Press Release: Health Providers Concerned About McGuinty Government’s Commitment To Fighting Poverty

Apr 12, 2008

Health Providers Against Poverty Remains Concerned About McGuinty Government’s Commitment to Fighting Poverty in Ontario

Members of Health Providers Against Poverty today expressed appreciation for the first small steps the McGuinty government today promised to take to fight poverty in Ontario. They remain concerned, however, that the government may not take the further actions required to reduce poverty, the greatest threat to Ontarians’ health.

“While a promise to reduce child poverty by 25 per cent in five years is important, there are hundreds of thousands of vulnerable adults living in poverty in this province who require immediate government intervention to prevent the huge health risks posed by their poverty,” said Anne Egger, a nurse practitioner in Toronto and a member of the group.

Health Providers Against Poverty, as part of the 25 in 5 Coalition to End Poverty, has called for a 25 per cent reduction in all poverty in Ontario within 5 years. Proposed initiatives include an immediate increase in the minimum wage and social assistance rates, universally affordable child care, and improved access to employment insurance. HPAP holds that major initiatives to reduce poverty represent an essential step toward improving the health of Ontarians.

“The long term health and economic impact of failing to take the required steps to reduce all poverty in Ontario will be huge, with astounding long term costs to the health and social support systems, and significant lost productivity. A strong investment in ending poverty for all would result in large long term savings. We hope this government will follow up these promises with a wider reaching poverty plan intended to truly tackle poverty for all vulnerable Ontarians – including especially single women, people of colour, and people living on social assistance,” said Gary Bloch, a physician in inner city Toronto.

Health Providers Against Poverty is a coalition of nurses, nurse practitioners, physicians, dieticians, and other front line health providers who work with people living in poverty. HPAP holds that poverty is the greatest reversible risk factor for ill health.

Gary Bloch (

Letter To Toronto City Council on Inconsistencies with the Special Diet Allowance

Community Development and Recreation Committee
City of Toronto

Feb 15, 2007

To The Community Development and Recreation Committee:

I am a nurse practitioner working in downtown Toronto. I work primarily with low income individuals and families on social assistance, people living in poverty. I write to you today as a member of Health Providers Against Poverty (HPAP), a group of health providers who recognize that poverty is the most powerful determinant of health. Poverty represents the biggest health challenge facing Ontarians today.

Along with my colleagues at HPAP I wish to specifically address the inconsistent approach social assistance workers have in their task with regards to the allocation of the Special Diet. Social assistance recipients are entitled to different benefits depending upon their eligibility. With regards to the Special Diet forms, it is the responsibility of the welfare worker to provide the social assistance recipient with the form when requested. It is then the responsibility of a designated health provider be it a physician, a nurse practitioner, a dietitian, or a midwife to fill the form as per their client’s health conditions. The decision as to what constitutes a health condition for a particular individual lies solely with the designated health provider, in consultation with the client. What happens inconsistently, but all too frequently, is that individuals and/or families are denied the special diet form by their worker when requested or denied certain funds allocated by their health provider on their Special Diet form. These seemingly arbitrary and inconsistent practices cannot continue.

In November 2005, City Council passed a resolution calling for all entitlements under the Special Diet to be provided and for welfare staff to be trained to ensure this happens. Sadly, we witness and hear of far too many gaps and inconsistencies by welfare offices throughout the city.

As members of Health Providers Against Poverty we are asking that this matter be addressed by this council and that the 2005 resolution be reviewed and re-implemented as needed.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.


Anne Egger RNEC, on behalf of Health Providers Against Poverty

Download a PDF version of the Letter