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Health, wage disparity in Vancouver: expert

By Stefania Seccia

A jogger runs along the seawall in Stanley Park with the city skyline in the background.

A jogger runs along the seawall in Stanley Park with the city skyline in the background. (Reuters)

The My Health My Community survey of 33,000 people in Metro Vancouver across ethnicities and ages has backed up what many experts have known for a long time — mental health status is an area that must improve.

That was amongst the findings of a self-reported survey released Tuesday, which was conducted between 2013 and 2014 across Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health communities. It’s an effort to guide residents, agencies and local governments on what factors specifically impact health.

In Vancouver, 52% of people self-rated themselves as having excellent or very good mental health, compared to the 57% Metro Vancouver average.

Households with an annual income of $120,000-plus were 60% more likely to report excellent health compared to homes with an annual income under $40,000.

While 77% in Vancouver reported having a family doctor, it’s lower than the region’s 83% average. Compared to that average, recent immigrants were 25% less likely to have a family doctor.

Dr. Jat Sandhu, VCH Public Health Surveillance regional director, said the data is a starting point for a conversation with many communities on how they’re doing.

“I think the key here, we’ve long known and this is nothing new, is poverty is both a cause and consequence of poor health,” he said. “Each community has something to improve upon.”

Dr. Patricia Daly, VCH chief medical health officer, said the “significant” portion of people not reporting excellent mental health backs up what’s known about Vancouver’s mental illness issue.

“What can we be doing to try to reduce the risk of mental illness in the future?” she said. “I’m interested in preventing this.”

Daly said a continued focus on early childhood, and public health authorities across B.C. have identified the high risk of poor single mothers and providing them with “intensive support.”

The next important set of information released in the fall will be the neighbourhood data, according to Mary Clare Zak, Vancouver’s managing director of social policy and projects.

“Because of the changes to Canada’s census ... in respect to poverty, income levels, that data that all of us count on in order to plan properly becomes more obscured at the neighbourhood level,” she said.

Other results include 49% of Vancouverites admitting to spending more than two-plus hours a day looking at a phone screen; 28% said they had more than five servings of fruits and vegetables a day; and 38% said they walk or cycle for errands compared to the 20% average in the whole region.

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