the rich get richer and the poor get sicker

ing over the small village of Tientul Grande. The site and the two bell towers on either side of the double-doored entry make it look grander than…

ing over the small village of Tientul Grande.

The site and the two bell towers on either side of the double-doored entry make it look grander than it actually is.

Like every thing else in this indigenous community at the northern edge of the Mexican state of Chiapas, it was built with the labour and pesos of locals.

No one else was going to give them what they needed or wanted.

As in many communities around the world, the people of Tientul Grande exist literally and figuratively at the end of the road.

The rutted single-lane dirt road connecting it to the nearest community turns into a horse trail beyond the town.

Social services also seem to disappear in direct relationship to a community’s distance from the nearest administrative centre. In this case it was Palenque some three hours drive away.

After visiting the church, a community leader led our Development and Peace delegation (with the coterie of local kids swirling around us) to a small, two-room building across a grassy, open area.

The clean, well-kept rooms housed the community clinic.

However, within a minute or two, the absence of any equipment, medicines and other medical supplies became painfully evident.

Our guide, who had rudimentary first aid training, lamented this lack, as well as that of a permanent health-care worker for his community.

A chronic shortage of health-care workers afflicts our globe.

Today is World Health Day. The slogan of this year’s campaign is “working together for health.”

It seeks to draw attention to the health workforce crisis.

A World Health Organization news release highlights this concern.

It points to sub-Saharan Africa where, after decades of underinvestment in education and training, there are only “an estimated 750,000 health workers in a region of 682 million people.”

Compounding this is the devastating HIV/AIDS pandemic they are facing there along with other chronic issues like malaria and the effects of clean-water shortages.

And we think we have problems?

Here we see our health workforce over-stretched with approximately one physician per 500 Canadians.

How about the Central African Republic? There one doctor is called on to service on average over 18,600 persons.

We know that providing adequate health care is just one component of creating a healthy society.

The impact of poverty weighs heavily on the health of the 45 per cent of the world’s population, the 2.8 billion some people living below the “$2-a-day” poverty line according to World Bank data.

We well know that poverty creates a real health deficit among our poor here in Canada as well.  

A newly released study titled Growth is Failing the Poor: The Unbalanced Distribution of the Benefits and Costs of Global Economic Growth by David Woodward and Andrew Simms, of the New Economics Foundation, attacks the notion that economic growth alone will bridge the growing poverty gap.

“Maximizing economic growth, and hoping that we will make some progress towards our ultimate objectives as a byproduct, has not, will not, and cannot work,” state Woodward and Simms.

They argue that “redistributing just one per cent of the income of the richest 20 per cent of the world’s population to the poorest 20 per cent would benefit the latter as much as distributionally equal growth of around 20 per cent.”

Economic growth also carries with it negative possibilities of environmental degradation whose impact, of course, weighs most heavily on the poor.

Working together to create a healthy society demands a multi-faceted look not only at our health-care system but more fundamentally at our social and economic structures.

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