A study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal says that diverting funds from health care to social services should lead to higher life expectancy.
The study says, for example, that allotting $350 million for social services like child welfare and housing initiatives can add 5% to average life expectancy. It examined data from 1981-2011, although the Northwest Territories specifically was not included in this data.
Daniel Dutton, a post doctoral scholar at the University of Calgary who was part of the study, says it shows governments can improve the population’s health in more than one way.
If a government is interested in improving population health, they have more than one lever. If they put money into social spending they’ll actually see a larger improvement than if they had put that same money into the health care system.
Dutton also says that while governments have done a great job improving health care, social services have not benefited to the same degree.
Over the 31 years that we observed we’ve doubled how much we spend per person in real terms in the healthcare system, but we haven’t really seen a notable change in social spending.
Health and Social Services Minister Glen Abernethey says it’s a little more complicated than just setting aside more funding for social spending, and that the GNWT is more focused on integrating both services.
Here in the Northwest Territories we recognize that there is a solid linkage between social determinants and health. We want to work with an integrated team recognizing the integrated nature between the two.
Overall, the study -consistent with other results from Canada and the United States- concluded that: “health outcomes could benefit from a reallocation of government dollars from health to social spending, even if total government spending were left unchanged.”
The Health and Social Services department has a budget of roughly $442 million for this year.