Vancouver Coastal Health’s Second Generation Health Strategy: A need for a reboot?

Jeffrey R. Masuda, Sophy Chan


In this commentary, we consider the motivations and implications of Vancouver Coastal Health’s place-based population health strategy called the Downtown Eastside Second Generation Health Strategy (2GHS) in light of a broader historical view of shifting values in population and public health and structural health reforms in Canada over the past three decades. We argue that the tone and content of the 2GHS signals a shift towards a neoliberal clientelist model of health that treats people as patients and the DTES as a site of clinical encounter rather than as a community in its own right. In its clinical emphasis, the 2GHS fails to recognize the political dimension of health and well-being in the DTES, a community that faces compounding health risks associated with colonialism, gentrification, human displacement, the criminalization of poverty, sex work, and the street economy. Furthermore, we suggest that in its emphasis on allocating funding based on a rationalist model of health system access, the 2GHS undermines well-established insights and best practices from community-driven health initiatives. Our aim is to provide a provocation that will encourage public health policy-makers to embrace community-based leadership as well as the broader structural health determinants that are at the root of the current circumstances of people in the DTES and other marginalized communities in Canada.


Health care reform; social determinants of health; mental health

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