Poverty is a fundamental determinant of both physical and mental health. This isn’t surprising, given that living in poverty means you are more likely to live in cold, damp or unsafe housing. You are also more likely to suffer more illness, have a chronic health condition, and die earlier.

A significant cause of these health problems is lack of food. B.C. is facing a chronic hunger problem and significant food insecurity. After paying for rent, heat and electricity, people with low income have little money left over for food so they are less likely to eat fruit, vegetables, milk products, and other food that provide the nutrients they need for good health.

Addressing long-term health issues associated with poverty adds up to a cost of $1.2 billion a year. Or, in other words, our public health care system could save $1.2 billion a year if poverty reduction initiatives reduced health care costs of the poorest 20% of British Columbians by raising their incomes. By not taking action on poverty reduction, our health care system is overburdened and we all face the consequences of long wait-times, overworked doctors, nurses, and medical staff, and unsafe hospitals.

Let’s get to the heart of the problem and reduce poverty so that the health care system we, as Canadians, pride ourselves on can be accessible and effective for all.


  1. BC Poverty Reduction Coalition policy recommendations
  2. The Cost of Poverty in BC (CCPA, July 2011)
  3. Food Costing in BC 2017 (BC Centre for Disease Control, October 2018)
  4. HungerCount 2019 (Food Banks Canada, November 2019)
  5. Building an Equitable Foundation: Removing barriers to access for people with mental health and substance-use related disabilities (Canadian Mental Health Association, October 2019)
  6. Dietitians of Canada BC Submission to the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation (Dietitians of Canada, May 2016)
  7. Food Insecurity in Canada (PROOF, 2016)
  8. Food Insecurity in Canada (Dietitians of Canada, October 2015)
  9. Housing need in Canada: Healthy lives start at home (Canadian Paediatric Society, October 2015)
  10. Poverty: Health Hazard for All Fact Sheet (BC Poverty Reduction Coalition, 2014)
  11. Investing in Prevention: Improving Health and Creating Sustainability (BC Provincial Health Officer, September 2010)
  12. Priority health equity indicators for British Columbia: Selected indicators report (Provincial Health Service Authority, January 2016)
  13. Healthy Futures for BC Families (BC Healthy Living Alliance, September 2009)
  14. BC Healthy Living Alliance Health Inequities (BC Healthy Living Alliance)