The 2010 Michener Award finalists talk about their award winning stories and the people who helped make them happen – Michener Awards Ceremony, June 14, 2011.
The Code Red series combined journalistic and academic expertise to examine, diagnose and propose remedies for poverty in Hamilton. Code Red provided hard data for government and agencies to address problems of poverty and health, mobilized other agencies to help people in need and became a key issue in the municipal election. The series has received international attention and has been integrated into the curriculum of a number of university courses.
Your Excellencies, Senator, Distinguished guests, Mesdames et Messieurs, Merci Beaucoup.
Here in Canada, we’re fortunate to have a universally-accessible health care system. Regardless of racial, social, economic or educational status, all Canadians have – or should have – equal access to a doctor or a hospital. We make a crucial flawed assumption, however. We assume that equal access to health care translates into equal health.
The Hamilton Spectator’s Code Red series showed there’s nothing equal about the health of people living in Hamilton.
Code Red represents a landmark project in Canadian journalism, combining a scientific approach to investigative journalism with compelling personal stories. In conjunction with McMaster University health mapping experts Neil Johnston and Pat DeLuca, we analyzed 400,000 pieces of health data, representing every hospital and emergency room visit for all Hamilton residents over a two-year period.
Code Red illustrated in shocking and sometimes heartbreaking detail the clear connections that exist between poor health and poverty. In a country such as Canada, with a long and proud tradition of socially-advanced programs, it’s shocking to contemplate that the wealthier you are, the healthier you are.
We found a number of neighbourhoods where the rate of low birthweight babies was more than 20 percent including one where the proportion was nearly 50 percent. According to the World Health Organization, the rate of low birthweight babies in sub-Saharan Africa is 15 percent.
Perhaps most disturbing of all, we looked at life expectancy outcomes because there’s no better indication of your health than whether or not you’re alive. At one extreme, we had one neighbourhood in an affluent part of Hamilton where the average age at death was more than 86 years of age, which is commendable. If that neighbourhood was its own country, it would comfortably rank first in the world.
Unfortunately, at the other extreme, we also had a neighbourhood in a poor part of the inner city where the average age at death was just over 65 years of age. That’s a 21-year difference from top to bottom, a lost generation of people. If that neighbourhood was its own country, it would rank 165th in the world, worse than India, Mongolia and Turkmenistan.
What’s most notable – and discouraging – about our findings are the staggering variations that exist across the city from best neighbourhood to worst. It’s not an exaggeration to say that some parts of the city have Third World health conditions and Third World lifespans – a sobering concept for Hamiltonians to consider.
Michener Awards Ceremony
June 14, 2011.