Category Archives: Health

Social and Structural Determinants of Health: A Global Perspective

Social and Structural Determinants of Health: A Global Perspective

A further discussion of the social and structural determinants of health.  In two presentations recorded at the International League of People’s Struggles Fourth International Assembly Martha Roberts from the Alliance for People’s Health and Delen de la Paz from Health Action for Human Rights expose the inadequacy of the World Health Organization’s interpretation of a social determinants of health approach and argue that we need to look to socialist models of health care such as in Cuba and post-revolution China for a guide to creating a truly people centred health care system.

This is the second and final ‘report back’ show on Martha and Aiyanas’s 2011 solidarity trip to the Philippines.  You can read more about our trip at our blog This Tiny Globe.  You can also read more of Martha’s analysis of the social and structural determinants of health on the blog.

Social and Structural Determinants of Health in the Philippines |

A land occupation in norther Negros, Philippines, the flag of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW) is flying

Social and Structural Determinants of Health in the Philippines |

Martha and Aiyanas, members of the Alliance for People’s Health and People’s Health Radio, recently spent 6 weeks in the Philippines working with grassroots people’s health organizations on the island of Negros.  In this episode, the first of two report backs, they reflect on the need to address structural issues (resources, land, power and control) in order to substantially improve people’s health.  On Negros, people’s organizations have begun to occupy land slated for the (inadequate, corrupt and stalled) comprehensive agrarian reform program (CARP) with dramatic results.

The show includes an interview with leading human rights advocate Toto from Escalante City in Northern Negros and movement music.  You can read more about the international work of the Alliance for People’s Health international work at and more about Martha and Aiyanas’s trip at

The Revolution Starts at Home: The Vancouver launch |

LISTEN HERE: The Revolution Starts at Home: The Vancouver launch |

Hugh and I joined a packed room at the Rhizome Cafe on July 21st for the Vancouver Launch of the Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Partner Violence in Activist Communities.

Ching-In Chen and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha shared readings from the book and there was a discussion afterwards about the state of safety and justice within Vancouver’s activist community (this part of the evening was not recorded).  The evening was opened by Cynthia Dewi Oka reading her poem, Amulet.  Afterwards, Hugh, me, Ching-in and Leah sat down and chatted about the idea of building real restorative justice as an alternative to the legal system, the prison industrial complex and the police.

We know these systems are oppressive and violent against entire communities, particularly racialized communities and working class/poor communities.   But the question is what is the alternative we would envision and how do we enact real justice for victims?  They make reference to INCITE’s work around restorative justice, which is included in the book and you can also check out their work online, too.

It’s an ongoing conversation, and one without any easy answers. When I think about the question for myself, I think about how hard it is in progressive communities to come to unity about what we envision as a positive and life affirming alternative to the deadly system that surrounds us.  But it’s easy to see the disease, less easy to agree on the cure.

I personally think that a full transformation led by the most oppressed and exploited is what we need, towards a society organized by need and imagination rather than greed and profit. But that’s pretty broad.  The nitty gritty questions of justice are more difficult to envision an answer to, and that’s where the Revolution Starts at home bravely treads.  As Leah says, ‘people still murder and rape’, so what do we do with that?  How do we centre victim safety while exploring transformative/restorative justice?

Music by Tracy Chapman, Mecca Normal, and Ndidi Onukwulu.  I’ve been playing “I Walk Alone” around the house a lot since we aired this show!

and another thing… more about breast cancer

A couple of weeks ago, we spent our hour exploring the Politics of Breast Cancer (you can find the audio further down the page, under the heading ‘Think Pink’. The main question driving the episode is why environmental and occupational causes of breast cancer are rarely brought up in the mainstream activism around cancer. According to David Christiani “…the most valuable approaches to reducing cancer morbidity and mortality lie in primary prevention – avoiding the introduction of carcinogenic agents into the environment and eliminating exposure to carcinogenic agents that are already there” (New England Journal of Medicine, 2011). But stopping or reducing occupational exposures to carcinogens and eliminating toxins from the air, water and products around us is fundamentally a social justice issue. Spending money on employee’s safety and making products safer cuts into corporate profits.

We start off with an interview with Joy, a breast cancer “survivor” (although she finds the term problematic for reasons she discusses). Joy did not have the typical risk factors people associate with breast cancer. She had no family history, exercised regularly and ate well. So why did she get cancer? Joy discusses why she would like to see more of a focus on the environmental causes of breast cancer.

Next we interview Karuna Jaggar, the executive director of Breast Cancer Action ( Breast Cancer Action is a national organization in the United States that calls for the elimination of environmental toxins that cause cancer and accountability for the corporate-driven pink ribbon campaign in their “Think Before You Pink” campaign. Karuna discusses how the pink ribbon is not regulated and criticizes corporate “pink washing” where a company tries to divert attention from their toxic products by branding them with the pink ribbon. Other questions she encourages people to inquire about are how much money actually goes to breast cancer. Overall, we conclude that in order to truly fight the breast cancer epidemic, stronger environmental laws and regulations are urgently needed.

In case you’re interested, here’s an organization with information about everyday products that cause cancer Although individual consumer choice alone is inadequate and is often unfeasible, it’s nice that some researchers and community members are trying to provide us with some evidence-based information about how to protect ourselves.