For those of you unaware, it is election time in Canada. For what feels like an eternity, our 3 main parties (the ‘left’ New Democrats, the ‘central’ Liberals, and the ‘right’ Conservatives) have been locked in battle, trying to win the votes and minds of Canadians. Currently, they’re busy arguing about what women (or womyn if you identify that way) should wear, and labeling other cultures as barbaric or not. Yeah, real glad that we extended our campaigns so that we could continue throwing stones in glass houses.
Now, as a medical student, I’ve always held the belief that I should be non-partisan, at least publically. Doctors, especially public health doctors (a field I eventually hope to transition into), must be able to work with the government, regardless of their own political beliefs. Also, partisanship is just generally a bad idea. Political parties are not your friends… they must be expected to continually earn your loyalty as they serve. A person should not blindly trust a politician… ever. The thing is, I’ve come to realize that medical students aren’t doctors (duh). We are a slightly more protected population. It would take a lot more effort for a medical student to burn all of their political bridges. To put it simply, we are in the place where we can advocate for what doctors might not be able to.
So, as a medical student, let me tell you some stories. Health policies matter. Health policies are important. They shape the way that we live our lives, and they shape the way that we interact with our health care system.
I want you to imagine a situation with me. Let’s imagine, just for a moment, that you happened to have a lot of illness. Your heart wasn’t quite working right anymore, you had Diabetes, etc etc. A lot of those illnesses have medications that can help to control the symptoms that you might get with those illnesses. A lot of them are necessary to live a functional and long life. But they are also really expensive. As you are all probably aware, we do not have extensive pharmacare in our country. So, what happens when you can’t afford those medications? Well, you don’t get to take them all, of course. You get to have the wonderful task of picking and choosing which ones you take (and hopefully, you have a doctor who can help you with this, or find loopholes to make sure that you are receiving this critical, life-saving medication). So basically, a doctor can diagnose and know that you have an illness, but because of a restricting health policy, they can’t actually treat you for it all of the time. That is a gigantic problem for everyone.
A physician named Rudolf Virchow once said “Politics is just medicine on a grand scale’. I would modify this, and say that Politics should just be medicine on a grand scale, but we tend to lose sight of that. Politics should be a system of organizing and caring for a population. Instead of talking about important points in governing ourselves, our political leaders are talking about their little hot topics… their distractions away from the true issues. They have not yet talked about pharmacare to any great degree. They have not yet discussed the mistreatment of our indigenous populations, or what they actually want to do with our healthcare system. What about senior care?
There are so many discussions that are not being had. It is incredibly important that we read what policies the parties are proposing, even if they aren’t talking about them.
So, I’ll say something that you’ve heard modify it, but then make it a little more controversial. Vote! Make your voice heard! But first… educate yourself. Do not blindly vote for a party. These parties will form our new government, this government will shape our health.
In the interest of educating yourselves, here are some resources: