By Cheryl Banks (Guest Opinion): The Association of Registered Nurses of P.E.I. (ARNPEI) read with interest recent statements made by Premier Ghiz about implementing a minimum annual income for needy Islanders. ARNPEI supports his proposal.
Although almost 50 per cent of the provincial budget is spent on traditional models of health care, “illness care,” only a small percentage is actually focused on promoting health and preventing illness. Access to health services as currently delivered accounts for only about 10 per cent of what makes a population healthy. Implementing a minimum annual income will address some of the issues related to poverty, food security, nutrition and education (noting that hungry children cannot learn), meaningful employment and social support.
Population health concerns such as housing, financial status, education and access to health significantly impact on a person’s health status.
Better to provide a senior or an impoverished young family with funds to pay for food and shelter in his/her own home than to pay for institutional care and medical care to treat the predictable, downstream health effects of poverty and isolation.
We need to learn from other jurisdictions, such as Quebec and the United Kingdom where health and social care are closely linked and jointly funded thereby recognizing that five percent of the population generally account for 84 percent of health care spending because they do not obtain the care they need from episodic, on demand, access to physicians and emergency department care. It is for these reasons that ARNPEI commends the premier’s view that health-care system transformation requires careful attention to the factors that cause ill health in the first place and that a minimum annual income is one of those key factors.
Evidence demonstrates that by addressing the social determinants of health, registered nurses in collaboration with doctors and other professionals, play a significant role in supporting Islanders to achieve a healthier lifestyle and improve their health outcomes. Registered nurses assess and plan care to help people deal with the many things that influence their level of wellness and prevent illness.
Registered nurses believe that the proposed minimum annual income is an important step to support seniors, low income families and others to enable healthier choices and prevent poor health outcomes.
- Cheryl Banks is president, Association of Registered Nurses of P.E.I.