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Wpg. Free Press: Origins of socialized medicine in Canada run deeper than Douglas

August 19, 2019 — 

As the Winnipeg Free Press writes

Tommy Douglas is thought of as the father of medicare, but the push for socialized medicine began far earlier than its enactment in Saskatchewan in 1962.

In her latest book, Radical Medicine: The International Origins of Socialized Health Care in Canada, Esyllt W. Jones illuminates the ideological and social underpinnings of medicare. It’s an absorbing explanation and a contemporary analysis, acknowledging the shortcomings of people considered visionary and inclusive at the time.

Jones, a professor of history at the University of Manitoba and a prolific writer about Winnipeg’s early history, became interested in the topic when she researched her book Influenza 1918: Disease, Death and Struggle in Winnipeg, a study of how the immigrant populations were ravaged by the Spanish flu after the First World War. Poverty and substandard housing created conditions that left nearly 1,000 dead in a matter of weeks.

The push for disease prevention and better health care in Europe and North America was spurred by the Russian Revolution and the dream of building a society to serve the needs of the people. The Soviet model was the polyclinic, a facility which addressed nutrition, vaccinations, healthy housing and safe working conditions, as well as medical care. In the 1920s and ’30s, advocates of social medicine toured the Soviet Union, including Dr. Norman Bethune, who later developed the portable blood transfusion unit in the Spanish Civil War, and Dr. Frederick Banting, the co-discoverer of insulin.

Read the full Free Press review here. 


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