: are they really all that bad?

Are all members of our society regarded equally?

As much as we’d probably like to say yes, we know that various types of discrimination do still exist.  We usually associate discrimination with certain ethnic groups.  But what about age groups, including the elderly and adolescents?

Teenagers are often assumed to be naïve, self-centered, and prone to take risks.  The media portrays them as a group involved with crime, drugs and alcohol.  But are these fair representations?  Or are they simply assumptions that are helping to perpetuate the misunderstandings we have about adolescents?

In this episode of the Health Justice Radio Collective, Alison spoke with Dr. Jean Clinton, a child psychiatrist with Hamilton Health Sciences and a long-term advocate for children’s health.  She speaks about the dynamically developing adolescent brain, and why teenagers in particular need to be supported by our society as opposed to shunned.

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Health Promotion – What challenges await training clinicians and educators in this field?

Healthcare promotion has been described by the American Journal of Health promotion as “the science and art of helping people change their lifestyle to move toward a state of optimal health”. As many of you know, there are immense disparities in the provision and access to healthcare services globally. These can be attributed to differing community and individual risk factors when it comes to the prevalence of diseases and illnesses, and gaps in knowledge between healthcare providers and members of the community. This new and burgeoning field attempts to bridge these disparities and accommodate the various tensions that resource scarcity imposes on us when tackling healthcare issues and provide people with the tools to help themselves improve their quality of life.

This week on Health Justice Radio we have a very special guest here to talk to us about her own personal journey in the field of healthcare promotion. A recent graduate of McMaster University, Pari Chowdhary has held a variety of positions in the non-profit sector ranging from a stint with Free the Children as a Program Coordinator for a Youth Media program to her current role as a health promotion coordinator with Halton Healthcare services in Oakville, Ontario. Her multiple positions in diverse disciplines has allowed her to witness firsthand the aforementioned disparities in socioeconomic indicators across communities. She recognizes the critical importance of health promotion as a facet of healthcare delivery and could help shed some light into the challenges that await training clinicians and educators as they step into the workforce.

If you would like more information about Health promotion research you can visit the American Journal of Health promotion’s website at

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Current Developments in AIDS treatments with Dr Mark Wainberg- December 5, 2011

More than 90,000 people are currently living with HIV in the UK and globally an estimated 33.3 million people have HIV. More than 25 million people between 1981 and 2007 have died from the virus, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history. On December 1st, we celebrated World AIDS day, a day where people worldwide had the opportunity to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died.

This week on Health Justice Radio we talk about current developments in AIDS treatments and researcher with Dr. Mark Wainberg. Dr. Wainberg is a prominent Canadian AIDS researcher and activist. He was former President of the International AIDS Society and was instrumental in founding the Canadian Association for HIV research. Dr. Wainberg and his collaborators were the first to identify the antiviral capabilities of 3TC or Lamivudine, a first-line drug in HIV therapy in 1989. He is currently the Director of the McGill University AIDS Centre at the Montreal Jewish General Hospital where he is also a Professor of Medicine and Microbiology.

If you would like more information about HIV and AIDS please visit the website which contains a lot of useful links and information on the impact of this disease. If you wish to learn more about our collective, you can visit our website at Thank you for listening to Health Justice Radio.

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