The Canadian Medical Association is bringing its National Dialogue on Health Care Transformation to Hamilton next month, asking people to share their stories about how their living conditions affect the health care they receive.
Hamilton is one of five cities the CMA is visiting to learn more about the social factors that contribute to illness.
"We want to find out from the patients themselves how social inequality affects them," said CMA President Dr. Anna Reid.
"Hamilton is the perfect place to hold that conversation," Reid said, adding that she grew up in Dundas. "There’s a huge income gap between the rich and poor."
Reid said things such as income, early childhood development, housing and food security have more to do with wellness than anything that falls within the health care system.
It’s a message Hamilton’s Debbie Sheehan hopes others hear. The former director of the city’s family health division said many people are ignorant of the dire circumstances of others’ lives.
"I hope at some point we get to where we all see that raising a child is a shared responsibility," Sheehan said. "As a society we’re not anywhere near that.
"We all need to contribute to the most nurturing environment and be supportive of parents," she said.
Sheehan will be on the panel for the CMA discussion along with Reid, Mark Chamberlain, President and CEO of Trivaris Ltd., and Dr. Dale Guenter, Associate Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at McMaster University.
But Reid said the most important people in the room will be the ones willing to share real-life experiences.
"I really hope that actual patients come out," Reid said. "The patients themselves, that’s the voice I really do want to hear from."
The association will produce a report on the cross-country conversations and create toolkits for physicians.
But Reid said the CMA isn’t waiting to start its advocacy. It’s already pushing governments to offer more support for early childhood development programs.
The meeting in Hamilton takes place March 6 at Mohawk College’s McIntyre Performing Arts Centre, beginning at 7 p.m.